The Drees file Featured

12:14pm EDT May 22, 2006
Born: Covington

Education: Trinity University, San Antonio, dual major in home building and business; MBA, Xavier University

First job: Growing up in a family business, when I was in the fifth grade, my sister and I cleaned our ‘world headquarters’ — construction trailers. I’ve worked part-time in some capacity ever since then. When I graduated from Xavier in 1983, I started full time with the Drees organization as what we call an operations manager.

What has been your greatest business challenge?
The most exciting business challenge, the thing I learned the most from, was when we started up the Dallas operation. I moved down there with another guy who was my boss, and we started this business up from scratch. That was a learning experience in itself.

Everything in Cincinnati happens 10 years behind the times, but Dallas is the cutting edge of the homebuilding industry — all the national players are down there. I learned so much about the industry from that experience. It was really exciting. And from the company standpoint, the company learned so much.

That’s really what catapulted us — that knowledge catapulted us to become the largest homebuilder in Cincinnati.

What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned?
My philosophy is, we’re in the people business. We can’t do what we do without having a thousand great employees. So we’ve got an organization dedicated toward recruiting and developing those employees to be the best they can.

We’re a very decentralized industry — we rely on the talents and skills and motivation of the people at the local level. With the people in direct contact with the customer, nothing happens unless they make it happen.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?
My father, because he has unique skills. He’s obviously very entrepreneurial — he was able to build this company from nothing — but he also is a great leader. People trust him and respect him and want to follow him and admire his character.

But he’s not a control freak — he’s a great delegator, too. A lot of entrepreneurs, they’re great at really controlling the show, but they can’t grow the show because they can’t let go. And although he has got some great detail skills, he let his managers grow and develop and be responsible. That’s what you’ve got to do if you want to grow in this business.