The Davis Companies: Hitting a New Housing Sweet Spot
Since 1976, The Davis Companies (TDC), based in Boston, has...
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Windover Construction started out as a hedge against a difficult economy. Nearly a decade later, its unique value proposition has shaped their customer experience and helped them become a legitimate standalone success.
No business goes in a straight line. Often, market conditions mean unexpected change. The ability to meet those challenges can sometimes take you in directions you didn’t expect—and create unanticipated success.
In 2005, amidst a booming construction and housing market, Lee Dellicker joined Beverly-based Windover Development. The firm’s objective was to design and build single-family residences, 55-and-over communities, and condominium and apartment buildings in New England and Florida.
As business picked up steam, buying land and kicking off development projects, the financial climate began hitting a radical—and lengthy—slide. “The economy simply wasn’t cooperating with our business plan,” states Dellicker. “We started feeling the pinch in 2007, and it really hit us hard in 2008 and 2009.”
During its first two years in business, Windover Development built a sound, respected brand. Seeing difficulties coming on the horizon, Dellicker decided to use that cachet, along with his own good reputation as a past partner in Shawmut Construction, to create Windover Construction, a separate unit within Windover Development.
Windover Construction started as a way to get “through a couple years of hard sledding in the recession,” according to Dellicker, “but ended up being a pretty good move.” That may well be underselling its accomplishments. During the recession’s tightest grip on the economy, the firm thrived, now doing just shy of $130 million.
Dellicker’s primary market includes institutions (private schools, colleges, and non-profits), hospitality, and select high-end residential projects.
On the school side of the equation, Dellicker chose to seek out institutions with small boards of directors. “It’s been a good model for us. In small institutions, the trustees have a lot of say in what the school does and who they do business with” he explains. That approach has helped Windover Construction build long-term relationships with clients and grow its reputation.
“Our success is in part due to our ability to build trust with a school’s Board. It can also translate into residential work. For example, we built a $10 million project for an exclusive North Shore private school. One of the trustees took notice of our approach and attention to detail and hired us to build a private estate nearby.”
In addition to his ability to communicate with boards of trustees, Dellicker notes that Windover Construction’s value proposition separates it from the competition. “We know how to build on occupied campuses,” he asserts. “We pay attention to the particular ecosystem, and needs of a school. If you’re in the middle of a campus we’ve developed, the students and faculty feel safe, and everyone knows where to go. We understand the inner workings of a college or school. We work to integrate development with curriculum and student needs, working directly with teachers, kids, and even unions to understand what those needs are. That’s huge in our industry.”
Dellicker cites partner relationships as key to Windover Construction’s success, particularly the one he’s developed with Salem Five.
“Things just started to pick up with Windover Development. Joe Greenough came into my office and I asked him about two apartment buildings we were thinking of developing,” says Dellicker. “Instead of being a typical banker and telling me all the reasons why it wasn’t financeable or what was wrong with it, Joe rolled up his sleeves, picked apart our pro forma, and outlined rent and construction costs. It felt like I had a business partner sitting across the table from me, not a banker.”
In September of 2015, Dellicker bought out all the shares of Windover Construction.
Joe then brought Kevin Rourke, Commercial Division Leader in to help structure the deal. At the time, Dellicker said didn’t know if he could really pull it off - in the end, he notes how important it was to have a banking partner he had an established relationship with, who made it happen quickly. ”It was surprisingly painless,” he shares. ”Negotiations can be tough, but the bank part was easy. In fact, I was so happy the way everything worked, that I transferred my personal banking as well.”
Dellicker looks forward to Windover Construction continuing to expand. “We won’t have to worry about outgrowing Salem Five or them outgrowing us. It’s just the right size for our company,” he adds. “As we continue to grow and look at other markets, we will take advantage of the experience and connections of all our key partners, especially that of our bankers.”