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Meet Jody Watkins

Brief: Since founding Watkins Landmark Construction in 2004, Jody Watkins (BS Operation/Production Management ’91) has earned the reputation as a builder who is able to successfully tackle complex projects.

Stats: Watkins’ company, which averages more than $130 million in annual revenue, caters to clients mainly in Southern California. His construction team works on a diverse mix of projects, including stadiums, churches, restaurants, office buildings, schools, hotels, and mixed-use developments. The company may be best known for constructing the second tennis stadium for the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, a $94-million facility that opened in 2014 and serves as the home of the BNP Paribas Open. His team completed the construction of the state-of-the-art, 8,000-seat facility in less than a year.

Background: Even big things start small, says Watkins, whose first office was a coffee shop. “We worked out of the Starbucks because of the free Wi-Fi access,” he says. “We started off working for one person to build their custom home development. That snowballed into having my own general contracting company. I was able to get one project after another. Now we have two offices in California — one in the desert, Indian Wells, and our headquarters in Carlsbad.”

Insights: “Focusing on quality is the most important lesson I’ve learned,” Watkins says. “You should focus on the end product being a quality product, but you should also develop a quality relationship with your client throughout the process. One of our best clients always says to me, ‘It’s not the end product, it’s the journey.’ Building a project for a customer can entail up to a year, sometimes even more. That’s a lot of time to spend with that customer. If the journey of building their project is unpleasant, even if they’re happy with the end product, they will not be a repeat customer.”

Opportunities: Not every success can be tracked in a spreadsheet, says Watkins. “Building a good team of people and providing them with the highest quality of life possible [is something I’m proud of],” he says. “There are plenty of projects I can point to that are important landmarks, but the [best] part of my job is putting together good teams of people and watching them satisfy a client and build outstanding projects. My employees are the building blocks of the company, and Watkins Landmark Construction can only be as good as the people I hire.”

Recommendations: For would-be business owners, Watkins advises a step-by-step approach. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, but don’t be afraid to make the leap, either. “The first step off the plank when you leave a secure job with a secure benefits package and a secure future to strike out on your own is the hardest,” he says. “Each one after that will get easier.”

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