Thinking of Growing a Business? It can be Done!

Forrest Barnes, Class of 2014, works in growing the Palm Harbor Homes business and market share. Read this interview to learn how he overcame certain challenges and keeps on strong despite the hardships.

Tell me about your current position at Palm Harbor Homes.

My current position is Division President. I have operational responsibility for the Millersburg Oregon factory and our Palm Harbor Village retail location in Medford, Oregon. Six department managers and a General Manager report to me. We build and sell factory-built homes through retailers in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California along with selling homes to retailers in British Columbia and Alberta. My job is to grow the business and market share. This is accomplished through people, products and processes.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Growing the business is the most rewarding part.

How were you were able to move up within the company?

I was able to move up in the company by recognizing that people, products and processes made a difference. I started as the sales manager and in two years, we were a very successful start-up operation. We had problems in another area of the business and I accepted the VP of Operations position and it led to the position I have today. The key take-away is the follow-up; if you do what you said you would (most people only do this about 60% of the time), you will progress in any team or organization.

What was the greatest challenge you’ve faced throughout your career?

The manufactured housing industry peaked in 2000, and fell almost 90% by 2009; Palm Harbor Homes had to file chapter eleven in 2010 and we were purchased by Cavco Industries. The changes and decisions made during this period (2008—2011) made the industry collapse. This is still ongoing, and has been the most difficult challenge. Having a heart attack in September of 2009 was probably the single biggest challenge I have faced personally.

How did Pacific prepare you for your future?

Pacific provided the opportunity to meet, experience and interact with many different people, not just students, but people like Interior Secretary James Watt, Columnist Bill Buckley, my professors, and different guests who spoke on campus. You could speak to the President of the University. It helped me to grow from a farm boy to someone who business people would hire and want on their team. Athletics brought me to Pacific, and my leadership skills were enhanced in taking a team with the longest losing streak in the nation to the idea that we could and should win.

What advice do you have for current undergraduate students?

Take advantage of the opportunity to interact. Al Gore had not invented the Internet when I was there, and a cell phone did not exist. You have the opportunity to attend events and gain the personal interaction skills that develop when you are involved. Put down the electronics and experience what the university offers, as it goes by fast.

Nov. 15, 2016