Dear Kathy Perry Britton,
They say it is lonely at the top. And over the course of my 21 years as a CEO, I find this is to become truer every day. There are very few people that will give me an honest assessment of a circumstance, and better yet, help me navigate the waters on how to address that circumstance in a manner I feel comfortable with. I wonder if you have the same issues, especially when it comes to my subdivision, Elm Grove, in Kingwood?
As I have navigated what to do with this mess on my side of the equation in order to keep residents from losing their whole lives, their sense of security, and their opportunity to raise their children in a place that still has that old-time commitment to family and community, I often put myself in your shoes. I wonder what I would do if I were you. And really, I know the answer without hesitation and feel you probably do too. My guess is it upsets you, what has been done to the people in Elm Grove and it bothers you that your family’s company, Perry Homes, is involved in it.
Another part of the story I understand is that as a small business owner, the company is like having another child and it needs the same care. When you have a child who grows up in the small business, a sibling of it if you will, they understand the time and the sacrifice it takes to build that business and treat it with the same amount of care. Just like your child, you never want anything bad to happen to your company.
I am the first-generation owner of my company, but I have raised the second generation to take over. She was 4 when I started my adventure and is now 26. She treats my company with the same care and concern I do. After all, she has been groomed to do that since the day I opened our doors. From what I can tell, you treat your business with the same care and concern your dad did.
Now, I understand you are much bigger than I am in revenue, but the basic principles are the same. You have a legal team giving you advice, and I am sure they are telling you all kinds of ways they can limit exposure in this situation. I also think you have a marketing and PR team trying to figure out how to deal with any fallout. A lot of people are doing a lot of talking, but they don’t have skin in the game. You have skin in this. And only the people with skin in the game can make the best decisions.
So, although I think you know this, here is what I would do if I were you:
- I would get rid of this property as quickly as I could. You have the avenues to do it. Do it. Make that call.
- As you’re working on that, I would erect a temporary wall on your side of the county line to stop all future flooding until the new owners can come in and fix it. I have the estimates of what it will cost (about $250K is the quote I have). This will stop additional rainstorms from flooding Elm Grove/North Kingwood Forest and stop your compounding losses every time it rains more than 4 inches.I say put this structure on your side because there are no regulations on the Montgomery County side and it can be done quickly. On the Harris County side, there is permitting, hydrology studies, and a whole bunch of red tape that would need to be completed first. I’ve already looked into this and confirmed that you can do it on your side of the county line with no issue and do it very quickly. I can put you in contact with the right people to get this done.
Consider the Cost of the Wall vs. Cost of additional flooding and paying contractors to do whatever it is they are currently doing moving around trees on the property.
- I would instruct lawyers to settle the lawsuit as quickly as possible and not use it or hide behind it as a reason not to do the right thing. Keep it out of court at all costs so there is no long-term damage to your reputation. You never let a customer sue you. No good will come out of it. Furthermore, I would not allow them to sue or take action against any person in Elm Grove ever again. Suing victims is not a way to win over support. These people are doing everything they can to save what little they have left of their lives. Don’t make it worse.
- And this is the most important: I would make sure I did all of this and took a victory lap publicly. I would tell the world how you cared about the poor people of Elm Grove and I would let the world know as soon as you figured out there was an issue you took steps to set up the fix to get the proper people involved. Continuing on the present path will never have a happy ending for Perry Homes, the residents of Elm Grove or the new residents of Woodridge Forest. I urge you to rewrite the ending. The story could be that you made it right. Perry Homes made it right. And, if you do this right, that will be what is remembered. Perry Homes was honorable and did the right thing. Make this a win for your company, not a stigma that will be attached for a very long time. The longer this goes on the more damage to your brand and your family name there is. You might even go as far as to send over a donation of toys to Elm Grove Elementary because 70 percent of those children are now below the poverty level after 2 massive flooding events. Honestly, we are struggling to do Christmas for them. It may be the best $25K you ever spend. If you want a tax write off for the money, let me know and we can see what we can do to have you donate to St. Martha’s St. Vincent DePaul Society as they are going to help me with Christmas for these kids. Santa should not be subjected to floods.
I empathize with struggling with what you’re being told and yet knowing what the right decision is. I do a lot of mulling things over and seek a lot of opinions. But I will say this, for me at least, when I have led with my gut and instructed those around me to make it happen the way I want it, my company comes out far ahead in the long run because I know what’s best for my company; because I have that skin in the game. They may argue, they may tell me they don’t agree, and I simply say, “I’ve decided what we are going to do, please make it happen.”
I hope you will do the right thing for everyone involved: your company Perry Homes, my residents, and our community and work towards making this all happen. You announce what you’re going to do. Let it come from you and be the hero. Don’t stay on a bad path just because you don’t know how to get off of it. The exit ramp is there, take it.
I wish you the best in all your future endeavors. I suspect we will run into each other at some point because we travel in the same circles more than I realized. Just remember to surround yourself with people that want to run the company with the same integrity you do and if they don’t, get rid of them sooner rather than later.
Fellow CEO and Elm Grove Resident