3 lessons I learned from you

February 19, 2013


As you may have noticed by now, I am a flat-out junkie for lessons. Nearly every article I have written for Professional Builder, including my monthly editorials, offers some sort of list of takeaways, lessons learned, do’s and don’ts, and other pieces of advice. The fact is, I love the process of problem solving, and I’ve been absolutely fascinated by the countless number of creative ideas that you — the builders, developers, and designers of America — have dreamt up over the years.

This issue marks the last for me as Professional Builder’s Editor-in-Chief (EIC). I’m shifting over to PB’s sister publication, Building Design+Construction, where I spent the better part of the last decade, to serve as EIC. Like any tough decision, this move is bittersweet. As I wrote more than three years ago when I took the helm at PB, “I am honored and humbled to be part of the very long legacy of Professional Builder.” I still feel that way. And I will always remember all the great people I met during my tenure here. I leave PB in the extremely capable hands of our Editorial Director and Publisher, Patrick O’Toole, who has more than 15 years in the residential construction industry.

But before I transition, I’d like to share a few of the business lessons that you — our loyal readers — taught me over the years:

Follow your passion. I know this is a bit cliché, but I’ve seen it play out dozens of times in home building. We are in a family-centric, generational business. I’ve met a number of highly educated sons, daughters, and relatives of builders who gave up successful and promising careers in Corporate America to run their family business. In the end, they followed their heart and did what made them happy.

Maintain a steely resolve. I joined PB during the depths of the most severe housing crash since the Great Depression. I’ve met a number of builders on the brink of bankruptcy, down to their final dollar, with little hope. But you know what? They didn’t give up. The vast majority toughed it out and are back building again. They did whatever it took to hang on — taking on remodeling work, doing commercial projects, offering home maintenance services, consulting for real estate clients, selling off to other builders, to name a few. 

Put your people first. I always believed that “the customer is always right” was the first rule of any business. But I learned that it takes happy, fulfilled, empowered, and challenged employees to deliver a world-class experience for customers. If your employees are happy, there shouldn’t be situations where “the customer is always right” comes up. Numerous award-winning builders make no bones about the fact that they place their employees first, ahead of their customers. 

So with that, I won’t offer a “goodbye,” rather a “see ya later,” because I’ll still be at IBS every year, I’ll still be working at the same company, with the same email address. So don’t hesitate to reach out.

Oh, and thanks for the lessons!

To read more from the February issue of Professional Builder, click here.

David Barista is editorial director of Building Design+Construction and BDCnetwork.com, properties that combined reach more than 100,000 commercial building professionals, including architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners. He has covered the U.S. construction industry for more than a decade, previously serving as editor-in-chief of BD+C, Professional BuilderCustom Builder, and HousingZone.com, covering the U.S. construction industry for more than a decade.