It was all Jay Westman ever wanted to do, since he was in short pants hanging out with his entrepreneurial father, Al Westman.
But Westman, owner, president and chief executive of Calgary-based Jayman Master Builder, doesn’t just bring hammer and nails to the job.
Westman accentuates the traditional values that were instilled in him by his role-model father, whose sage sayings about business ethics serve as the company’s credo.
The 44-year-old has built a mighty solid foundation based on the lessons from his father and from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, where he spent a decade attending night school to sharpen his business skills.
|Jayman Master Builder photo|
|Time management and prioritizing are critical business skills|
Jayman, which bills itself as the largest custom home builder in Western Canada, is tapping into Alberta’s red-hot residential real estate market with escalating revenue that is projected at a company record $215 million next year.
And, at 44, a zealous Westman leaves the distinct impression he isn’t about to slow down any time soon.
1. What was it like growing up in the real estate business alongside your father, Al Westman?
“Of course, all the homes I ever lived in were ones my dad had sold for a builder or actually built himself. From the day I was born, I always lived in new subdivisions (in Edmonton, Saskatoon and Calgary). We’d start off in a dust bowl and then once the area matured, we’d move. I spent a lot of time in the back seat of my dad’s car while he showed people homes. That was our time together on weekends. We’d meet guys for coffee and they’d flip to see who buys and I’d get a milkshake and get everyone upset. As I grew older, I’d work for my dad’s company in the summer - painting fences, cleaning out basements, nailing floors or setting up driveways. By the time I was 20, I’d built about 300 units (homes).”
2. Was the home-building business your boyhood dream?
“Yes, I always dreamed of doing this. But it’s funny. We were in a meeting today and we were lining up all these meetings and projects. We were completely booked for this month. I said to everybody: ‘You’ve got to be careful what you want in life because I always dreamed of being a president of a large company but then you start to realize that it’s a pretty hectic life.’ But I love the business.”
3. How has your father influenced your life and your work?
“I hope I can be as good to my son as (my father) has been to me. What he did for me is let me make mistakes. And that’s very hard, I think, for anybody to do. I cost my dad a lot of money in the early years. He was always supportive. He had sayings that have stuck with us in the core values of our company. He’d say things like, ‘your name is your credit card of life.’ He’d say, ‘always walk the talk.’ ”
4. What was the most important lesson he taught you?
“There was a time when we were moving from building 200 to 350 homes. We were so busy and my dad said, ‘why don’t you bring some more people in to work for the company?’ I’d say, ‘well, dad, it’s going to cost a lot of money’ and this and that. He’d say, ‘obviously, your rice bowl’s not full.’ I said, ‘what are you talking about, rice bowl?’ He said, ‘well, you want to keep it all for yourself, you don’t want to share it.’ It took me another year or two before I started to really understand what he was saying. It was about making sure you had the proper compensation in place, sharing appropriately with your top managers and team players, releasing authority and having a common touch with people as he did. My dad (Jayman’s chairman) still comes in every day and I’m sure he’ll be here until his last day.”
5. What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in building Jayman?
“Moving from being an entrepreneur to a manager. It’s
tough to let go. In 1999, we set up a corporate division to start working on the business instead of in the business. Up to that point, I was signing offers of
purchases, doing land transactions, writing most of the cheques and I was just in the business instead of working on the business. Since that time, I’ve been
working on the business and letting go of some of the detail. It has been pretty exciting.”
6. Describe your management style?
“Anybody that knows me knows that I have a tremendous sense of urgency. And this comes out of being a superintendent. You know that if you don’t deal with things on Monday and Tuesday, you know those things will not happen for the Thursday or Friday of that week 52 weeks in the year. If you’re 45 and you think maybe your last day will be when you’re 75, that’s 10,950 days left. So every day better be a good day. I’ve got this thing about time management. As a matter of fact, one of the books that is standard reading for all of our people (employees) is The Seven Habits of Effective People, and in that book there’s something about the four quadrants of time management. I’m big on time management, on working on the most important things and prioritizing. I work a minimum of at least six days a week.”
7. Have you been able to balance your personal and business life?
“For the most part. Unfortunately, my wife and I separated a couple of years ago. We’re great friends today and we’ve been married for some 22 years. We grew up together and were married very young. But you get into your early 40s and you start to grow apart. So, she’s on a different path than I am today and we’re both happy with that. So I can say that, in 20-20 hindsight, yeah, I could have done a little more personal balance with that. But I was always there for the family dinners, I was always there for Sunday dinners with the kids and we always took a couple of good holidays a year as a family. So, all in all, it’s been a pretty good run.”
8. Are your three children involved in the business?
“My daughter Tanya is working in our accounting department. She said when she was 16 that she wasn’t into material things like me so she wasn’t going to go back to school. (Laughing) She’s now going back
to school. My son Matthew is taking business administration in a college in upstate New York and he hopes to get involved in the business. He works here in the summers. My daughter Nicole is hoping to get into Mount Royal College.
“I’d like to see one of my kids take over the business eventually. I don’t know if it’ll be my daughter or my son. I’m still only 44 and know I’ve got at least 20 years of work left.”
9. What’s the best advice you’d offer a young entrepreneur?
“My dad taught me that everybody is equal. Everybody has two legs, two arms and one head and the difference between success and failure is how you apply your time. If you apply yourself in a discipline, then you can become a master at that trade.”
10. How do you view the rash of corporate scandals of the past year?
“There’s certainly a lesson to be learned out of that. Ultimately, when you’re the president and CEO, you’re responsible. I don’t think there is any president or CEO of a major company who doesn’t understand their financial statements.”
11. What’s your long-term vision for Jayman?
“I can see us focusing on three cities - Calgary, Edmonton and Denver - and becoming fully integrated in all aspects of housing and creating customers for life. We’ll be launching other business units in the next
couple of years that will round out the way that we handle our whole customer service level. We have pretty good control over everything we do because we create the product, we manufacture the product and we sell the product.”
12. How do you go about creating customers for life?
“Customer service is very elusive. A lot of the systems we use are about consistency, simply doing what you do when you said you’d do it. And that is so uncommon. I have to admit that we’re not perfect. There are a lot of things that we have influence on, but not control over.”
13. What’s the hot trend of the future in home building?
“I’m currently president of the Calgary Home Builders Association and first vice-president of Alberta Home Builders Association, and what we’re trying to bring forward is a ‘green-built’ initiative whereby companies will use energy-efficient products. For example, by using a low-flush toilet in the thousand homes we build this year in Alberta, we’ll save 11 million gallons of water – and that’s just Jayman. We’re putting in electronic thermostats in homes which alone saves 15 per cent of the heating bill. We’re also going to look at recycling as an industry. In Calgary alone, there are six football fields of garbage a year from house construction. We think (recycling) can be a profitable enterprise, and we think we can recycle all the products.”
14. What’s your outlook for the red-hot residential real estate market?
“There’s a change in the consumers’ mind today, where they look at real estate as an investment. Through the 1980s and early 1990s, it was looked upon as a lifestyle issue only. Today, houses have become one of the best investments. There could be a (real estate) bubble if economic times change dramatically where we don’t have the job growth. Then, the (housing) starts will come down. In 1980, there were 16,000 housing starts in Calgary and it dropped to 2,000 housing starts and we survived and thrived. If the market adjusted by 25 to 30 per cent, we feel confident we can still be successful.”
15. Who’s the business leader you most admire and respect?
“I guess it would be Lee Iacocca (former Chrysler CEO). He would simply say a lot of people have worked harder than him, a lot of people are smarter and a lot of people are more educated. But he had the knack to communicate simply. And I’d like to think that I have the ability to take the most complex things and simplify it in terms of how we can get rubber to the road and how we can actually make it work and make it happen.”
16. How important is money to you personally?
“It’s nice to have nice things but reputation is more
important to me than money - by a longshot. Money’s actually a scorekeeping of how you’ve done in business. If we’re not doing well in business, I’m very upset that we’re not managing it right and it’s my fault.
"Ninety per cent of our profits are reinvested into this company and the reason we do that is because we understand the risk and we understand the business. What you’re investing in with another public company is someone else’s management skills. And why wouldn’t you invest in yourself if you believe in yourself?”
17. Your home is on fire. You have time to retrieve three personal possessions. Which three?
“First, family pictures. Second, my suits to make sure I can work the next day. Third, that 100-year-old bottle of wine I’ve been saving for that really important occasion I want to celebrate.”
18. You call in sick tomorrow. How do you spend the day?
“Today, I’ve actually looked at the first part of my life spent with my first wife and Part 1 of life has been great. And now I look forward to the adventure of Part 2. So I’d probably like to spend that day with a new lady.”
19. Do you have any other goals beyond business?
“Our family has a home in Kelowna along the lake and I just love the water so I don’t know. Maybe one day I’d like to be able to go into a share of an 80- or 90-foot yacht. I just love driving my boat. I just love cruising the water.”
20. Do you think about early retirement?
“No, I don’t see it happening too soon. In five years from today, I’ll have to start to identify the person that would replace me and spend at least the next five years working towards that. And then by the 15th year I’d have to start to transition out of the CEO role and move towards the chairman’s role. My daughter (Tanya) isn’t too sure if she’d want it. But my son (Matthew) is interested and I’m going to give him an opportunity and see what he can do.”
IN PROFILE: Jay Westman
* Born/raised/age: Edmonton; Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary; 44.
* Title: Owner/president/CEO, Jayman Master Builder.
* Education: SAIT, business administration certificate.
* Family: Wife Wendy, children Tanya, Nicole and Matthew.
* Career: Westman has spent his entire working career in residential real estate and construction and co-founded Jayman Master Builder in 1979 with his father, Al Westman.
* Role models: Al Westman, Lee Iacocca.
* Passion: Boating.
THE COMPANY: Jayman Master Builder
* Brass: Jay Westman, president/CEO; Al Westman, chairman; Ed Nordlund, vice-president; Norma Dyck, chief financial officer; Jim Sirup, chief operating
* Profile: Jayman is an integrated home builder that bills itself as Calgary’s largest single-family home builder and Western Canada’s largest custom home builder. The company’s targeted markets are Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Denver, Colo. Divisions within the 23-year-old company include Jayman Real Estate, Jayman Moving Vans, Sales Assist, Wen-Di Interiors and StyleMagic.
* Projected 2003 Revenue: $215 million.
* Awards: Jayman has won numerous Alberta awards, including Alberta Builder of the Year, Excellence in Housing Design, best single-family home and the Award of Excellence in Affordable Housing.
* Website: www.jayman.com
* Head Office: 200-3132 118th Ave. S.E., Calgary, AB T2Z 3X1 (phone 403-258-3772; fax 253-3576).
* Edmonton Office: 10476 Mayfield Rd., Edmonton AB T5P 4P5 (phone 780-481-6666; fax 481-7711.