In a recent letter, one of you chided Professional Builder, and me in particular, for our scare tactics. You wrote: 'I read your magazine every month and get a lot of good ideas, but I take exception to a couple of points of view.'
Heather McCune, Editor in Chief
In a recent letter, one of you chided Professional Builder, and me in particular, for our scare tactics. You wrote: "I read your magazine every month and get a lot of good ideas, but I take exception to a couple of points of view. In Perspective and in your other columns you talk about how home building is becoming a more competitive business. How much more important it is today to manage the business of home building rather than just build houses.
"You're wrong. I've been building houses for longer than you've been alive, and I do it the same way today as I did when I started 40 years ago. Yes, the products have changed (not always for the better), and we have more choices. But I still manage my business as I always have - without a lot of fancy computer programs to tell me if I'm making money.
"I work with my trades to keep costs down. I rely on my bookkeeper to manage the office and pay the bills. I'm in the field managing the jobs, and our customers like our homes.
"It works. We make money, not as much as some other companies, but building homes my way has provided a good life for my family. My employees have steady work and good paychecks. I guess this makes me Lucky, the builder."
That's it. All he or she wrote.
Now normally, letters to the editor don't make it to this page. We love getting them and publish each one in the letters section. However, to do that we need to know who the author is - even if we publish the letter unsigned. No such luck with this letter. It arrived in our offices in a plain white envelope, hand addressed with a single stamp and no return address. Inside was the hand-written note on a sheet of lined notebook paper.
Because I can't answer Lucky, the builder directly, this is what I would say to him - and to all of you as well.
"Thanks for reading Professional Builder, taking the time to write and share your opinions. Hearing from our readers makes our day.
"Congratulations on what sounds like a long and successful career. May you continue to prosper. I applaud you for running a lean organization that delivers what homes buyers want. Meeting that challenge everyday requires strong leadership. There you obviously excel.
"In trying to read between the lines of your letter, a couple of key questions and concerns emerge:
- You're selling yourself and your family short. In trying to imagine your day, I suspect it is very long. During daylight, you travel to the various sites, overseeing a crew, managing a customer issue, solving a product problem, meeting an inspector. Evenings, you grab a little time with the family before closeting yourself away to review statements, schedules, etc.
- Knowing everything you need to know on a day-to-day basis gets harder and harder with each job and every passing year. Buyers know more. Zoning boards require more time and information before approving a plan or project. Trades can be more selective in deciding whom to work for and at what rate. You're running harder and harder to stay in place.
- Disaster is only one job away. An employee gets injured, a client sues, the next job goes to another builder and what works so well today takes on a very different look tomorrow. There are no reserves - just you and your commitment to do the job every day.
"Lucky, your choice in salutations and nicknames describes your business better than you know. Can you keep doing what you're doing? Of course. Will Professional Builder ever espouse that course of action - in truth, that total lack of action - in our pages? No, not ever. For what motivates us to put ink to paper is readers like you with more potential than past."