While looking through the archives of www.blackenterprise.com, JLW Homes and Communities received prominent recognition from Wendy Harris in 2007. Happy Flash Back Friday everyone, this was almost 10 years ago!
Successful partnerships don’t just happen. These young entrepreneurs have discovered the key to combining their unique talents.
When a master homebuilder, financial guru, and savvy salesman decided to marry their resources and individual expertise to start JLW Homes and Communities (www.jlwhomes.com) in Atlanta, they knew exactly what they would be getting into.
Seven years ago, Gregory Wynn, Komichel Johnson, and Robert A. Jones III set out to change the fabric of in-town Atlanta by building quality, affordable housing in some of the city’s
most undesirable urban areas. It was a tall order to fill, but one that the three professionals vowed to do — one house, and one block, at a time. Today, the partners are doing just that to the tune of $36 million in revenues and 517 homesites throughout various planned communities, including High Pointe Estates, Preston Hills, Washington Park, and Monterra.
What’s their secret to maintaining a successful partnership? “Communication, communication, communication,” says Johnson, who as CEO and business manager oversees all of the company’s land acquisitions and financing. “We don’t all agree on the same issues and we’ve had some heated arguments where I wanted to put all of them in a headlock and say ‘Y’all are crazy.’ But we realize that through communication and laying out the facts, that we can overcome any issue that may arise within our organization,” he says.
Most new business owners would probably not turn down the opportunity to close a deal worth $5.4 million, especially if the offer is made just one year after being in business. But that’s exactly what the partners of JLW Homes and Communities did when they walked away from the chance to build Heritage Pointe, a 70-unit condominium project in Atlanta’s Summerhill section. In the beginning, that decision was hardly unanimous.
“At that time we didn’t have the capacity to get it done,” says Wynn, 37. “It would have taken an experienced master builder and two assistants. Now, we had two master builders at the time, but they were busy on other projects. Plus, we would have needed a new core of subcontractors, at least 100 men, and we just didn’t have the manpower.”
Although Johnson, 34, and Jones, 32, were dogmatic about moving forward, they didn’t try to bully Wynn into switching sides, nor did they
ignore his concerns. They held a meeting to discuss the logistics of the project and then trusted that their partner’s 10-plus years of experience in building homes would steer them in the right direction.
“After we laid all the facts out on the table, Komichel knew that we could get the numbers worked out and that we could make a sufficient return. But Greg didn’t feel like we had the capacity to perform it,” says Jones, who is in charge of marketing, sales, and business development. “After a long discussion we realized that it was way too early for us to do this type of deal, so we went with Greg’s advice. And I’m glad we did because if we didn’t, we may have lost our shirts.”
Today, the 12-employee company has become the city’s premier in-town builder constructing affordable homes ranging in price from $140,000 to $380,000. The partners recently acquired a deal for $1.5 million to build 48 homesites in the second phase of a development named High Pointe Estates. The deal generated $20 million in revenues for the homebuilders. Their latest project, the Monterra, involves an $11 million acquisition to re-do a public housing project. When complete, the 217-unit mixed- income housing development will generate $80 million in sales revenues for the company.
“We’re changing the fabric of lives through homeownership,” Jones says. “But the one thing that I’m most proud of out of everything that we’ve accomplished is the fact that we’ve stayed together, because partnership is not easy. There are times when we’re [upset] and we have to leave the conference room or the office to cool down, but at the end of the day we depend on each other’s effort, diligence, and commitment to seeing these projects through to completion.”