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New president of high-end builder grapples with high cost challenges

Recently named president of Kurtz Homes Naples, David Gordon will keep building on his father-in-law’s legacy while adding some new touches.


David Gordon has been with Kurtz Homes Naples for 15 years.
David Gordon has been with Kurtz Homes Naples for 15 years.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi
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David Gordon was still a student at Elon University when he landed an internship at Kurtz Homes Naples. That initial experience has led to a 15-year career at the Southwest Florida custom homebuilder, a relationship that became even stronger when Gordon married company cofounder Randy Kurtz’s daughter Carolyn.

Over his time at the company, Gordon has gained firsthand experience in every facet of the business. “I started pretty much at the bottom, and I worked my way through the entire company,” he says. “There is not a position I have not held at the company, other than our accountant position.”

That means he’s spent time in the field, doing demolition, working with carpenters, managing subs and learning from superintendents, as well as time in the office to gain insight on project management, estimating and other functions. “For six months to a year, Randy pretty much left me in every position and just said, ‘Figure out this position. Then as soon as you feel like you have a good handle on it, we’re going to move you up to the next one,’” recalls Gordon. 

About five years ago, Kurtz put Gordon in charge of the company’s estate management program, and from there he expanded the company’s renovation division significantly during the pandemic. “It’s always been a division of our company, but Randy never advertised it,” says Gordon, 37. “But pretty quickly, we saw that we could expand it. I helped grow that to the point that we were doing maybe about half of what the new construction was from a revenue standpoint, whereas before it would have been maybe an eighth or a tenth.”

Now Gordon’s passed on management of those divisions to someone else, so he can take on his biggest role to date: president of Kurtz Homes Naples. Once Kurtz started thinking about retiring after 40 years at the helm of the company he started with his father, Ron, Gordon proved the natural choice to take over the family business. Randy Kurtz announced his retirement in March. 

“David was just the perfect option, because he kept the family going but he’s also literally experienced every part of the company,” says Elizabeth Kurtz Isbell, who handles business development for Kurtz Homes and is Gordon’s sister-in-law. “Having David come on board and really start from the bottom was just this great way of kind of paralleling how my dad and my Papa started [the company].”

Gordon and his predecessor bonded over life, family and business philosophy. “After about a year or two, Randy and I both saw that we had a lot of the same traits and beliefs and convictions,” says Gordon. 

Gordon also has no plans to alter the company’s priorities: honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. “It’s going to be the same model I continue on into the future as we go,” he says. “We’ll improve where we need to improve, but if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Doing the best thing and the right thing for the client — that’s always going to be at the core of what we do.”

Gordon is also entering the business at a challenging time for the homebuilders — especially high-end builders. Costs — from materials to salaries are the biggest burden. (See sidebar.) 

Amid that environment, Kurtz Homes Naples has seen about 15% growth each year over the last four years; Gordon declines to provide specific revenue figures. “The vision right now is not to grow to be the largest residential construction firm in the nation,” says Gordon. “It’s to have mid-size growth that can provide our clients the best experience.”

The company has some 30 employees. “That’s kind of our sweet spot, so right now I want to keep it at that number,” he says. “That gives us the breadth to be able to reach more people, but not be too large where we can’t have the face-to-face with our clients.


Make the transition

Taking over from a fixture on the Southwest Florida building scene for four decades is no easy task. “I can’t be Randy Kurtz,” admits Gordon. “So there’s never a way for me to fully replace Randy, and that’s not what I’m even looking to do…I have to be my own guy.”

But Kurtz created a vision that Gordon will continue to grow, and he’ll do that by drawing on the insight he gained over 15 years of working with and learning from his father-in-law. That includes the importance of family, both outside of the office and within the workplace.

“Business is very important: We always want to do the best for our clients,” says Gordon. “But family is important too, and so that’s been part of our culture. We need to work hard and work hard for our clients when it’s time to work. But let’s make sure we don’t do that at the expense of your family…That family aspect is something that Randy has really implemented on top of how to run the business.”

Clients appreciate that kind of family-meets-corporate culture. “They become a part of our family, and that’s why we’ve been able to experience so much great repeat clientele and repeat business,” says Gordon, adding much of the company’s new business comes from referrals from past clients. 

Kurtz Homes Naples was founded in 1982. The president is now David Gordon, son-in-law of co-founder Randy Kurtz.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi

Charlie Gendron is currently building his second home with Kurtz Homes Naples. He and his wife chose the company for their first project after interviewing several high-end builders in the area. Kurtz Homes stood out for its detailed description of what the couple should expect during the building process. “There were no hidden fees,” says Gendron. “They were just very open about everything…And the quality of work was something that we just had not seen before.”

When the couple decided to build a new home on Gordon Drive, working with Kurtz Homes Naples again was a no-brainer. Hurricane Ian hit shortly before the project began, but Gendron has been impressed by the company’s ability to think creatively when it comes to everything from labor to supplies. “I trust them immensely, their creativity and their quality of work,” he says. 

The company’s leadership change gave him pause for a moment, but he quickly realized it wouldn’t be an issue. “In every company, the leaders or founders retire or move on at some point,” says Gendron. “But I will say that it has been absolutely seamless. Randy had a lot of time with David to grow him into the business the way Kurtz Homes has always been. Randy’s dad passed away during the process of our first build, and Randy was seamless in running the company. It’s been a similar thing as far as I can tell from the outside.


Lay a foundation

While Gordon doesn’t plan to make any drastic changes at the company, he does see the opportunity for some tweaks. Over the last year, he’s been focused on making sure the team is where it needs to be, that the right people are in the right places and the company culture supports the objective of doing things the right way and the best way for the client.

“All of our current employees are on board for that, and it’s been really awesome to see,” says Gordon. “We’re a company in transition, and we’re only going to be as good as our base. Randy’s not going to be there to bail us out.”

Gordon has tapped into technology in some areas, transitioning timecards and other elements from paper-based to digital systems. The company is also making use of an app-based program that connects clients to their jobs, providing them with schedules and updates at their fingertips. “That’s the type of stuff that Randy never was against, but he was just, ‘Why do we need to do it?’” says Gordon. “So that’s been some of the processes that have been really exciting to jump into.”

A self-proclaimed “building science nerd,” Gordon also plans to continue looking for ways to boost the quality of the company’s homes even more. That could mean finding a better way to insulate and waterproof a home or a better window material that could be used. “It’s really making sure we’re above and beyond in the building science world for our homes,” he says.

His sister-in-law is ready to follow his lead. “My Papa always said it best: We’re stewards of what we are given,” says Kurtz Isbell. “So we hold a lot of respect for that. But as you go through each generation, things have changed…My dad always said he signed a contract by shaking hands; that’s different nowadays.”

The company takes on about five new construction projects at a time, along with a handful of renovation projects. Gordon is excited about some of the design trends the company might get to incorporate on future projects, from bigger outdoor areas and things like in-home yoga studios to the use of stone cladding on home exteriors. 

He also plans to keep following in his father-in-law’s footsteps by continuing to build connections and relationships in the community. “Now that I have this position, it allows me to do that more and find those organizations and groups I can get involved in,” says Gordon. “That’s both the exciting part and the challenging part, really making sure you’re connecting to the right people in the right place in the community.”

 

author

Beth Luberecki

Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, FamilyVacationist.com and SmarterTravel.com. Learn more about her at BethLuberecki.com.

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