In August 1998, I sat intimidated in front of my computer screen, wondering what I could possibly say about a business totally new to me and wonderfully familiar to you. Adding the words, Editor-in-Chief, Professional Builder behind my name did little to eliminate my butterflies or erase my uncertainty. Lacking any inspiration, I did what has served me well for my 22 years in publishing — I told the truth. I wrote: "I will walk your construction sites. I will tour your model homes. I will sit in your offices. I will listen to your stories. I will attend your meetings. I will learn and I will work to make PB the magazine what you want it to be."
Giants didn't exist in 1998. Certainly, the industry had its largest home builders but the list of the 1998 Giants 400 bears little resemble to today's cast of companies. However, more has changed than just the names on the list in the last seven years. The size of the companies — their very structure and the way they do business — has changed as well. The separateness of the Giants at the top of the 400 list propelled the need for the magazine.
In building a new kind of home building business, you developed new information needs. What's more, the pace of business accelerated, which made the need for accurate, reliable information more critical. One glitch in production machines like those operated by today's Giants isn't just one problem — it multiplies very fast.
Now as I write my last column with the words Editor-in-Chief behind my name, I know that while much has changed in one respect, very little has changed in another. In the last seven years, I walked your construction sites, toured your model homes, listened to your stories, read your quarterly filings and annual reports and attended your meetings. I learned so much about this business and poured that learning into the pages of the magazine each month. Yet, I never lost sight of the fact that what I wrote about each issue you did each day. Respect forever belongs to the doer.
In closing the gap between knowing and doing, I asked for your help so many years ago. "Share with us your successes. Help us — and help your fellow builders — learn from your mistakes. There is an amazing body of knowledge among our readers. Together, let's tap it."
My proudest accomplishment is that together, we've done that. Through a talented team of editors, writers and contributors, we've connected readers with issues and with each other in ways designed to build better businesses. Don't ever forget that there is more to be gained in learning from one another — sharing best practices — than there is to lose. This is truly an industry where public perception matters and we're only as good an industry as our worst builder.
Thank you for sharing your stories with me, infecting me with your passion for this most noble business of housing America's dreams. You've made me a part of this industry family, and I'll be forever grateful.
As I cross the line from writing about this industry to working in it, I look forward to laboring along side you, learning from our stories and forever seeking together a better way to fulfill the dream of home ownership.
Keep in touch — that's what family does. My new e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy home building!