Beyond The Numbers

This business has no shortage of individuals who believe passionately in an idea and have the strength of character to stand up and defend it when the arrows start flying. T

By Heather McCune, Editor in Chief | March 31, 2003


Heather McCune, Editor in Chief


This business has no shortage of individuals who believe passionately in an idea and have the strength of character to stand up and defend it when the arrows start flying. This year's Giant 400 list is populated with companies filled with individuals who have this kind of commitment; in fact, they are the reason any company makes this distinguished list of the largest home builders. Something about this business of building homes attracts special people.

Our industry is minus one such person now. Carole Eichen, interior designer and model home merchandising maven - and originator of the art in its current form - died just a few weeks ago. In a design practice spanning more than 35 years, Carole transformed model home interior design into a persuasive marketing and selling tool. She is credited with introducing model homes that demonstrated believable lifestyle settings for varied profiles. When Carole established her firm, interior merchandising was in its infancy. Today, thanks in large measure to her innovations, it is an accepted, integral discipline in the professional presentation of new homes.

I, like so many of you, was blessed to be able to call Carole my friend, and what a blessing that was. Carole practiced an art common to great leaders, surrounding herself with great people. Carole regularly hosted dinners at industry gatherings such as PCBC and the International Builders' Show. Invited guests were often strangers to each other. Particular attention was paid to seat assignments, and often Carole sat you next to or across from a person you always wanted to meet and who usually held absolutely the opposite position on an industry issue of the day. What fun it was!

Carole is gone, but what she accomplished in her career lives on, not just in the work of a successful firm such as Carole Eichen Interiors but also in the way her behavior trained so many others to do as she demonstrated every day - believe passionately in their work, develop new ideas and then have the guts to fight for what they know to be right.

Nowhere is Carole's legacy and indeed the industry’s future clearer to me than in the examples in this issue. Start with the images evoked by the commentators in these pages. For Scott Sedam, it's David & Goliath. Senior editor Bill Lurz uses labels such as Masters of the Universe, Achievers, Strivers, the Rich and Famous. These are heady comparisons and labels in a magazine about home builders. On the cover is Mark O'Brien, president and CEO of Pulte Homes, the new No. 1 among the Giants. O'Brien, every associate at Pulte and most assuredly the management and staff at every other firm in the top 20 believe they are best positioned to prosper in the changing home building landscape. There are the quiet Giants, those companies public and private, huge and not so big, that stay below the radar and year after year improve their land positions, introduce new products and in so doing garner the sales to creep up in the rankings.

Then there is another group of zealots, the Giant killers we call them. They are the builders that pundits inside the industry and out predict won't survive because they lack the resources - access to capital, land holdings, the best employees and trades - that their bigger competitors enjoy. Try selling that story to these individuals. Their passion fuels the hard work that translates into market success.

I look at the names on the Giants list, from No. 1 to No. 400, the companies and individuals profiled in the Giant killers and can't help but remember what I learned around Carole's dinner table: While there are differences among those highlighted here, certainly in size, what is most striking, what is the real measure of success, is what these companies have in common - the passionate belief in an idea, the strength of character to stand up and defend it, and the guts to turn it into reality.


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