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Learning From Our Next-Gen Leaders

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Learning From Our Next-Gen Leaders

After hearing from young leaders in our industry, it's reassuring to know that there's hope for the future of home building

June 24, 2019
Young home building industry leaders in the Forty Under 40 include Matthew Wilson, Chris Hartley, and Michael Freiburger.
This article first appeared in the July 2019 issue of Pro Builder.


Young industry's leaders who presented at the 2019 Under 40 Executive Summit included (left to right): Matthew Wilson, Chris Hartley, and Michael Freiburger.

During the last week of May, Professional Builder hosted its annual Under 40 Executive Summit in San Francisco in conjunction with PCBC. It was our sixth year of hosting this conference, and it’s an event I really look forward to. With most of the country’s home builders in older age groups (no shade intended, I’m right there with you), it’s incredibly refreshing to learn what the next generation of leaders is up to and where they see the industry going. 

This year we were privy to more of that than usual. In the past, I thought what these young up-and-comers needed most was the sage advice of their elders. But, in getting to know a great many of them over the last few years, I’ve realized that they, having been in the industry for 10 years or more already, have absorbed much of that wisdom and have a greater need to talk with their peers and learn the newest and best ways to create the future of home building. 

This time around, with the exception of our amazing, insightful, one-of-a-kind keynote speaker, Larry Webb, CEO of The New Home Company, our speakers were all of the same generation as our attendees and all were former Professional Builder 40 Under 40 award winners. Matthew Wilson, for example, VP of digital operations and corporate marketing for Pittsburgh-based Maronda Homes and one of our 2018 awardees, spoke about the technology he uses to both draw buyers in and provide information about the company and its offerings, as well as keep them informed during the buying process. He employs a CRM system and a customer home tracker to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Matthew, the subject of this month’s Executive Corner article, is also a proponent of virtual tours and predicts it won’t be long before new homes are being purchased completely online. 

Another Under 40 Summit presenter, Michael Freiburger, managing principal and director of design and construction for his firm, Newlook Design | Build + Development, in Wilmette, Ill., on Chicago’s North Shore, grew up in the construction business, watching, and then working with, his subcontractor father from a very early age. Michael went on to get both a civil engineering and an architecture degree and now leads all of his company’s projects, which range from commercial construction to luxury custom homes. He presented a compelling argument for his design/build process as a way for all builders to achieve lower construction costs and enable better communication with their customers.

Professional Builder contributor Kevin Oakley, who is managing partner of Do You Convert and a frequent speaker at industry events on the subjects of online sales and marketing, customer experience, and launching new communities, among many others, took a different tack. Kevin’s presentation focused on what these already very successful young leaders should be thinking about next, on a personal level. How can they continue on the path they’re on, coming up with new ideas, and working harder and harder to achieve more goals and more success? How can they counter the additional stress they will face? Kevin and his family do that by giving back, offering their time and energy to others. By stepping outside of their regular lives, they gain perspective and a new frame of reference for how to live.

Listening to all of the speakers and spending time with the attendees gave me a tremendous amount of hope for the future of home building. The future the industry faces is uncertain in many regards: Disruption in the way homes are built and sold, new technologies to be adopted, economic stress in the country in general and on homebuyers in particular, spiraling costs for labor and materials, and an increasing preference for renting over buying will pose big challenges for some time to come. But I feel more certain than ever that our young builders are up to the task.


Access a PDF of this article in Professional Builder's July 2019 digital edition


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Written By
editorial director

Denise Dersin, editorial director of Professional Builder, Custom Builder, PRODUCTS, NKBA Innovation+Inspiration, and co-editor of Multifamily Design+Construction, has been in publishing as an editor and writer for 30 years and has worked in the housing industry for much of that time.

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