- February 15, 2013
Mark House isn't afraid to unveil one of the secrets to his success. That's why he frequently presents and openly shares his leadership philosophy.
House's philosophy is a one-page document that outlines his beliefs, work style and expectations for employees. The managing director of the Florida division of the Beck Group sits down with every new hire to go over the document before he or she starts work.
Based in Dallas, Beck has three U.S. divisions and one Mexico division. The Florida branch accounts for more than 25% of the company's annual volume and profit, according to House.
The Beck Group touts 700 employees; the Florida division, based in Tampa Heights, has around 75 employees.
House's division brought in $69.5 million in revenue last year. He estimates the division will bring in $80 million in 2014. The division was recently awarded a contract to build a consolidated parking garage at the Tampa airport, a project that will bring in $150 million over three years.
At the peak of the economy, the division was earning more than $130 million in revenue. “2015 or 2016 will get us back, as long as we pick the right customers and right opportunities,” House insists.
Some of the division's most well-known projects include the Walt Disney World's Swan and Dolphin hotels, the University of South Florida's Marshall Student Center, the Salvador Dali museum, the Rivergate Tower or “beer can building” in downtown Tampa, and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Around 90% of the firm's clients are repeat customers, according to House.
During the downturn, the company was forced to reinvent itself to survive. So it decided to bring architects, cost estimators and builders all under one roof, making them part of one company working side by side. “I believe that's the future,” House says. “It's more economical.”
To form his leadership philosophy, House used a template created by a West Point colleague, Ed Ruggero. Ruggero's book, “The Leader's Compass,” details how a leadership philosophy can equate to success. It urges leaders to answer questions like: What do you believe? What are the best leadership qualities? The worst? And what are your hot buttons?
“I believe in doing the right thing all the time,” House's philosophy starts. “I believe good leaders have followers who do things because they want to, not because they have to.”
Then it lists his primary expectations. “Give me all the news, good and bad. Do not fear bringing the bad news, but when you do, bring a solution as well.” The one-pager also notifies employees that House believes cell phones should be turned off during meetings and buttons on your dress shirt sleeves are meant to be buttoned.
House says his biggest challenge is finding the right projects because the economy is coming back and there's a lot more work in the marketplace. He wants to make sure that future projects are profitable with customers who share his company's vision.
House believes it's all about picking the right customer, and realizing there can be a time to fire a customer. “You have to know when to leave,” he says. It's also about doing your homework on your customers, the product type and their financing. “Don't get distracted by, oh, there's a big building,” which can be difficult when jobs are hard to come by, he says.
That doesn't mean that the company will leave a job unfinished. It just means that it doesn't pursue the next one that comes along, House says.
A high priority for Beck is building quality projects that will last more than 100 years. So if a customer comes along looking to hurry the project and build it cheap, House says his company is not the right fit.
House says by the end of the year, he feels the industry will be back to a “robust economy.” Despite expectations for increased business, House has been slow to hire. He plans to increase the division by 10 to 12% in 2014 and increase the same amount in 2015. “I only hire when I really need somebody.”
It's been a challenge finding qualified talent after the downturn, according to House, because most people changed careers or left the area when firms were forced to make cuts.
Reliant on new construction, Beck lost 70% of its business and House was in charge of laying off more than 75 employees when construction jobs were scarce. Wanting to stay true to his philosophy that states, “I care about you, your family and your future,” House did his best to help people find jobs and bolster their resumes. “We're responsible for taking care of everyone under our wings,” he says.
Although staying true to your word is essential, House says that it's also important to remember that a philosophy can be developed over time. House has been working on his philosophy over the last 25 years. “A leadership philosophy is something you learn and continue to learn,” he says.