Patrick L. O’Toole is the former editorial director and publisher of Professional Builder, a 77-year-old publication that is read by 112,000 builders each month. Previously, O’Toole served as editor and publisher of Qualified Remodeler magazine. He started his career as a reporter for the Associated Press in Chicago. He holds a B.A. from Miami University and a masters degree in journalism from Columbia College.

Fresh ideas and fresh faces

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April 21, 2014

In home building, experience counts for a lot. It takes years and, in some cases, hard lessons learned to move forward in profitable new directions. Today there is no shortage of experienced builders who’ve been through the wars and are now setting the stage for a prosperous run over the next few years. For many, this next housing cycle will be their last before riding off into the sunset.

We do not know the average age of builders, but it is safe to say that the majority are 45 and above, perhaps older. During the last eight years, young people have had neither the opportunity or the inclination to join this industry. Twenty- and 30-something builders are few and far between, but we expect that to change in the coming years. And that is the reason why we have been identifying and telling the stories of excellent younger builders who will shape the industry over the next few housing cycles. You may recall reading about them last month in our coverage of our third annual Professional Builder “40 Under 40” list. Their business and design ideas presage the best of what is to come.
 
That is not to say that home building needs a revolution, but every industry needs fresh faces and new ideas. In fact, one of the industry’s most successful young builders, Saun Sullivan of DSLD Homes (now a grizzled 42-year-old), draws deeply on lessons from the past. On more than one occasion he has requested back issues of Professional Builder from the ‘50s and ‘60s. He recognizes that there are many immutable issues faced by builders of every generation. At the same time, Sullivan is turning many old ideas on their ear. He pays all trades and suppliers in two days. He does not do charge backs. His company handles every warranty call in order to truly control the customer experience and not cede those important client interactions to a harried supplier’s assistant who needs to get in and out of the house in 15 minutes.
 
This June 10 and 11, we are inviting the industry’s young leaders to join us in Newport Beach, Calif., for two days of exchanging ideas and networking. The theme of the first annual Professional Builder Under 40 Executive Summit is “Innovating in Business and Design.” We are pleased to announce some key components of the agenda. First, business-innovation author Andy Stefanovich will be our keynoter. He is known for helping companies like Coca Cola and Procter and Gamble lead change in their organizations. Our builder keynote is H. Lawrence (Larry) Webb, CEO of The New Home Company, a long-time industry leader who knows a lot about innovating in building and moving forward in profitable new directions. Seth Ring, a division president for Toll Brothers in Southern California and recognized as an Under 40 leader last year, will discuss the thinking behind some of his company’s newest communities, which are designed to bring younger Millennial buyers into the market. For many attendees, the biggest highlight of the summit will be a tour of brand-new model homes throughout Orange County, historically the cradle of many of the industry’s earliest design advancements.
 
If you are interested in attending our Under 40 Executive Summit in Newport Beach, you can learn more about it at www.ProBuilder.com/PBU40, or you can email me at potoole@sgcmail.com.
 
We look forward to seeing you in June.

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