The Making of a Manager

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One thing more than any other convinced me to pursue a career in journalism--the variety.

July 01, 1999

One thing more than any other convinced me to pursue a career in journalism—the variety. At 17 as I entered college it was one of the few jobs I knew of where I could learn and do something different everyday. I get bored easily so I knew I could never have a career where I did the same thing day after day and succeed at it. By and large, after 15 years in the business I can confidently say my 17-year-old self was right, though I did learn early on that daily newspapers offered entirely too much variety for me.

I like magazine work for it balances the best of both worlds. Each issue is a new challenge, yet we still have the time and resources to really dig in and research a subject. That is some-thing PB and its writers do particularly well. Senior editor Sue Bady proved that with her groundbreaking research and report on aging baby boomers in May. This month, with the help of our research manager Jeff Morton (a former Pulte Corp. researcher I might add), we’ve explored the state of builder management practices today. What we found is reported in detail beginning on page 60. There are a whole host of charts, graphs and tables in the article to give you a snapshot of the results. It’s interesting and enlightening reading.

Spend some time with those pages, review the numbers and your reaction will most likely mirror mine (and others on staff as well): The results are terrifying. To sum it up: There is a lot of record keeping being done by home builders today, but there is very little management being practiced. Too many builders seem to think tracking the numbers on a project and managing the business are one in the same. They aren’t. Management is a much bigger job than just the numbers. While this list is far from comprehensive--there simply aren’t enough pages to complete the task in any magazine--here are a few of the key tasks of a manager in our industry:

1) Find ways to make associates--employees and trade allies alike--partners and participants in fashioning the company’s success and its future. It takes more than a paycheck to make this happen.

2) Think beyond the current job. Plan for the company’s future at least 12 and 24 months out. For help in figuring out what to build, where to goal and the goals to set, see item one.

3) Recognize that the job of management can’t be done by a single individual. For a list of interested, able assistants, see item one.

I think you get the idea. Managing a business as complex as home building isn’t a task for a single individual, though most of our survey respondents seem to practice it as such. This "I can go it alone," seat-of-the-pants style of management is too risky, offers too few rewards and results in profits too slim to sustain a business through the next downturn--soft or otherwise.

Easy to judge when I’m on the outside looking in you’re thinking? Maybe so, but believe me, there isn’t a one of us at PB that isn’t one hundred percent invested in helping our readers succeed and realize the rewards they deserve. That is why we practice our craft every day. Yes, we like what we do, we’re paid to do it, but neither is reason enough to get in early and stay late. We do that because we love it and believe our work can make a difference. We’re a lot alike in that way.

PB will do its part to help you--to improve the standard of professionalism among all home builders. You can count on that. The LEARN section debuting this month on page 81 is only one way we intend to honor that promise. However, to be fulfilled, a promise requires a commitment from two people. You have to do your part.

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