With a Little Help From My Friends

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The staff here at Professional Builder is as good a group of people as anyone, most especially I, could ever hope to work with.

November 01, 1999

The staff here at Professional Builder is as good a group of people as anyone, most especially I, could ever hope to work with. As a group, we are fiercely loyal to one another. When time gets tight, deadlines loom and pressure mounts, we find a reason to laugh together rather than point fingers at each other.

Wit and sarcasm are our stock in trade. Staff meetings last 15 minutes or four hours, and longer is usually a lot more productive and a lot more fun. There is always some serious giggling, most often when one of us decides to take ourselves too seriously. I can count on everyone on staff to keep me from this offense, and I’m hopeful they rely on me for the same.

All our fun and time together shouldn’t be mistaken for agreement. The very best part of this group is that we all are passionate advocates for what we believe in. Debate rages in planning meetings, and we’ve all become better reporters, writers, salespeople, art directors, publishers, editors -- and friends -- as a result. We defend our ideas because we force each other to define and refine them again and again.

Planning for this issue is a good case in point. We discussed and debated four projects for every model presentation published here. The conference room table was littered with sales brochures and scouting snapshots. Editors had spent weeks in the field walking projects and touring models. Notes were reviewed, sales figures shouted and features highlighted.

Again and again as we questioned each other, I heard "What does this mean for the reader?" That was the answer that ultimately separated the published projects from those left on the table. While all were good, successful for the builder, a hit in the marketplace and just right for the buyer, we focused on the take-away, be it innovative design, exceptional architecture, an outstanding floor plan or a brilliant marketing campaign. We wanted the gem -- that single idea evident in every model that could be the one thing to make your next house better than you thought it could be.

We learned in working together that we could identify those elements more easily and accurately than if we had all labored on our own. We also learned that we’re not alone in drawing on the strength and intelligence of each other for the benefit of all. Many of builders responsible for the projects highlighted in these pages work in much the same way. Take the Rouse/Chamberlin project in West Chester, Pa. In developing Kenmara, president/CEO Sarah Peck did her homework. She shopped other new home developments. She interviewed buyers about their housing dreams and the realities of their daily lives.

What is so special about that, you ask? In and of itself, not much. A lot of builders do the same thing on a regular basis. What is different is the way this market information flowed to other players on the Kenmara team, primarily the architect, construction manager, interior merchandiser and sales leader. Peck brought all these people together to share what she found out -- not her conclusions based on what she had learned. Together, this team created homes that offer features that answer the way buyers live while respecting their dreams.

Now in an industry like ours full of Type A personalities (and being a recovering one myself), I’m sure this sounds like heresy. Why ask for input, for help, when it is so much easier to just do it on your own? Why distract associates from their immediate tasks and responsibilities to seek their counsel regarding yours?

The list of reasons is long, though all are fundamentally simple and similar. The very act of involving employees, associates, suppliers and customers in the process of building -- a home or a business -- ensures that the people and the product are better than they would have been otherwise.

Oh yeah, it’s a lot more fun, too.

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