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Business Observer Thursday, Apr. 30, 2020 2 months ago

During pandemic and other challenges, founder says attitude is everything

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Pat Neal of Neal Communities sends his team a weekly four- to- six-minute video with updates.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Company: Neal Communities

Locations: 30 communities from Parrish in north Manatee County to Naples

Revenue: $466.9 million in 2018

Executive: Pat Neal, founder 

Current work situation: I am working from the office every day starting at about 6:30 a.m. About 30% of our team has elected to stay working at the office. It is pretty quiet in the office. Actually, I would say it is sort of peaceful. I have been surprised how able our team is working remotely. We have not missed a beat to my knowledge, and I think everything is working well.

The most fun I have had is learning Zoom and the other teleconferencing facilities. I have had a very complex conference with the investment committee of a huge American religious institution and a number of city council and planning commission meetings by Zoom without any serious mishaps.

             See more: Attorney's pandemic mantra: this too shall pass 

Biggest challenge with the current working setup: None. It is my home away from home!

Most important lesson learned during this time: Listen, listen, listen. Not everyone thinks the same. Not everyone thinks as I do. There is a lot of anxiety about health, the health of loved ones, job security, the future.

We have also learned to communicate. I send the team a weekly four- to- six-minute video of our progress, work in the field, closing our nearly 400 homes in backlog and new sales. It is important for the team to know how we are doing as a company and that their future is strong and safe. I have been blessed and impressed with the response from the team, which is definitely working together.

Books, articles, TV shows, podcasts and/or audiobooks you are focused on: Every day I check in online. I look up the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the Florida Department of Health’s daily dashboard, The Wall Street Journal and Dr. Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute. Lately, I have been following the governor’s task force to reopen Florida. I have to say the best editorial I have read is by Matt Walsh of Observer Media Group, “Economic shutdown: Don’t forget the other 99%.”

How far out into the future are you looking? Our cash forecast goes to April 30, 2021. Nancy Reynolds, our chief financial officer, has been doing a careful job to assure that we have plenty of cash to operate the business, continue the construction of nine subdivisions now under construction and manage our obligations. Thus, the cash forecast goes fully a year and takes into account every major cash expense that we have including our operational expenses, build expenses, land build and land acquisition. This policy pre-dates the current pandemic, though we are using special care to make sure that our cash forecasts are correct and updated in real time.

Our strategic plan is for five years and goes through 2025. That, of course, identifies our rate of growth, new markets, geographic locations, accumulation of retained earnings and projected growth in new communities and home sales.

How do you maintain your spirit/morale? Life is a process of rolling with the punches, convincing yourself that you can rise to the next challenge. It is better to have an optimistic attitude. Of course, attitude is everything. Not only does one’s attitude (good or bad) affect the management team, but it also affects the whole organization. Confidence in our organization is a self-fulfilling feedback loop. If you project confidence, people have confidence, act with confidence and work together confidently.

What's your favorite meal to eat at home? Happily, my wife, Charlene, is a wonderful cook. I have enjoyed the family home evenings, being with her and the quietude. She has a salmon dish with some kind of glaze on it that I like very much.

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