Below is an article written by Kimberly Pierceall in the Press Enterprise, May 24, 2006
WELL PAST GO
ON BOARD: Monopoly taught Coachella Valley developer Mickie Riley all he knows. . . almost.
Mickie Riley‘s only clue that his future would involve leading a home development company came from a board game.
“No bragging, I always won at Monopoly. … It’s pretty much what we do now. We buy land, we improve it, we mortgage it, we take risk. Sometimes we pass go, sometimes we go to jail,” he said, laughing. “No, we don’t go to jail.”
Riley didn’t intend to be a builder, but when the surfer moved from Sacramento to San Diego, he realized that working inside a restaurant defeated the purpose of living in paradise.
Starting as a carpenter in 1971, Riley advanced to project manager and senior manager to support his family. More than 30years later, he’s still in business for his family, now largely employees at his $63million development company, Rilington Communities.
Hansi, his wife of 24years, is his business partner. Four of his six children work in his new Cathedral City headquarters and two others in San Francisco, a painter and a musician, have helped decorate model homes and design Riley’s Web site.
Riley sensed the housing shift in the Coachella Valley and recently moved his San Marcos development company to Cathedral City, convincing nearly all of his 40 employees and family to follow.
Rilington owns 1,850 lots in the Coachella Valley and built the Palazzo, Prado and Bella Canto developments in Indio and Coachella. The company is currently building homes in Palm Desert’s Dolce and Coachella’s Pasa Fino.
Q: Proudest career accomplishment?
A: Putting together this company, with this group of people, with my family involved in it. . . .We started the company with a credit card. The Rileys came out of a two- bedroom farmhouse and that will never be forgotten.
Q: What advice would you give other executives?
A: In my earlier career, if I failed for any reason it was because I wasn’t only naïve but I was too positive. When you get too positive, sometimes you don’t look at the pitfalls.
As an executive or a business owner you really need to look at your business like the military. You always have to look at an exit strategy.
When you look at a deal, when you look at an opportunity, you have to look at what happens if it doesn’t work out. Can I get out of this thing whole? Can I pay back investors? Can I pay back my lenders? Can I fulfill my commitments even if I don’t make a profit? Is it going to bury my company?
Q: What do you do to retain good employees?
A: We have a company event every month. Sometimes it can be as simple as a pot luck and a movie in our conference room. Or it can be a baseball game. We have this bowling league. It’ll go for three months and then we’ll start something else.
It’s offering them education. It’s offering them housing. . . . Financially we’re generous. People make good money. … If there’s a soccer game, or a recital, or a spelling bee I sort of expect the parents to be there. If it’s in the middle of the day … we’ll figure out how to get the work done. You’ll make up the time. I’m not worried about that.
So I think it’s that kind of flexibility that makes a big difference. People are safe. Q: How does being located in the Inland Empire affect your company?
A: (The Coachella Valley) is a new market, it’s a new frontier. And even though the market has been here for some time, it’s really just taken off the last five to eight years, if that.
Q: What’s the most important thing you do every week?
A: Spend time with my wife. . . .There are the guys out there that really have no relationship with their wife and family whatsoever and they’ve been hugely successful. At the end of the day, in my opinion, that’s not true success. . . .Find somebody that you can talk to. Seriously, because the kids are going to grow up. Ours have. Our dogs are wonderful but they don’t talk back to you.
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MICKIE L. RILEY
TITLE: President and CEO COMPANY: Rilington Communities
TYPE OF INDUSTRY: Residential development
LOCATION: Cathedral City