Ramon W. Breeden Jr. wins 2012 Impressions in Print Leadership Award
Company name The Breeden Co.
Location 560 Lynnhaven Pkwy., Virginia Beach
Number of employees 250
Amount of growth in the past year 6 percent
By Teresa Talerico
Low turnover means great leadership, and The Breeden Co. is no exception. Some employees have spent three decades with the Virginia Beach real estate development firm.
Founder Ramon W. Breeden Jr. cultivates a family-friendly workplace that nurtures and inspires, said Barry W. Tomlin, vice president of Breeden Property Management.
"The CFO's oldest son, who's now at William and Mary, is also one of our employees in the summertime," he said. "It's just a testament to the business and what Mr. Breeden has instilled in all of us - to work hard. And now we're seeing it come through generations as well."
Breeden founded the company in 1967. He recently spoke with IB about leading by example, outworking competitors and applying the golden rule in the corporate world.
Describe your company philosophy.
Treat others as you'd want to be treated yourself. That pertains to the tenants, employees and everybody you're in contact with.
I always said if I had my own business I would never want people working in my company who were negative or argumentative. In other words, when you walk in, in the morning, you give a smile and a hello and you ask employees about their wife and families. If an employee has a sick relative, a sick husband, a sick wife, how are they?
It gives me a great deal of pride that the business now has 250 employees and is doing well and the employees can afford to educate their children at the finest schools in the country, because they make a good living here; they feel secure. My CFO came to work for me probably 25, 30 years ago. He got married. He had four children. The oldest one is at William and Mary College. That's all happened under the leadership of this company.
Which leaders have inspired you through the years?
I observe the leadership qualities in other people and learn by their mistakes. One of the better marketing people in my time is Donald Trump. You may not like him as a person - that has nothing to do with it - but the leadership he provides in marketing is outstanding.
How have you applied that in your own strategies?
For example, Trump said, "Have the landscaping and the outside of a building perfect, and that will bring people on the inside and then I can market the inside of the building." I think in those terms myself. I make sure all of our projects are clean outside, that they don't have any dead shrubs, the grass is cut and the attitude of the managers is light and lively and happy and attentive to the customers.
Biggest obstacle in running a business?
I don't really consider it an obstacle as much as I do an opportunity, but since I've been in business I've been through four or five recessions. Being able to bob and weave and get through these recessions and keep the business going, we've been able to weather many storms in that regard.
If there's any obstacle, it lies in the financing area of the business. Without financing, we couldn't really do anything. So it's really learning, when one source of financing dries up, you find another source.
What have you learned that you wished you'd known when you started?
It's exactly what I expected - hard work and a drive to succeed. I don't think I'm smarter than the next genius in town. I'll tell you one thing, though - I can outwork them. I was willing to work seven days a week. A lot of my meetings, in the beginning, were on Sunday afternoons with subcontractors. I was willing to do that, rather than be at football games or play golf.
Any other thoughts on leadership?
You've got to set the example and inspire others to follow you and what you do.
To succeed, you've got to work hard; you've got to outwork your competition. And it never bothered me, because business is my hobby. I'm not a good golfer. I'm not a good tennis player. One of my hobbies is flying helicopters and airplanes, which we use in our business. But other than that, I didn't read a book on it. You just do it. It's what you are. nib