BUILDING LEGACIES

 

Words by Mark Wilson

Photography by Shad Ramsey

Gerald Boggs had no relatives interested in taking over his successful home building business when he was ready to retire, but he did have the next best thing. Boggs had hired Ann Whitecotton in 1991 as his office manager and she showed she had a knack for the business. “I took care of everything in the office right away,” said Whitecotton, whose first experience in the workforce was with Porter Abstract & Title, when she was still a student at Granbury High School.

Ann often shares with her clients this story of mentorship, which she calls inspirational. Boggs & Whitecotton Custom Homes initially was a 50-50 partnership. Boggs shifted into semi-retirement, then later moved quietly and turned over every aspect of the company to Whitecotton. The name of the company was formally changed to Ann Whitecotton Homes in May of this year.

Ann felt she knew off-the-bat that she wanted to be in the home building business for the rest of her life. Like a sponge, she soaked up knowledge from her mentor. She explained that Boggs was happy to share his wealth of knowledge of not only key

structural fundamentals, but also the financial aspect of the business. It was an incredibly rare offer and opportunity, conveying not only trust and mutual respect in the business sense, but also on a personal and spiritual level. Of this opportunity, Whitecotton said it’s “a definite God thing, and added that Boggs told her, “That’s what makes the world go ‘round. You will do this for someone someday and it’ll just keep going and going and going.”

Boggs, who began his experience as a builder nearly 53 years ago in Amarillo, had all the answers to her questions. He saw that she could be trusted to maintain the exemplary reputation he had gained in Hood County for quality and integrity. In 1997, he surprised Whitecotton by asking if she wanted to step into his shoes to head the company.

“I just look at Ann as my adopted daughter. Her and her husband are just like my kids,” Boggs said. “I have a lot of confidence in her. Ann is honest, always up front and truthful, and she does good work. She always treats people right.”

Ann and Mike were teenage sweethearts at Granbury High School. They celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary on August 6th. They consider their three dogs –  two Jack Russell terriers and one French bulldog – as their children. “They are our babies,” said Whitecotton, who loves nature and camping, and recently discovered a love for sculpting and pottery. She even enjoyed motorcycle riding until she sold her bike a few months ago.

Ann said she has been a multi-tasker since she was a child. “I’m pretty hyper, and I’m not a sit-down person,” said Whitecotton, a former all-district basketball player at GHS. “Mike calls me P.M. – perpetual motion.”

Whitecotton said that Boggs explained to her that someday, she would be able to do the same for someone else when she is ready to retire. “Everything is a test, and you’ve got to be able to pass the test,” Whitecotton said. “If (an employer) is looking for a successor, they’re testing you. You’ve got to be willing to work hard. He saw that I had the drive to do it. You’ve got to show that.”

Over the last eight years, Whitecotton had six homes that won first place awards in the Hood County Builders Association’s (HCBA) Tour of Homes. She was voted “Builder of the Year” in 2012, 2013 and 2015. As well, Ann was elected president of the HCBA every year since 2012, after serving as vice president in 2011.

Whitecotton said that in the early years working for Boggs, she felt intimidated by this tall man with a deep voice who commanded respect. But as she got to know him better, she thought of him as a wise father figure. “He’s like a dad. He could be our dad, Mike and I both,” Whitecotton said, “Gerald has a lot of wisdom and (is) not too pushy with his advice.”

Ann has been successful despite the fact she’s a woman in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry. “It’s hard being a woman in a man’s business because you don’t ever want to fail,” Whitecotton said. “In a male-dominated business, I was able to let that passion show through.”

Whitecotton has multiple letters on file written by satisfied clients praising her work. One letter in particular, from Hood County residents, Rusty Wall and his wife Iris, indicates that she left no doubt about her skills as a woman in this industry. It states, in part, that her competence as a home builder is enough to win the approval of even the most discerning client.

While Boggs contracted custom homes, as well as “spec” homes (speculative houses with no specific buyer in mind), Whitecotton chooses to specialize in only custom-designed homes. Also, Ann says she isn’t interested in becoming a “volume” builder and and as such, she will continue to do business in only Hood County.

It is evident that she uses some of her feminine instincts to her advantage – with an eye for detail to make the building process a more personal experience with her clients. This includes assisting them in selecting elements such as flooring, granite and even lighting. “I go to every job site, every day,” Whitecotton says, “…there is a great feeling about helping someone put together their dream home.”

While her attention for detail creates satisfied clients, it also gives her a reputation for being a being a pain in the posterior for contractors when things aren’t done to her specifications. “I won’t overlook things,” she says “…putting time in prevents a lot of frustration (among clients). I throw 150 percent into anything I do.”

Even still, Ann maintains close contact with her mentor. “Gerald calls me about every other day,” she said, noting that she and Mike often meet Boggs to talk over breakfast. They’ve even taken some trips with Boggs and his wife. Whitecotton said she is proud of what she has accomplished, and also remains grateful to Boggs. “It’s something Mike and I think about every day,” she said. “If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be doing what I love.”

Of course, not all young professionals are fortunate enough to have a mentor as successful and knowledgeable as Gerald Boggs, as was the case with Whitecotton. Those who do, she noted, need to take advantage of the opportunities they find.

At age 51, Whitecotton said she hopes to find the right kind of employee to learn the business from her – and start what she referred to as the “circle of life” all over again. “I am looking for my Ann –  that person I can do the same thing for,” Whitecotton said. “I was so blessed. I would like to give back to someone what was given to me.” But, she emphasized, that person will need to match the passion and work ethic that she and Boggs had in making their business a success.