At work with Tim Faulkner, COO of The Breeden Co.
© September 19, 2011
As told to Pilot writer Josh Brown
I grew up on a farm just outside of Greenville, N.C., and went through the public school system. Then I received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point and started there in 1982. I graduated in 1986 and went into the military for five years.
I spent almost all of my time in the 82nd Airborne Division. I was there until just prior to the first Iraq War. So I was getting out in 1991 just as they were deploying, fortunately or unfortunately, however you look at it.
I gained a lot of management experience while I was in the military. When I graduated from West Point, I was a 22-year-old second lieutenant coming in to lead a platoon of 16 to 20 individuals, most of whom were older than me.
One of the things you take away from that experience is you need to open your eyes and your ears when you first get to an organization to understand it, versus trying to change everything around you. You also need to let your leadership do their thing. Leaders can hold back an organization as well as they can lead it.
Once I left the military, I started to work for Procter & Gamble as a production manager. I was primarily on a new-product launch for the Always brand. I know that will get a good chuckle. I didn't get peanut butter or potato chips. I got Always. And believe it or not, it seemed to be more men working in that division than women.
I did a lot of engineering work from a manufacturing standpoint. I had studied statistics, operations research and civil engineering. I was working on a project that was a really difficult launch. There I learned never give up. The ones who never gave up were the ones who continued to progress in that company.
When I left after six years, I became vice president of operations for a small industrial coatings company that did a lot of work for the automotive industry. The company was losing money when I started, and it had about $3 million in revenue. When I left it had about $6.5 million.
In 1999, I became an investor and the president of a lumber company called Lawton Lumber Co. All of our manufacturing operations were in Brazil, where we owned about 50,000 acres north of BelÃ©m - basically in the middle of nowhere.
It was a hard turnaround opportunity - high risk, high reward. As we harvested the trees, we replanted and tried to get the lumber to market. We took a good stab at it, but that business did not work out in the end. The market was not there.
Around that time, I had a mutual acquaintance with Ray Breeden of The Breeden Co. He had an opportunity in his time-share business, which I had no experience in. I had been interviewing for another job but didn't want to return to a large company. So I decided to come to Virginia Beach in 2001. It was very successful, and in 2004, Ray made the decision to bring me up to run their main property management business.
In many ways, the job I have now is similar to things I have done in the past. It's almost identical to the manufacturing process. In property management, you have inventory control, customer satisfaction, keeping turnover low, which is kind of like getting repeat customers.
The Breeden Co. has some good systems in place, but I think in the last six years we have grown tremendously. When I started here, we had about 1,652 apartment units. We now have 4,584, growing through both acquisition and development. I really enjoy my work and have been very fortunate to become a part of a great organization.
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