Creating anything of beauty and substance is a process that combines, in varying measures, art and science. Guided by that mindset, Bill Parkinson founded Parkinson Building Group in Little Rock. The company has developed a comprehensive system for walking clients through the various steps of building or remodeling a dream home. In doing so, Parkinson addresses the science of the construction process without sacrificing the artistry and craftsmanship of the finished project itself.

 

“Most of our clients have never done this before, and so I always view it as this being one of the most stressful things that they are going to go through,” he said. “It’s one of their biggest investments. It’s a lot of decision making, and every detail is important.

Aesthetics and functionality are two of the main considerations of Parkinson Building Group in Little Rock.

“When we build a house for someone, we go in there and say, ‘How can we serve this person best? What’s their goal?’ As we’ve climbed the ladder to building bigger and bigger homes, those conversations changed a little bit, but you still have to look at it through that lens.”

 

Under PBG’s system, each detail of the process — from financing to finishes — is addressed in such a way as to reduce the client’s stress load as much as possible while still attending to the necessary details. The company has assembled a larger-than-average team of construction professionals in house to shepherd the process and maintains an even larger network of outside professionals, including architects and designers, through which the company connects clients to needed services.

 

“We’ve got a full-time, permanent team of about 17 individuals, most of whom have been with us for two to three years now, with several people in the eight to 10 year range,” he said. “For the residential type of work that we mainly do, I’d be surprised if there’s any other builders that do upper-end new construction and remodel work that carry a team the size we do in central Arkansas.

“For instance, we have three project managers who work with us now, and each one of them has different strengths and different weaknesses. That allows us to pair jobs to the right project manager based on clients’ goals, which has been really fun. Before, we just had one way that we did it, and now we’ve got three different approaches, three different options of people who can manage a build and give a client an experience that not only matches their goals but matches their personality.”

 

This variety of perspectives and expertise has enabled PBG to remain design agnostic when it comes to the types of home a client is looking for. Parkinson said one point of pride he has for the work of the company over the past 20 years is the many architectural styles the company has taken on successfully.

 

“We love to build whatever it is our clients are looking for,” he said. “We really are a true custom home builder that’s not afraid to go after different projects. We’ll do contemporary homes, Mediterranean homes, French country homes, traditional homes, Southern Living farmhouse-style homes. All those types of homes we have done and are doing right now.

“Some builders, you drive through Chenal and say, ‘So-and-so built that house. They built that house. They built that house,’ because they are known for a particular style, and people hire them for that style of house. I don’t think we really have that type of reputation in town. If you go out west, we’ve built all sorts of homes. You go to the Heights, we’ve built a number of different styles.”

 

Parkinson’s art-plus-science mentality began early. He studied architecture for two years at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville before changing his major and graduating with a degree in public relations. He did not have a firm plan for what he was going to do with it, however, and nothing he interviewed for after college felt like the right fit.

 

“I ended up talking to somebody who said, ‘They’re hiring over at Pulaski Mortgage [Co. in Little Rock],’” he said. “I was about to get married, so I just went and did that.”

 

The role might not have been part of his original game plan, but it proved to be an invaluable education for his later career in several ways.

Parkinson Building Group has completed homes in a range of styles, including Mediterranean, French country and farmhouse.

“I was connected to Realtors and title companies and banks and different people who were in the construction world. I also loaned money to people for their new construction loans and those types of things,” he said. “I learned a lot.”

 

The genesis for PBG’s founding in 1999 came in the simplest of ways while he took his young son for walks through the neighborhood.

 

“I was living in a new-construction neighborhood, and when we’d take our son for a walk or do different things, I’d be looking at the construction with the little bit of knowledge that I had at the time,” he said. “The homes they were building were fine, and there was nothing wrong with it, but seeing the finishes and colors and all that kind of stuff, I just said, ‘I think I can do this better.’

 

“I bought a lot in Chenal and built a spec house — picked up a presold right about the same time from a guy who I’d done a loan for who found out I was doing this and built his first house. From there, we always had one presold and one spec house going at a time, going along slowly, building my knowledge base.”

 

Parkinson’s company grew right alongside the Chenal subdivisions upon which it focused. Located on what was then the city’s westernmost fringe, the area is known as a prestigious address, and clients wanted homes to match. This boosted the size and complexity of projects, which PBG adjusted to without compromising its core philosophy and client-first approach.

Bill Parkinson was inspired to start building homes after taking his young son for walks in their new-construction neighborhood.

“Anytime you get into a larger project, there’s more options, and there’s usually more individuals involved in the conversation,” he said. “What we did was expand to three-person teams so our project managers had enough office time to do what they needed to do on scheduling and ordering. We added project coordinators on many of our projects to stay connected with architects and designers. Our field supervisors are out there hitting the jobs two or three times a day, making sure all the questions are answered and communicating with subcontractors when the project manager’s not on site.

 

“Doing all those things, we try to give our clients the best product by giving them a great experience and a full team that can help meet their goals.”

 

The company’s internal systems are just one of the attributes by which PBG has grown into a prestigious brand among luxury home builders. In construction, every finished project serves as a de facto resume for future work, and over the past two decades, Parkinson and team have piled up an impressive collection of challenging projects.

 

“We have architects who push us from time to time with projects that you look back on and say, ‘Man, we really went the extra mile to make that client and that architect’s dream come to life’,” he said. “We built one in Beau Vue that had a pool that was about 20 feet up in the air. It was an infinity pool overlooking the river. It was an incredible project, incredible slope to it, which gave it an incredible view. We did one in the Heights where I’d say probably half the house is suspended on steel and floating over the back.

 

“Those are the things that most residential builders shy away from just because they’ve never done it or it’s not in their wheelhouse, so they’re not going to spend the time figuring it out. That’s never our approach. We’re like, ‘We’ll spend the time. That’s why you’re hiring us.’ We love to grow our portfolio of things we can do because that just makes us more available to take on different types of large-scale projects.”

 

As PBG continues to evolve, Parkinson has had to come to terms with several realities of running the company at this scale. Like all successful ventures, the growth of the firm demanded he spend less and less time on job sites and forced him to place his trust in others.

 

“It was very difficult for me to let go,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist at heart. When people don’t do things the way you would do them or you don’t think the final product is all that it could be, you start to question things and you want to go in there and micromanage, but you can’t after a certain point. We get great feedback on our teams and the work that they are doing, I have had to learn that my way isn’t the only way; we brought these people on to do this work and they do a great job.

 

“So, developing the staff and spending my time trying to support the staff here has turned into my main goal. Coaching people, developing people, that’s really become my new focus — instead of building a house, I’m moving towards building this company. I’m still involved in the development process every day, I’m still involved in estimating every day, I’m still involved in our builds every day, but just not to the level that I was. I’m really enjoying building this company. It has shifted, but it’s the same.” The company’s program is working, and the combination of personnel development and proven systems has brought PBG into new market areas. A few years ago, the company began taking projects in the Heights and Hillcrest heritage neighborhoods of Little Rock and the new Rockwater development of North Little Rock.

 

“We’d been a west Little Rock builder, and when we started building in areas that we normally shied away from, we got to meet a whole new group of architects, designers and other individuals,” Parkinson said. “Opening that up really kind of showed me that, hey, we can serve a larger portion of central Arkansas.

 

“Now we’re looking at perhaps having a team that could service Hot Springs and trying to see how, over time, we could serve a larger population of central Arkansas. That’s one of the things I’m most optimistic and excited about as we develop these processes and get our groups to where they’re ginning the way we want them to.”

Parkinson’s approach to these opportunities is measured by design. After two decades in the homebuilding game, he has seen what happens when companies take on too much too fast and risk and quality control suffer in the name of gaining market share.

 

“I’m really enjoying getting to build something that is, hopefully, beyond me,” he said. “For so many years, it was Bill Parkinson this and Parkinson Building Group that. We’ve even gone to a PBG logo now, trying to take Parkinson Building Group out of the main title because I’d love for this company, when I’m gone, to still be able to continue forward with the team that we’ve put together.

 

“Being able to invest in processes, being able to grow the team to a size to where somebody else takes the baton and runs with it and it can survive without the founder being in the day to day, that’s really exciting to me.”

 

Of everything that has come into being during the life of the company, the one that perhaps gives Parkinson the most pride is the reputation PBG has built for professionalism in all aspects of operations. He said more than any other goal or single project, being known for treating people with respect is the most gratifying thing he hears from clients and contractors alike.

 

“I think our clients can feel that we’re different,” he said. “It is nice when people, our customers and especially our subcontractors tell us, ‘Something about y’all’s company is different. We really like working for you. We can tell a difference between you and the other builders we work for.’  That, to me, is a sign that we’re practicing what we preach and something that, no matter what the future holds, will continue to define us as a company.”

 

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