Brent Coble, president of Coble Builders, based in North Miami, is a Lifework Leadership alumnus and credits the program for connecting him with the Christian community in South Florida.
A leadership program that meets one day a month for nine months, Lifework Leadership invests in the renewal and transformation of leaders, and empowers them to lead their businesses, their families and their communities by Godly principles.
Lifework leaders are described as a Christian business people who leverage their talents, skills, experiences and influence for eternity. Brent Coble said his experience developed “this whole narrative of stop doing life by yourself. Get into community.”
Brent and his wife, Sonia, a former immigration attorney and stay-at-home mom to their three children ages 9, 12 and 14, sat down with me recently to discuss Lifework Leadership’s impact on them and their journey with the Lord.
GN – Tell me a little bit about your background and journey to faith.
Brent – Sonia grew up in Fort Lauderdale after coming here when she was ten from El Salvador, and I grew up in Orlando. I’m a product of Mickey Mouse, my parents met at Disney. My dad was a contractor and built part of Disney in the early 70’s and I grew up in Windermere which was the bedroom community of Disney World…
I was raised in the church and became a believer at a real early age, and then my parents had a real ugly divorce in high school. So college for me was a time of searching, figuring out, wrestling with my faith. I tasted college more living without God with this hopelessness and emptiness.
I went to grad school in Australia, and my dad kept sending me sermon tapes. I wouldn’t listen to them, but I couldn’t throw them away either. So I had this duffle bag full of Andy Stanley sermon tapes. At the end of grad school on my way home, I stopped in Fiji and surfed this big surf spot called Cloud Break. There were these 20-foot huge waves! It was the highlight of my life, I thought. So, I surfed these perfect waves and had so much fun, but I remember still feeling empty. And I opened this big duffle bag of sermon tapes; the rest of the day I listened to a lot of them, and that was when I decided to rededicate my life.
Then I met this beautiful woman two years later. We met in Orlando. After Sonia finished law school, we moved to Washington, D.C. where I worked in construction and Sonia worked for USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). And then there’s just a series of God stories.
My company in Washington, D.C. ended up relocating me to a big job in Miami even though I asked to go to California. At first I didn’t want to come to South Florida because – you know, the in-laws are here and we love them but…
My company said this is where we need you, so we relocated here in 2006. But it turned out that in the middle of relocating me – the job got cancelled at the last minute. We had bought a house, had a relocation package…
Sonia – And I was also seven months pregnant.
Brent – Yea, we also had a kid and so it was like, “Oh no Lord! what now?”
The company suggested other projects in D.C. and Virginia, but mentally – I had already bought a house, had a second baby on the way, the whole nesting thing. And we began thinking maybe it would be nice to have some in-laws nearby because in Washington, D.C. we had a church but we really didn’t have family support. So I was ready.
I knew the president of Coastal Construction, who is the largest builder in South Florida. He had tried to recruit me for years, so I picked up the phone and said, “Hey Dan, how’s it going?” And he said, “Well, as a matter of fact I just had a project manager quit today, and I’m looking for a senior project manager.”…So I flew down the next day and they basically offered me a job on the spot to do a 52-story high-rise on Sunny Isles Beach – Trump Royale. We were able to negotiate a deal with the house and relocation package. We worked it out between the two companies and it was just this amazing story of how it all fell into place.
I worked for Coastal for about six years and ended up at the St. Regis Bal Harbour as one of several project managers on this big mega project 5-star hotel with condominiums. Then another series of God stories – the recession. I resigned in the recession to work with my dad.
Sonia – His dad [Rick Coble] was an expert in construction safety, was an expert witness and a second or third generation contractor.
Brent – Growing up my dad was a contractor and built all kinds cool stuff in Orlando and at Disney like the People Mover that went around Tomorrowland and a lot of hardscapes that you walk on at Epcot. For years my dad had envisioned us working together as a father/son team, but I never had a peace about it until the recession. So after six months of prayer and wrestling with this decision to work with my dad, I actually quit my job with Coastal and went to work with him and it lasted six weeks. It just didn’t work out. And now I’m sitting at home thinking, how do we pay our mortgage, expenses, what’s next?
Previously, I had been tasked with working with about 20 homeowners that had custom condo units at the St. Regis and their designers from all over the world – some of the world’s best designers.
So fast forward to – I had gotten my general contractor’s license the previous year, and I remember looking at Sonia and saying, “I can’t do this,” and she said, “you can do this, honey.” So we got on our knees and prayed, and we literally started Coble Builders on November 1st, 2011.
We registered, got our federal ID number, and the next morning I called my friend who worked for the developer for St. Regis and said, “We have this new company, Coble Builders, can you plug us into anything at the St. Regis?” And he said, “Yes, how soon can you start?” It was incredible, our very first week in business, and we started with two employees and worked as a consultant under Starwood at the St. Regis.
GN – So Coble Builders has been in business seven years. What kind of things are you doing now?
Brent – We are a boutique builder that specializes on the high-end, luxury market. Last year we finished about eight high-end single-family residential projects from Miami Beach to Boca Raton. We have an incredibly talented team that is passionate about customer service and attention to details and we are blessed to work for some of the world’s best designers in some of the most exclusive locations in South Florida.
Our clientele is the kind that… they are hiring based on integrity. They are hiring based on a lot of the items and themes that are the focus areas of Lifework Leadership. They want to know they are getting someone who is trustworthy, who is going to be honest and fair.
GN – How did you get involved with Lifework Leadership?
Brent – When we first moved to South Florida, our first couple of years, we were a back row church family. I really didn’t get plugged into the church or the Christian community. We were not connected at all.
After I started Coble Builders, my friend [Drew Greep] started talking to me about this thing called Lifework. He said, “Now that you have your business and you’re doing this thing, you should think about Lifework Leadership.
GN – What were your initial thoughts about Lifework, and what did you get out of it?
Brent – My initial thought was, I don’t have time. I need to focus on growing the business, but I also just felt like I should give it a try. I was hesitant at first, but there were a lot of people I respected who had done it and recommended it to me…
I think Lifework Leadership for me was just another step of getting connected into the South Florida community of believers. And the thing I loved about Lifework were the topics: integrity, generosity, compassion, humility, courage and legacy. All topics that as a business leader you want to understand. How do you relate to each of those areas, and how do you create an environment at work where you are intentional about reinforcing those items in your life and your business?