Charles R. Clark died on December 10th from progressive cancer at home with his wife Trudy by his side and his large family primed to gather round. He was 85 years old. His extensive talents as a public speaker and group motivator proved to be an excellent model for younger speakers eager to take his place as a popular speaker at annual meetings of the National Homebuilders Association as well as regional meetings and gatherings of sales and marketing professionals at the local level. He successfully motivated thousands of real estate sales persons across the United States, and in Great Britain where Clark Parker Associates, Inc. was employed for several years by Laing Homes to provide training for its diverse new homes sales staff.
I first met Charlie (as Charles was commonly known) in 1981 when we both were hired by a Jacksonville, Florida developer named Peter Bos. Charlie managed company sales while I managed marketing at the six Bos Group projects in the Southeast United States. One project was a low-rise housing development in Broward County. Two more low-rise housing developments were in Jacksonville. Another project in that city was a large diversified business park. Two more projects were large coastal resorts on Seal Island, Georgia, and on the Florida Panhandle. We both traveled extensively among the six projects, causing us to cross paths frequently.
In the Spring of 1982, Charlie approached me with the concept of an equal partnership to perform the same functions for new home developers throughout land. I agreed and we rented a small office and hired a combination receptionist/administrator to provide back-up, later reinforced by two college graduates to learn market research and a secretary to type reports (most initial reports and communications being produced in longhand in those pre-electronic times). Charlie spent most of his time on the road selling our sales and marketing services to new clients, while I provided study reports and back-up in the office. At the end of July, I took my family on a motor vacation back to our roots in Canada, but, before we arrived, I received a phone call from our mutual friend, David Owen, urging me to return to Jacksonville to join Charlie in meeting a European executive who wanted to hire us immediately for a market study of a new resort proposed for the Island of Bimini in the Bahamas. So, I left my wife to continue the trip with our four sons and I flew back to Jacksonville where we signed our first major assignment, which kept us employed for the next four years.
The following year, Charlie made a big hit with his presentation at the NAHB Houston Convention in January, attracting two executives from Britain’s Laing Homes. They hired him on the spot and, after returning home to Jacksonville, he immediately re-packed and spent two or three weeks in England training Laing Homes sales persons in our “new world” selling techniques. He returned in the Spring of that first year with a further contract for the two of us to return in the Summer and expand our skills to all marketing and sales in their many southern England projects, later to be expanded to new Scottish developments, primarily in central Glasgow. Our mutual admiration affair with Laing Homes continued over the next five years with separate two-week trips by each of us several times per year.
By 1984, Clark Parker Associates was booming, with Charlie speaking at every convention to promote our services and the two of us interviewing new staff to satisfy our growing client list. We moved into a ground floor suite in a Jacksonville client’s new building, which we shared with three other professional firms in allied real estate ventures including architecture, residential development and commercial real estate management. By 1986, Clark Parker Associates had added additional support and professional staff, including Vice President Polly Webb to handle mid-Atlantic clients from her home shared with her builder-husband in Maryland. We also added other professional staff including Vice President Bill Webb (who later excelled at his own consultant business). We also added a public relations firm directed by Publicist Sam Flowers (CPF Communications, Inc.)— since deceased. We had an always-cheerful receptionist named Gina Carlson—now deceased—who became well-known to all our callers for answering our phone with: “It’s a beautiful day at Clark Parker Associates” — an upbeat greeting defined by Charlie and subsequently copied by several of our clients.
Charlie enjoyed several accolades for his presentations, being named President of the NAHB Institute of Residential Marketing and Chairman of the NAHB Sales and Marketing Council. These offices increased our client appeal, resulting in continuing business expansion. In 1987 and 1988, Charlie and Polly Webb collaborated on a nationwide contract with Century 21 Realtors to train sales agents in the art of on-site selling of new homes, packaging the methodology developed in dozens of homebuilder contracts to local and regional builders. The site agent methodology we developed for these contracts became widely publicized across this country and in other countries. It still constitutes state-of-the-art training for site agents.
Although Charlie and I had some business differences of opinion, we were united in our consumer advocate approach to real estate marketing and sales. We successfully collaborated on several marketing and sales manuals, including in 1989, two books published by the Home Builder Press — Marketing New Homes and Selling New Homes — which enjoyed high rates of sales for several years. In 1999, the Home Builder Press published a second edition of Marketing New Homes which continued our individual popularity for many years after we separated at the beginning of 1990.
In 1989, a nationwide recession caused a rapid decline in new home sales and our business slowed to a virtual halt. We were forced to terminate most of our staff and cut our own salaries. Charlie decided that he could do better on his own, so we dissolved the company and divided the office furnishings. Everyone, including us, were sad to end what was a booming consultant business for eight good years. Charlie continued to operate on his own for many years until ill health intervened. I formed Parker Associates with my sons and continued to thrive through the new decade until slowed by the Great Recession of 2008.
Charlie Clark was an amazing partner for me from 1982 through the beginning of 1990. We still enjoyed regular luncheons together up until his final decline. As the founder of the Jacksonville Homebuilder’s Association Sales and Marketing Council and its first chairman, Charlie received several local honors including the establishment of an annual performance award in his name presented to him at a breakfast meeting of the Council just a few months before his death. Bill Webb and I were part of the presentation team.
Very few of us achieve fame beyond our years, but Charlie Clark promises to be an exception. His name continues to be quoted at marketing and sales meetings throughout this country, and he is this city’s recognized expert in selling new homes. It seems unlikely that he will be forgotten by even those just now entering this business. I will carry the fond memory of our partnership until my final day.
Dr. David F. Parker