Stelmar, 49, Laing's chief financial officer, was Webb's alter ego in the Watt merger that produced JLH as it is today. In many ways, he fits the image of a financier. He dresses conservatively, speaks softly and guards his words. But that car guy is inside.
"One of the things that makes Wayne different is that he understands marketing," Webb says. "He really gets it. From the time Bill came on board, he and Wayne hit it off. They office side by side."
Stelmar says, "Most marketing and sales people are a little lax about accountability. They don't pay enough attention to what they spend and how marketing investment correlates to the bottom line. Bill's different. We're able to make sure the timing and pricing of every phase we release is just right so revenues are maximized. The 'Advantage' marketing program gives us buyers waiting for each release. That contributes to the bottom line."
Stelmar and Webb are like Felix and Oscar in The Odd Couple, contrasting in personality but complementary in impact. "I was curious to meet Larry," Stelmar recalls. "He got a lot of press and always seemed a lot different from the others. Many of the builders in Southern California are very strong personalities. When I met him, I found that we have a common approach to business - that there should be a balance between work and personal life.
"We're different in skills. He loves marketing and enjoys the limelight. I like deals, structure and product. Where we come together is that we both believe customers are incredibly important. When I worked for Watt, I bought a Watt house and lived in it. When I moved from L.A. to Orange County, I bought a Laing home. I really believe we need to immerse ourselves in our product and be surrounded by customers - to know them personally, not just as statistics in a survey."
Webb and Stelmar share a couple of other traits: time-consuming immersions in family and sports. Wayne and Lisa Stelmar both are accountants. They met at Grant Thornton, the accounting firm where Wayne began his career in 1977. Daughters Dani, 17, and Katy, 12, began their athletic careers in soccer. Dani gravitated to water polo at 15. Katie now is into English riding and fast-pitch softball. Son Brian, 11, plays baseball year-round. "Kids' sports are a giant part of our life," Wayne says. "We like to entertain families who are involved in that life cycle. We love to cook. Lisa's inside while I'm out on the grill."
Janet plays tennis three times a week. Wayne joins her every other weekend. They also ski. "My other passion is lifting weights," Wayne says. "I've had a set in the garage since I was 14. I have the kids out there with me, and we have a ball."
Stelmar now invests a lot of time in Boy Scouts. "Since Brian moved up from Cub Scouts two years ago, I've been very active," he says. "I'm now on the board of the Orange County Council." When the Boy Scouts honored John Laing Homes at a fund-raising luncheon this fall, Webb and Stelmar sat at the head table and listened to the guest speaker - Brian Stelmar. "It was his first speech," Wayne says proudly. "I was a lot more nervous than Brian."