An Interview with Dick Breaux, Founder of PCH
San Carlos, January 2017 – Founded in 1978 by Dick Breaux, Peninsula Custom Homes has earned the distinguished reputation as a premier custom residential builder in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dick’s passion, business acumen and integrity have always been the driving forces behind the company. Now, in our fourth decade of business, and under the ownership of Bryan Murphy, PCH has continued the tradition of excellence that Dick instilled and continues to build some of California’s most defining homes. Whether PCH is building a 20,000 square foot Mediterranean estate in Atherton or remodeling a 5,000 square foot modern home in San Francisco, the same thoughtful approach and detail is brought to all of the projects. The company has built a legacy of custom homes in varying styles and the approach to all projects relies on collaboration, unsurpassed quality and attention to detail.
WOULD YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I was born and raised in the Midwest, coming to San Francisco when I was 17. I attended UC Santa Barbara as an undergraduate and Stanford as a graduate, where I earned a Masters’ Degree and Teaching Credential. I taught English and coached football for nine years before leaving to establish Peninsula Custom Homes.
WHAT WAS YOUR PATH TO STARTING THE COMPANY? HOW DID YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN AND THRIVE?
I was displeased with the way the profession of Education compensated its teachers. Pay was based strictly upon seniority and the number of post-graduate units one accumulated. Excellence was never a factor in determining compensation. I left teaching and built two speculative homes in Hillsborough with the assistance of Paul Kohlbry, officially PCH’s first employee. Fear of failure is a great motivator! I had a wife and three young children; I simply couldn’t afford to fail. The thriving was the result of our many excellent employees, some of whom still work for PCH.
WHEN ADDRESSING A PROJECT, WHAT DID YOU STRIVE TO ACHIEVE THE MOST?
Excellent quality…no matter what. Client satisfaction nearly always followed.
AS A BUSINESS OWNER OF MANY YEARS, WOULD YOU OFFER SOME INSIGHT INTO THE BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES THAT CAME WITH THAT ROLE?
The challenges are many, of course. In the early days, having enough cash on hand to meet a weekly payroll was quite challenging. As we grew into a more substantial company, taking good care of employees and their families was very important…sometimes challenging but always a priority.
I have often felt that an enormous benefit that came with this job was the ability to interact with people of excellence from all walks of life: a mason who is every bit as good at his/her job as the world-renown executive, movie star or athlete in whose project we might be engaged at the time, or a finish carpenter, superintendent or office executive showing off as much skill as anyone for whom we ever worked.
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO PCH’S SUCCESS?
Its employees who buy into the quality-at-all costs philosophy. Whether or not we felt that we were being treated with fairness and/or respect, we always produced the best quality of which we were capable. We never lowered that bar.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
You’re never as good as you appear when things are going your way and business is thriving, nor are you as bad as you feel when times are tough. Basically, get over yourself and keep doing your work!
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD CLIENTS ASK POTENTIAL CONTRACTORS WHEN INTERVIEWING THEM TO BUILD THEIR CUSTOM DREAM HOME?
Once a potential client has established the fact that you’re capable of doing their project, they should always ask “How do I know I can trust you with $10,000,000 (or whatever the number might be)?” or “How many projects have you started in your career but walked away from before they were complete?”
HOW ARE YOU ENJOYING RETIREMENT?
Immensely. When I left teaching, I never looked back. When I left PCH, I moved ahead full bore into my next ventures, whatever they were to be. I’m very active with UC Santa Barbara, where I will be their next Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a job with huge responsibilities, prestige and demands. Unfortunately, it pays exactly the same as retirement!