Bill Peare, Trendwest's Founder, Perfected The Point Concept
By Rosalie E. Leposky
Who really invented point-based timesharing? William F. Peare, chief executive officer of Trendwest Resorts, Inc., in Bellevue, Washington, wasn't the first to sell points, but the program he developed qualifies as the first purely point-base vacation-club product.
Most of today's point-based vacation clubs actually are exchange companies that sell a specific week at a specific location, assign a point value to it, and then give their members reciprocal rights to use those points at other resorts owned by their club's developer.
Trendwest does not sell specific resorts or weeks. It sells points -- called "vacation credits" -- that give buyers an ownership interest in WorldMark The Club, a California non-profit mutual-benefit corporation. Trendwest builds inventory and transfers it debt-free into WorldMark The Club, which owns and manages the resorts where the buyers of the Trendwest vacation credits can take their vacations.
|William F. Peare|
The down side of this arrangement is that the registration paperwork for a Trendwest resort now is about three feet high. The firm uses a complicated registration process, with each resort registered in every state or Canadian province in which it may ever want to sell -- and every state or province has its own regulations. Trendwest sells to Canadians from its office in Birch Bay, Washington, 40 minutes south of Vancouver, British Columbia. Though Trendwest has not elected to sell in Canada, its Canadian owners are assured that the firm operates under Canadian as well as U.S. laws.
The Trendwest point system emerged from Peare's experiences in the land-sales and membership-campground industries, "Bill is a founding father of the point-based system and a true pioneer in recreational land sales," says Robert E. Mead, founder, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of Silverleaf Resorts, Inc., in Dallas, Texas.
From Hamburgers to Land Sales
Peare entered the leisure-lodging field after exploring restaurant and law-enforcement careers. He grew up on a family farm that was sold in 1955, when he was 17 year old. A junior in high school, he was just three credits short of graduation when the Peare family moved to Seattle, Washington. "During the day I worked as a clerk for Washington Title Insurance Company and at night I took classes at Broadway High School," he says.
In 1956, Peare graduated from high school, and later that year he left Washington Title when he found that he could make more money as a Hasty Tasty fry cook," he says. He spent four years with Hasty Tasty. "Bill barbecues great hamburgers, but his steaks are always overdone," comments his ex-wife, Connie Peare.
From 1960 to 1966, he worked as a police officer in Kent, a Seattle suburb, and attended classes part time at Highline Community College in Midway, Washington, on a higher-education law-enforcement grant. "I never liked school and quit a few credits short of finishing my Associate of Arts degree," he says. "I regret not getting a business degree."
When I was in elementary school, Bill was a Kent police patrolman who came to my school every three months," says his younger sister, Deborah L. "Debbie" Hamilton. "He gave talks on bicycle safety, and helped to organize bicycle rodeos and other programs for school age children. My classmates thought my brother was awesome. Everyone idolized him."
In 1966, Jack Meredith, owner of a Ford dealership in Kent, convinced Peare he could make more money by selling cars. He worked there for a year. Then he went into the restaurant business with Gordon Rockhill, a friend from Hasty Tasty who is now an attorney. They opened two Blue Dolphin fish-and-chips restaurants in San Francisco. After a year the restaurants were sold and Peare returned to Washington State. From early 1969 to mid-1970, he began selling recreational lots for developer Ken Sanwick, who had an inventory of 3,000 lots at Sudden Valley. After Sudden Valley sold out, Peare sold land for other companies, He spent three years, from 1972 to 1975, with Harry Davidson, Inc., of Everett, Washington, a developer of multiple land-sales projects. With a Davidson co-worker, Bobby C. "Bob" Pappas, Peare established William Peare Associates to provide services to Davidson and other developers. Pappas operated its office in Portland, Oregon. Today he is a Trendwest employee.
William F. Peare is the oldest of seven children of the late Fredrick C. Peare and Ruth V. Peare. When he was a child, Bill Peare lived on the family's 20-acre farm in Okanogan, Washington, about 200 miles east of Seattle. "We grew Red Delicious apples that were packaged and marketed by a local cooperative," he says. In 1955, the farm was sold and the family moved to Seattle."Dad liked to fish. He was 73 when he died of cancer in 1985," says Bill Peare.
Ruth Peare sold residential real estate for about five years in Federal Way, Washington, a small community south of Seattle, when she was in her mid 60s. "I quit when I learned I would have to go back to school," she says. "Today I go anyplace my family wants to take me along on a vacation.
As a family group, we've been on cruises, and to Hawaii and Mexico. "She also attends the annual Trendwest picnic and Christmas party. "Mother likes to gamble and sets her own limits," says Bill Peare. "I've never won much money, so I just do it for fun," she reports. "I like to go to Reno to play Black Jack and the slot machines. Gambling is all right as long as you know when to quit."
She spends her spare moments gardening and reading. "I garden in pots I can reach. My favorite authors are mystery writer David Baldacci and romantic writers Sandra Brown, Fern Michael, and Nora Roberts."
Brothers and Sisters
Penni R. Holz, 60, a retired personal manager, lives in Cle Elum, Washington, and is
married to Michael P. Holz, a WorldMark The Club employee who describes his job as
"quality control management by walking around to make sure resorts maintain WorldMark
standards." The Holzes have two adult children, Michelle F. Bejvl and Scott M. Holz.
Patricia G. "Patti" Kirby, 59, of Seattle is a Black River High School program specialist. She is married to Carl E. Kirby, a furniture upholstry designer and builder for interior designers. The Kirbys have two adult daughters, Pamela J. Lizarri and Karen A. Freeman.
Susan N. O'Rourke, 57, of Bellevue, Washington, and her husband, Woodrow J. O'Rourke, in 1986 founded Sage Systems, a trust-accounting and billing company for campgrounds, health clubs, timeshare projects (including Trendwest's), and anyone else who collects regular dues or payments. "We started Sage with five employees," she says. "I never had a title. When we sold Sage to Interval International in 1997, the company had 35 employees. We were very lucky. Interval offered us an opportunity that was too good to turn down.
We're building a house next to mother's and Bill's in Roslyn, Washington, that we plan to occupy at the end of the year." The O'Rourkes have two adult daughters, Kimberly R. Thibault and Kellie S. Smith.
Rebecca A. "Becky" Benavides, 51, of Bellevue, is a supervisor in Trendwest's product-development department. "I work with designers and purchase furniture for our timeshare units," she says. Two of her three children work for Trendwest: Angelica Cole, 31, an owner-referral manager, and Vincent Benavides, 29, a salesperson in the fiirm's Lynnwood, Washington sales office. The third child, Adriana Stubbs, 28, is a computer programmer.
Deborah L. "Debbie" Hamilton, 46, of Scottsdale, Arizona, is manager of administration for Trendwest's mountain southwest region, and the ex-wife of Jeffrey P. Sites, the firm's executive vice president and chief operating officer. She has two adult children, Jason F. Hamilton, 23, and Jennifer L. Hamilton, 20.
Frederick C. "Rick" Peare, Jr., 42, of Cle Elum, Washington, is married to Lisa Peare. They have six young children: Maggie, 12; Trace, 11; Cass, 10; Colt 6; Chance, 5; and Chelsea, 2. Rick Peare is the project director of Trendwest's Lynnwood sales office. "Off and on over the last 20 years, since I left the Navy, I have worked for my brother -- for the past ten years at Trendwest, and before that as a salesperson for Thousand Trails," he says.
Entrepreneur Milton G. "Milt" Kuolt II occupied office space in the same building as Harry Davidson, Inc. Kuolt and the Davidson staff met in the hallway going to their respective offices. "Milt Kuolt became my businesses mentor," Peare says. "He tried for six months to recruit me. Finally in 1975 I became Kuolt's director of marketing for Thousand Trails." Between 1975 and 1982, Peare held several titles with Thousand Trails, rising to president and chief operating officer in 1979.
"At Davidson I started building a cadre of salespersons who later worked with me at Thousand Trails," says Peare. "My two major accomplishments at Thousand Trails were to attract and keep quality employees and develop new campground projects." Many of these employees still work with Peare today at Trendwest.
"We sold a new concept -- use of membership campgrounds -- that was very hard to sell. Still, when I left Thousand Trails in 1982, we had 23 campgrounds and 1,500 employees. "Today Thousand Trails and National American Corporation (NACO) have 53 membership-based campground locations in 17 states and British Columbia, Canada, and Thousand Trails also manages 165 public campgrounds for the U.S. Forest Service. "My Thousand Trails responsibilities included construction, marketing and sales, and resort operations, says Peare. "Milt took Thousand Trails public and then sold his interest to James Jensen in mid-1981. I left early in 1982 to do campground-industry consulting"
Early in 1983, Peare founded All Season Campground Company with Pappas, Richard Toohey, and Ralph F. Sites, C.P.A. During the next two years, All Seasons established 12 campground resorts, primarily in east-coast and midwest locations. By 1985, All Seasons had about 1,200 employees. Then Wall Street and lending institutions became disillusioned with the campground industry following the discovery of accounting problems created by the Thousand Trails successors of Kuolt and Peare. For a token fee, Peare sold All Seasons to a consortium of companies led by Guardian Financial. "I never was paid my token fee, and no one ever got back their All Season investments, but the company still exists," says Peare.
After selling All Seasons, Peare spent six months looking for opportunities. In December 1985 he joined Horizon Air, a regional airline Kuolt had established in 1981 in the Pacific Northwest. Despite a lack of previous airline experience, Peare was Horizon's vice president of operations, responsible for 500 service employees on the non-aircraft side of the airline, including flight attendants, marketing and sales, and counter, ground, and ramp services.
Alaska Airlines purchased Horizon in 1986. Due to duplication of services, none of Horizon's management staff was invited to stay.
"Milt was unsure of what kind of business he wanted to start," says Peare. "I stayed with Milt and so did Mel Kays, who had been chief financial officer at Horizon and Thousand Trails. We helped Milt renovate a property he owned in Sun Valley, Idaho, Elkhorn Resort, which had 150 hotel rooms and 900 condominiums; and we did some consulting work. At Elkhorn we experimented with timesharing. We sold some timeshares and then refunded our owners' money when Milt decided he did not want to be in that business."
In 1988, when Kuolt did not have a clear idea what he wanted to do next, Kays left to tend his horse ranch and Peare accepted a new challenge from JELD-WEN inc. of Klamath Falls, Oregon, a large private company that began in 1984 to develop Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond, Oregon. JELD-WEN executives asked Peare to study the timeshare industry and develop a new product. Eagle Crest offered conventional timesharing, but many consumers were resisting that product because they did not want to spend a week in the same place every year. Although Interval International and Resort Condominiums International provided conventional week-for-week exchanges, some consumers wanted even more flexibility.
"JELD-WEN paid me for six months' work to find out what kind of vacation product we should be selling, and to create that new product," Peare says. "In 1972, Vacation Internationale, Ltd., in Bellevue, Washington, started offering a point-based system. VI's managing director, Robert E. Burns, and its president and chief executive officer, Robert L. Ringgenberg, developed a point-based system for week-long trips to their Hawaiian resorts. Their system also allowed owners to use less than a full week at a time, and added resorts within easy driving distance so the owners wouldn't have to fly to their destination every time. "I adapted my own Thousand Trails membership concept to timesharing. At Thousand Trails, we never figured out how to control usage, but points offer the control required to create a working system."
Joining Peare in 1989 to implement his new ideas were J. Michael "Mike" Moyer, now Trendwest's senior vice president, and Jeffrey P. Sites, now the firm's chief operating officer.
Moyer was executive vice president of Thousand Trails and later All Seasons. Jeffrey Sites is the son of the late All Seasons executive Ralph Sites, who died in 1987, and ex-husband of Peare's sister Debbie.
Gene S. Hensley, former regional sales director for Thousand Trails, joined Trendwest in 1990. Now he is executive vice president, responsible for marketing, operations, and sales; and president of the board of directors of WorldMark The Club.
Trendwest began with inventory at three locations: two condominiums and a hotel room. "We purchased one of the 150 condominiums at Otter Crest in Newport, Oregon, and one of Eagle Crest's traditional timeshare units, and we leased one of the 200 rooms in JELD-WEN's Ashland Inn in Ashland, Oregon," Peare says.
Trendwest grew slowly at first, adding condominiums at existing locations and at other Oregon and Washington resorts. Some of these are still used -- including more than 60 Eagle Crest condominiums -- and some have been replaced. "For a while we owned nine Otter Crest units, but we have sold them, says Peare.
"Rather than purchase the entire Otter Crest Resort, we decided to build our own purpose-built resort down the street from Otter Crest at Gleneden Beach, " explains Hensley. "After a lengthy permitting process, we opened the 80-unit WorldMark at Gleneden in 1996." Trendwest has purpose-built most of its buildings, its management system, and its computers and software systems. "We built our first purpose-built resort in 1993 at Leavenworth," says Peare. "Today we have 27 resorts with about 1,300 timeshare units, eight on-site and 13 off-site sales offices, and 2,000 employees."
Marriage and Children
In 1961, Bill and Connie Peare met on a blind date. They married in 1969 and divorced in 1980. Now 56, Connie lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and works as a Trendwest developers' representative. "In my 40s I worked as a flight attendant for Horizon Air," she recalls. "I had always wanted to be a flight attendant. About five years ago I moved to Arizona. I go back to Washington for all the family holiday parties -- Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Bill's annual big Hallowe'en bash.
"We shared custody of our two daughters. Bill is a work-alcoholic, but in all the years we were separated and then divorced, he only missed three or four weekends. He picked our daughters up on Friday afternoon and brought them back on Sunday. He found the time to attend the girls' school functions. Now his weekends are full of watching movie videos and sharing popcorn with our grandchildren.
Bill and Connie's daughters are:
Kerri I. Farnum, 29, of Bellevue. She is married to William "Greg" Farnum, a Boeing Company employee. They have one child, William, Jr., 2. Dad has dinner with us every Monday night, and with my sister on Thursday," says Farnum. "When I cook for Dad, I make his favorite spaghetti dinner." Reneé L. Peare, 26, a horse-trainer in Cle Elum, is the divorced mother of two children, Tanner L. Houghton, Jr., 8; and Kinsley Houghton, 6. We live on a seven-acre horse-training farm with a small pasture area and a round training pen," she says.
"Kerri and I were lucky because our parents took the time to answer our questions, no matter how busy they were. We were always the most important thing in our father's world, and we are still. When we were small, when Dad ran out of ideas how to spend our weekends together, he and Uncle Woody bought a pear orchard in Leavenworth, Washington, with a house for grandmother. All the cousins came together, we took care of the trees, picked the fruit, played hide-and-seek, and later rode motorcycles and snowmobiles around the orchard.
"When I was about ten years old, Dad taught me how to drive on a World War II-vintage Jeep that he is now restoring. I had trouble with the Jeep's clutch, stopped suddenly, and gave Dad whiplash.
"We are a large, close family, and we still spend most weekends together. Dad and Grandmother hold the family together. Everyone goes to him for advice. Grandmother always has cookies and coffee for whoever walks through her door. Uncle Woody and Aunt Susan, Grandmother, and Dad have built houses together, and other family members are building neighboring houses."
Hub and Spoke Concept
"On paper," says Hensley, "our resort system resembles the central hub and spokes in a wheel. Eighty percent of our sales are made offsite, and most of our urban sales offices are in our hub communities -- Scottsdale, Arizona; Santa Clara and Costa Mesa, California; Seattle, Washington; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Our resorts -- the spokes in our wheel -- are in traditional beach, desert, and mountain locations within two and a half to five hours' drive from a hub community. We add resorts as communities grow and can support additional hubs and spokes." Our first resorts offered modest on-site amenities. The later resorts have 18-hole golf courses and restaurants.
"When we first offered Oregon-coast weekends and two-, three-, and four-day getaway options, everyone in the timeshare industry thought we were nuts. That changed in 1992 when the national media started touting Seattle as the number-one place to live. All of a sudden people wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest and we became one of Resort Condominiums International's most popular destinations. From Washington and Oregon, we moved south to northern California and then southern California, and duplicated the same concept."
The traditional timeshare market has been a husband and wife in their upper 40s with one child, says Hensley. "We have always welcomed the single market, we build studio and penthouse units, and we're close to urban areas.
Thus, our product appeals to the single lifestyle, and about 16 percent of our owner base
is single. We have a club within WorldMark The Club, called Footloose Excursions, with
events throughout the year for our single adult members with and without children."
Hensley says that Peare downplays his accomplishments. "Bill likes to say he stands on the shoulders of giants, but he builds these giants. Working in anonymity, he sees no reason to take credit for his good deeds. He helps people realize their full potential and has created many tremendous career paths for his co-workers. He is also a very down-to-earth person. Since we worked together at Thousand Trails, he always has known the name of every person in our sales offices, and the names of each person's spouse and children."
Peare's family is close-knit. Many of his relatives and their family members work for
Trendwest, as do the family members of early consultants and employees.
"Everyone at Trendwest has access to everyone else," says Hensley. "The management structure is very lateral. An open door is an invitation to walk in and talk to a co-worker."
Trendwest's corporate culture includes other practices that Peare believes to be essential. "All calls are equally important, and no one screens incoming telephone calls," says Gerald D. Gawne, an early Thousand Trails employee who now is Trendwest's director of research and new products. "We take calls as they come. When calls are screened. you just make extra work for yourself and for the people who want to communicate with you. At Thousand Trails and now, Bill always said, 'Do a task that needs to be done now. Don't let them stack up. Get it handled.'"
Hensley says Peare is very detail-oriented, citing as an example the amenity package he created, with standardized kitchen packages that include such items as coffee filters, plastic storageware, and salt and pepper. Still, Peare can step back from details and look at the big picture. "Timeshare products we can't even imagine today will be created over the next 20 years," he predicts. Some products will be high-end, some less costly, to meet the diverse needs and anticipated desires of future consumers. "There will be a 'cafeteria' where people will be able to pick and choose not only what they buy, but what they buy into," he says. "The industry also will become even more global. We're in Canada and Mexico, and soon will open a resort in Fiji and elsewhere on the Asian Rim."
In his free moments, Peare attends jazz festivals and brings home posters with which he decorates his office walls, along with posters celebrating other local events, family photographs, and an editorial-page cartoon from the Leavenworth Beacon depicting Trendwest 1993 effort to obtain timeshare zoning. Peare lives in a rustic cabin with a deck on ten acres with a lake in Cle Elum, with a herd of elk and deer and Charlotte, a black cat nicknamed
Charlie. "My cabin is a total departure from my business life," he says. "There are books shelves everywhere. I enjoy reading good biographies and mysteries by John Grisham, and Nelson De Mille." "At his little ranch, Bill likes to do everything himself," says Trendwest executive Gene Hensley. "Bill likes to work with his hands and build projects from conception to completion. When asked on Monday how he spent his weekend Bill frequently describes some exhausting project he's just completed at home."
For relaxation, Peare goes fly-fishing in Yellowstone National Park in Montana, or plays golf. "I have a handicap of 18, and get to play about 15 times each summer," he says. "I carry my golf clubs and a spinning rod in my car trunk. In addition, there is always yard work to do, plantings to trim, and a road to fix. On the weekends my house is like Grand Central Station, with lots of children and grandchildren dropping in."
"My brother is color bind," says sister Susan O'Rourke. "He has the affinity to show up at work with some unusual outfits. One day he wore, without realizing it, a tux jacket. No one told him. Sometime in the course of the day he looked down and saw the satin front."
"Bill has trouble distinguishing between darker colors -- browns, blues, greens and reds," says Connie Peare. "Even after we were divorced, I still helped Bill shop for clothes. He likes to purchase clothes by price, rather than how an item looks One day Bill and I met a mutual friend in a men's wear shop. We prevented Bill from looking at the garments' price tags, and helped him select color-coordinated clothes that looked good on him. The shopkeeper in that shop still keeps track of what Bill has, and helps him select additional color-coordinated clothing."
"Bill has a great sense of humor, likes jokes and board games, and enjoys playing tricks on others and having them played on him," says O'Rourke. "Bill is never afraid of failure," says Connie. "If one thing fails, he will try something else. He is passionate about everything he does and is generous with family and friends. He continues to mentor adults he met when they were troubled teenagers and he was a police officer."
Rosalie E. Leposky is managing partner of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.
© Copyright 1999 Ampersand Communications
All Rights Reserved
Published in The Resort Trades, July 1999
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