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HEARNE Construction, A Division Of W.E. O’Neil, President Bill Hearne Talks Family, Philosophies, Partnerships, Predictions For 2016


Fascinated by history and inspired by the legacy of his father, his uncles and his grandfather, Bill Hearne (top right, with his wife, Nancy), president of HEARNE Construction, a division of Bisnow partner W.E. O’Neil, is passionate about building.

Since starting his career in 1978, Bill has worn many hats—trade laborer, project engineer, assistant project manager, project manager and project executive. Bill became a business owner in 1999 and continues to cultivate relationships with owners, architects, subcontractors and tradesmen.

To get a perspective on what it takes to have more than 35 years of success, we sat down with Bill to see what he would recommend to up-and-coming builders.

Learn From Legacies


Bill says the most essential lesson his father taught him was to be a man of his word: Let a handshake signify an agreement, stay true to your convictions, always do the right thing and lead as a servant to your team—all qualities Bill brings into his own business.

“With every interview, I'm looking to see if the candidate before me fits into the culture of our environment. Skill set is important, and that’s what earns someone an interview. But a willingness to serve others, and the humility to do so, will take them a lot further in this business,” Bill tells Bisnow. “I learned how important it is to never be too busy or too important to pick up a broom at the end of the day; to ask my team members if there’s anything they need to do their job better; and to never be too busy to take a 30-minute coffee break during a stress-filled day. My dad showed me that a ‘relationship,’ in order to be authentic, should be considered a verb—it must be exercised. It may not be easy to find the time, but it’s always worth the effort.”

Get Your Hands Dirty


Bill started his career with various construction jobs, such as plumbing, roofing, tile-setting, landscaping and painting, throughout high school and college. These odd jobs helped him earn a little money, but he also gained a fundamental understanding of the construction process and what was needed to get the job done right. Not having a hands-on experience within the industry would have been a detriment to his career, he says. His respect for his business partners is both genuine and sincere. It's essential that each person, whether trade laborer or project owner, feel valued, appreciated and fulfilled. These are the qualities that make a project successful.

Coordination Can Solve Problems Before They Occur


A good example of a skill gained from on-site experience is Bill’s emphasis on the importance of coordination between all players, from the client and the architect to the mechanical engineer, subcontractor and vendor. By using each team member’s specific skill set, potential issues can be identified, discussed and resolved prior to it becoming an issue in the field. Project coordination begins long before shovel hits dirt, he says, and is time well spent in ensuring project success.

“Many times, when you're putting pencils on paper and designing a project,” Bill explains, “the focus is on the aesthetics and trying to bring life to the vision of the owner. The challenges come when you’re trying to figure out how dissimilar materials—glass and plaster, steel and wood, stone over substrate—are going to come together. It’s during these times that creativity, communication and passion all come together—and the vision becomes a reality.”

The first step in building anything, Bill says, is to get all the team members to the table early, identifying any potential difficulties and making sure everyone’s on the same page. Just coordinating your documents, he adds, enables the team to begin on the same page, and continuing communication creates a culture of success. The right attitude can change the working relationship and affect the final project. 

“It’s essential that you make sure your customer and all members of the project team know how to reach you, and encourage them to contact you directly,” Bill says. “Transparency truly is an invaluable tool.”

Know Where Your Market Is Going


A large aspect of the HEARNE/W.E. O’Neil philosophy is building toward the future by understanding the past. San Diego is seeing tremendous growth in population, which is driving job growth and housing demands within the region. Bill looks for what will be the biggest asset classes and industries in the coming months, putting great effort towards multifamily, healthcare, hospitality, higher education and gaming.

Find A Partner That Shares Your Values


When asked why he decided to partner with W.E. O’Neil, Bill says it was because of “the people and the vision.” With a reputation that spans 90 years, W.E. O’Neil is throughout the US, and its leadership, training, teamwork and recognition are cornerstones of its success, he says. The company is dedicated to creating a culture where team members feel valued and fulfilled, and Bill says HEARNE and W.E. O’Neil were “culturally aligned.” The vision of W.E. O’Neil’s leadership and the ability to maintain relationships among its family of companies, was something unparalleled in the industry, he says.

“A lot of companies say they’re ‘family oriented,’ but this truly is. We are honored to be the newest W.E. O’Neil family member.”

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