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Help and guidance for home builders from Gary Grant's many years in the industry. | Image: fran_kie /
This article first appeared in the PB March 2005 issue of Pro Builder.

In five years, no one has ever offered to write this column for me. On seldom occasions, the deadlines have been so onerous that I could have been tempted to turn over the reins for a month. This month, however, the column was written before I ever sat down to write it.

I received an e-mail from Gary Grant who, after 40 years in the industry, just retired from Pulte's Minneapolis Division. After reading the e-mail, I knew that this column was already done.

Who Is Gary Grant?

Gary began his building career with Marv Andersen Homes, working his way up from house-sweeper to framer to Director of Construction. In 1990, Pulte purchased Marv Andersen, and Gary was soon recognized as a "keeper" of the highest order, rising to vice president of operations and spending much of his time in later years spreading the "Gospel According to Gary" to other operations across the country.

Gary is about as humble as they come and he will find the title of this piece with its biblical overtones way over the top. To him this stuff is just one part "do the right thing," one part "the Golden Rule" and one part "common sense." Yet his results were anything but common.

His division has, for countless years, been a leader in both profit and customer satisfaction and has now earned the J.D. Power Award in Minneapolis for three consecutive years. The trade council he began in 1989 still carries on today, with the most loyal and dedicated group of contractors I have ever met.

I've asked for Gary's help and guidance many times over the years and have referred countless people to him. Gary would make himself available, anytime he was needed, whether it was a call from another construction VP or a plea from a scared young recruit. As a teacher and a mentor there is simply none better.

Recently, Gary was asked to make a list to share with other members of the team — and the members to come that may never meet him — about what he had learned in his 40 years of home building. I was privileged to be on the receiving end of this list. I am most privileged to share Gary's List with you. In Gary Grant's own words.

The Gospel—According to Builder Gary Grant After 40 Years in Home Building

  • What goes around comes around. Treat people with respect they will respect you. Respect does not come with position. You must earn it.
  • A leader will fight right beside you in battle.
  • Never ask your people to do something that you would not do yourself. Those in the trenches make it happen and too often they don't get credit for their hard work.
  • Never be afraid to make a mistake; just don't keep making the same mistake again and again. The first carpenter I worked for when I was an apprentice said "Show me a man who doesn't make a mistake, and I'll show you someone who doesn't do anything."
  • I am the expert at what I do and so are you, so demonstrate that confidence to your customers. They will respect and believe you if you come across as the professional that you are. As a young superintendent, I thought it would be hard for older, experienced buyers to listen to me. But I realized that I'm the expert so I started acting like it. But do it in a humble way. Never my way or the highway.
  • Don't let pride, ego or fear stop you for asking for help. People would rather work with someone who is humble and knows their own shortcomings and limitations.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Take time to praise someone's efforts. A simple thank you is the greatest motivation.
  • Be humble. No one likes a bragger or someone who thinks they know it all. There is always someone who knows more than I do.
  • Ninety-eight percent of people are good and are no different than you and me. Don't spend a lot of time or energy on the 2% who have a poor attitude and will never appreciate what you do for them. Take good care of the 98% for they will make you successful.
  • Get both sides of every story no matter who is telling it. It is not always the way it seems. I can't tell you how many times I have jumped to a conclusion only to regret it later.
  • Attitude is more important than your aptitude to achieve the results. Hire people who have a great attitude and great people skills. You can teach technical skills but not people skills and a positive attitude. Those you are born with.
  • You will learn more and achieve more if you take the time to walk in someone else's shoes. You don't know what they have been through so don't make judgments about them.
  • Just do the right thing, no matter what the cost. The bottom line is important but not as important as repeat customers and how good you feel when you do the right thing.
  • "Build each home as if it was for Mom." Do that and you will not be afraid to live in the community that you supervise. I actually enjoyed living in four of my communities.
  • When trouble comes into your life — and it will — it's great to have people around you who care for you and who you care for.
  • Our great relationships with our vendors are what have given us the edge. Lose that and you are just another cutthroat national builder.
  • Be realistic. Don't just say what you think people want to hear because it may come back to haunt you. Always under promise and over deliver. Sometimes the best answer is no.
  • Make the best out of a bad situation. Remember, "This too shall pass." The sun will come up tomorrow and you can start again. Many things come and go but friendships last forever.
  • If you can't call your Mom and tell her what you did it probably wasn't the right thing to do. Use the "Can I call Mom test" when dealing with your customers.
  • Bill Pulte taught me that God and family come before work. But when you are at work give it your all. You will feel good and your team deserves it.
  • Be patient with others and don't expect everyone to think as you do. Control your temper. (I'm still working on it.)
  • Four words that will make a huge difference in relationships, "thank you" and "I'm sorry."
  • There is no free lunch. You truly get out of life what you put into it. Luck has a little to do with success but a motivated, hard-working person creates his or her own luck. Never give up your goals and dreams.
  • Never sacrifice honesty and integrity. I have enjoyed having homeowners come back after 20 or 30 years to build another home because of the trust and the strong relationship we had built.
  • Never pass the buck. Neither customers nor peers will respect you. Stand up and be accountable. Remember, "It may not be my fault but it still is my responsibility."
  • Be firm in your convictions. People might not agree with you but they will know where you stand. It's okay to disagree, but always search for a win-win solution.
  • Customers have the same wants, needs, concerns and fears as you and I. They also work hard for their money and should get everything that they paid for in the total home building experience.
  • Change is not a bad thing, but it can be scary in the short term especially for those in the trenches who are not kept abreast of decisions that impact their lives. As a leader, sometimes your job is to comfort and reassure employees, like shepherds watching out and protecting their flock.
  • A great company culture lowers stress and turn over. It makes it more fun. A leader's prime responsibility is to build a positive culture. The value of a team working together to achieve common goals cannot be overstated.
  • Always remember who you are, where you came from and those that helped you along the way. So many climb the ladder and forget who made it possible. Never let power go to your head. Ego has ruined many a person and a company's culture.
  • I have been so fortunate to work and play with a great team for 40 years. I have been privileged to be one of your leaders. Be the best, make your years count and continue your winning ways. It goes by fast.
  • Nice people don't finish last.