Follow the leader

Whether he is taking his team fishing or helping Par 3 survive the Great Recession, Alex Villarosa’s actions set the example for those around him.

Photography: © Jacob Kepler

If anyone needed proof Alex Villarosa was going to be a success at Par 3, his work during the Great Recession would be a prime example of things to come. And that’s with high expectations before he even joined the company.

“(In this industry) he was the first-round pick of the draft,” says Kam Brian, COO of Par 3 Landscape. “He came highly recommended.”

Villarosa joined the team in June 2005. At the time, Par 3 had one field technician running its construction business, but the jobs became too much for one person to handle. The company was about 10 years old, and the construction division at Par 3 was made up of work generated from the company’s maintenance jobs. The division was bringing in about $250,000 a month.

Villarosa jumped in wearing as may hats as he could to get jobs done. “He was working with the design team, out in the field, even collecting payments on jobs,” says Shawn Buckley, owner of Par 3 Landscape.

But he really showed his worth during the economic downturn.

The industry in Vegas was hit hard, and no one could secure jobs like they used to.

For Villarosa, it meant he just had to work a little harder.

He was able to stay on top of his business by leveraging his good client relationships and focusing on the jobs that weren’t hit as hard, like HOA contracts and hotels.

“Even though the recession hit, a lot of HOAs had a reserve to where they could still spend money to renovate the property,” Villarosa says.

Villarosa says he can’t take all the credit, though.

“I couldn’t do it without my staff,” he says. “I don’t believe in the ‘I team,’ (I believe in) the ‘we team.’”

The construction division remained profitable and even grew in the unstable economy. Villarosa was able to run his crew of 100 guys without any layoffs.

Buckley credits Villarosa’s optimism for the division’s success. “A lot of people were really depressed when the recession hit,” he says. “But Alex was always upbeat and that trickled down to the rest of the crew.”

Villarosa reminds his staff that just because he is the vice president of construction, he’s never too busy for them.

“I’m not a sidewalk manager who stands there with his hands in his pockets,” he says. “I’m in the field with them asking what we can do to be more efficient. To keep my people motivated, I knew I had to lead by example.”

Villarosa graduated college with a degree in engineering and worked in industrial construction and mining. With his mining background, he can handle almost any equipment on the job.

“He’s not afraid to pick up a shovel,” Brian says. “He’s a guy that wears boots to work every day and visits every jobsite.”

Pictured from left: Kari Miller, landscape architect, Alex Villarosa, VP of construction and Art Blouin, field supervisor.
Faith and family.

When he’s not checking in on his crews or taking care of business at the office, Villarosa dedicates his time to his church community and family. With four kids ranging from ages 20 to 12 (including twin boys), Villarosa and his wife of 23 years make family a priority.

A work-life balance is an important value at Par 3 and Buckley says Villarosa is always sure to make it to family events.

“It’s about knowing your priorities,” Villarosa says. “For me it goes God, family then work.” He leans on his Christian faith to stay focused on his job while at work and stay focused on his family while at home.

Outside of his job at Par 3, Villarosa serves as an assistant minister in his church, regularly teaches Bible study and leads the youth congregation as a group counselor.

The support from the owners at Par 3 has also helped him balance his schedule. “It’s not an easy task. Sometimes I’m working more than 50 hours a week, and I attend church three times a week,” he says. “But the owners always express that family is a priority.”

Buckley says it’s hard to keep up watching Villarosa work, but he’s got his daily routine down to a specific structure. “He beats me into the office,” he says.

Villarosa spends his morning in his office. After that, he’s on the road the rest of day stopping by jobsites to check on crews.

“He runs his crew like they’re his family,” Buckley says. It’s not uncommon for Villarosa to spend time with his crews during a barbecue or take his supervisors fishing over the weekend.

“To me, that is a way to teach them ownership,” Villarosa says. “It’s showing them that they’re not just a warm body. Having a family-style relationship with my employees, we always encourage them that family is a very high priority in their life. There’s times we’ve had to work overtime to accelerate projects, but if an employee has a family event they have to go to, we tell them it’s ok.”

During company barbecues, the crew looks forward to Villarosa’s blessing before their meal. “It’s always such a heartfelt prayer,” Buckley says. “Everyone really looks forward to it every time.”

Villarosa also preaches the importance of integrity and service to his crew of about 110 field technicians. “They are the frontline of the company,” he says. “The clients may not always see me, but they always see them, so I need to lead by example.”

“It’s unusual to have one person that is as universally loved and respected as Alex.” – Kam Brian, COO, Par 3 Landscape
Giving back.

Buckley says Villarosa is always bringing charitable opportunities to Par 3. When the city came together to build a memorial for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting last year, Villarosa was determined to be involved. “I don’t really go out and look for the projects,” he says. “But people in the industry bring ideas to us.”

Someone approached Par 3 about the memorial project, and Villarosa reached out to his vendors to share the task. “I use Par 3 as part of a team (when it comes to charity work) and see if our vendors are willing to participate. I’ve been able to establish loyalty not only with our customers, but with our vendors and that’s a very important thing when it comes to these kinds of projects.”

Buckley says he was the first to get involved. Currently, Par 3 is working on a long-term maintenance plan for the memorial. The company recently went back to trim, thin and lace all the trees that were planted in October.

Villarosa and his team also offered their services to a local at-risk school last year. They designed and transformed a cement lot into a playground for the students.

Beyond the charity work, Villarosa says he has been able to borrow equipment from his company to do work for his church. Recently, he used equipment to help clear a vacant lot to make overflow parking for the food pantry ministry at his church. A vendor also helped to supply truckloads of material for the parking lot.

Measurable impact.

Villarosa speaks English and Spanish fluently, along with his first language, Tagalog. (He was born in Manila, Philippines, and immigrated to Nevada as a child).

“The rapport that he has with his guys might be the most impressive thing about him,” Brian says. “He genuinely cares about those guys. Consequently, I think his crews are a lot more productive. The numbers don’t lie.”

From an upper-level perspective, Par 3 has fewer accidents and safety issues and fewer jobs that go over budget or schedule on the construction side compared to the maintenance side.

“You’d think that would be just the opposite,” Brian says. “On the maintenance side you’re doing smaller jobs. The contrast for me is on the construction side, you have a tighter organization. Everything runs smoothly, because they follow the lead of their division head.”

That type of leadership is noticed across the company.

“Even in a company of nearly 500 employees, it’s unusual to have one person that is as universally loved and respected as Alex,” Brian says. “He’s one of a kind and an indispensable part of our success.”

June 2018
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