After 40-plus years in construction—first with his father as an electrician’s assistant, then in custom greenhouses, now in single-family homes—Wayne Sharpe has learned some of everything, from power to framing to roofing. When pandemic-related supply shortages finally, eventually clear up, he’s looking forward to getting back to the basics of home building. For now, he continues to look for innovative solutions throughout the process.
As director of field operations at Stanley Martin Homes, Sharpe oversees day-to-day construction operations like contractor management, home building, and inspections. When the group acquired his previous company Essex Homes in 2019, Sharpe stayed on. He says that despite its impressive size, Stanley Martin maintains an authentic, family-oriented environment.
“They have a lot of the same values that Essex Homes had, so it was a smooth transition,” Sharpe recalls. “You’re not just a number, you’re an actual person—and they appreciate you.”
He spends many of his days in the field, assisting with whatever needs to be done (because, as he says, you can’t build a house from inside your truck). His team of 10 manages several concurrent construction projects.
One exciting project has been the Barr Lake housing development in Lexington, South Carolina. Just west of Columbia, the development will feature over 300 single-family homes as well as a swimming pool, clubhouse, and lake. With about 100 remaining units to build, the project is on track and Sharpe is thrilled with the progress.
“It’s turned out to be a very nice neighborhood in a very nice location,” he says. “A lot of beautiful home sites, too—and this is a semi-custom home, as close to custom as you can get without paying custom prices.”
Barr Lake’s first major challenge arrived in October 2015 when record-setting rainfall caused flash floods around the area. At least 11 dams across the state failed while officials opened floodgates and allowed controlled breaches to limit the damage. After the dam was rebuilt and the water was back in the lake, construction was back on track—until the COVID-19 pandemic arrived with a new array of logistical challenges.
“Because of supply chain and labor issues, it’s taking us twice as long to build houses,” Sharpe says. He hopes that in the coming year the process will start to flow like it used to, but for now his team continues to adapt in order to build quality homes on a reasonable timeline.
One part of Sharpe’s role is to ensure that the whole crew isn’t waiting on one supplier. By emphasizing communication with vendors and identifying possible shortages ahead of time, they can puzzle out the calendar to keep projects on track. At this point, Stanley Martin has a tested pandemic-era playbook to keep production moving forward when delays occur.
For example, when trusses were delayed up to 10 weeks, Sharpe would start sending priority lists to truss vendors before even starting on foundations. Then crews had trusses as soon as they were ready for it, or a couple days late at most. Facing a similar snarl with drywall, management is identifying houses that have passed inspection and sending orders to vendors five weeks or more ahead of time.
“Communication is huge,” Sharpe says. “When our trade partners start seeing something that could become a problem, we’re asking them to let us know so we can get ahead of the curve. Do we need to order sooner? Start pulling in different vendors from other markets? Thinking outside of the box.”
Maintaining a positive attitude has been absolutely crucial to the success of Sharpe and his team. He’s thankful for the mentors and leaders throughout his career who modeled that confidence, so he makes sure to carry it forward every day.
“You never go in front of your people and be negative,” he counsels. “They see enough negativity out there and they deal with it every day, so when you get around them, you have to be the positive light.”
Sharpe takes care to say that his team doesn’t work “for” him—he works with them. Over time, faithful leaders learn the strengths and capabilities of the people around them and capitalize on those to ensure collective success. But they also have to be prepared to sweat next to their people when the situation demands it.
“Everybody who works with me knows that if they need me, I’ll roll my sleeves up, I’ll put my tool belt on,” he says. “It doesn’t make any difference what needs to be done—to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower.”
Sharpe is looking forward to the next few years with Stanley Martin. Soon, the construction backlog will be cleared up and with luck production timelines will creep closer to pre-pandemic norms.
“In construction you never know what you’re going to run into,” he says. “Every day I wake up and I say, ‘OK, what’s going to be my challenge, and how am I going to tackle it?’ That’s the way I look at things.”
The Saluda Hill Landscapes team has been proud to work with Stanley Martin Homes. Within the Barr Lake Development, we assisted in the land development and production landscaping for the new residents. As a turn-key landscaping business, we pride ourselves on providing only the highest quality to our clients. For over 30 years, we have strived to be the best in our industry and will continue to adapt to our clients to promote growth on all fronts.