I met Jamie Wilcox in August 2010. I had returned to Maples at the Sonatas to take pictures of the Abbey that I would buy within a month. When I walked into the clubhouse, I expected to find the sales rep Jon, but he wasn’t there. A young man greeted me, said that Jon had the day off, and introduced himself as Jamie Wilcox. I looked at him blankly. After a pause, he said, “I’m the builder.”
The words too young flitted through my mind, but I kept them to myself. We walked across the street, and then I had the privilege of a personal tour of my future home with the president of the company that built it. Shortly into the tour, Jamie stopped seeming so young.
Viewing my Abbey through his insights and perspective made for a fascinating experience. It is, unfortunately, an experience rarely available to today’s buyers. And that lack of personal contact concerns Jamie.
Last week Jamie returned to my home for a conversation for this blog. He brought with him Ember, his marketing director, and Leigh, his new vice president of sales and marketing. The four of us, plus my cat Angie, sat in my living room while Jamie answered my questions about the beginning of Wilcox Communities, its growth, and its future.
The story starts in Columbus, Ohio, where Jamie was living and where Epcon is based. “I was looking for the next chapter in my life when I met some people from Epcon,” he said. Their talks led to his decision to become an Epcon builder partner. To clarify, Epcon Communities owns the designs for our homes and communities. But Epcon doesn’t build them. Their builder partners do that.
Jamie, along with his father Randy, founded the company in 2002, and started with a single community in Joliet. Several years later, Jamie’s brother, Jonathan, would become the third partner. After surviving the lean times after the real estate downturn of 2008, Wilcox has grown to 20 communities, with more in the plans.
Jamie exhibits a quiet pride in his success, but he does not seem unduly impressed by it. When others comment on how much he has accomplished at age 36, he points out that he did not meet his original goal.
When he started the business, he thought it would have been larger by now. But in 2002, no one had expected the home construction industry to go through several very tough years. That downturn forced him to lower his expectations. However, things are back on track now. In recent years, the company has grown at a rate of 100 percent per year.
Despite having a degree in accounting, Jamie measures his success with more than just numbers. “What we do is needed,” he said. He referred to his typical buyers—those looking for maintenance-free ranch homes—as “a large, underserved part of the housing market.”
Ironically, Jamie’s success is stealing away the time he can devote to his favorite part of his job—getting to know the people in his communities. But Jamie is not going to let those personal relationships go without a fight.
When he was here last week, he stopped by our book club meeting to greet the members. He knew nine of the 10 present and made a point of introducing himself to the one he hadn’t met.
She brought up a problem she was having with her carpet. Listening intently, he asked a couple of questions and nodded at her answers. When she said that she had forgotten to include the item on her one-year warrantee checklist, he said, “That’s OK. I’ll add it for you.”
Jamie may not be physically present as often as in the past, but he is still on top of what’s going on in his communities. He leads a meeting for each at a set time every week. Topics include construction, financing, sales, and anything else involved in building a community. Many of those meetings take the form of conference calls to reduce the amount of time he must spend on the road.
With properties stretching across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee, Jamie still must travel more than he would like. Those trips take precious time away from his wife and young children, who are 5, 3, and 2.
Looking to the future, Jamie said his company is at a crossroads. “It has grown to have a large geographical footprint,” he said. “But where do we grow from here? What’s the endgame? I don’t know.
“I’m always anxious about what’s next and next and next. I’m the most driven, competitive person you’ve met.”
Jamie paid one of his more memorable visits to our community last year. The homeowners had planned a surprise party for our two award winners at the 2012 Epcon Conference. My neighbor Ollie Stolberg was named Lifestyle Ambassador, and Carol Lyons, our sales consultant, won Rookie of the Year. Jamie not only attended the party, he was instrumental in pulling off the surprise. In the photo below, he and Ollie chat during the party.