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Thought Leaders


Thought Leaders

After you have the right people in place, understand your market’s desires and deliver the highest-quality product, you’re left with only one missing element — killer ideas.

January 31, 2002
This article first appeared in the PB February 2002 issue of Pro Builder.

After you have the right people in place, understand your market’s desires and deliver the highest-quality product, you’re left with only one missing element — killer ideas. These ideas aren’t unique to the high- tech world; they exist in our industry, and they have become the one bankable currency amid today’s nervous economy.

In this special report we showcase the Thought Leaders who challenge concepts many accept as law and in doing so demonstrate the rich rewards that come from breaking through barriers and refusing to settle for the ordinary.


 Thought Leaders
John Knott: Holistic Development
Third-generation builder/developer John Knott is used to being told that what he wants to do can’t be done. It’s the mantra skeptics always attach to projects that challenge conventional development guidelines, and those are the only kind Knott builds.

Leslie Dashew: Succession Strategies
Most of Leslie Dashew’s clients are not home builders, but a lot more probably should be. For 28 years, she has advised families with businesses how to handle the transition of ownership and/or management from one generation to the next or to an outside successor. It’s hard to imagine an industry with more of those problems than home building.

Michael Pyatok: Neighborhood Building
Compared with people in the rest of the world, Americans are among the best housed. Still, a startling number of Americans do not have decent, affordable housing. According to the 1999 American Housing Survey, 15.5 million American households, or 15%, had severe housing problems, meaning they spent more than 50% of their income on housing and utilities or they lived in substandard housing.

Claes Fornell: Customer Science
Swedish-bred Claes Fornell, director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan, exhibits little of the reserve often attributed to his countrymen. His voice rises with excitement when he speaks of the research that led to development in 1994 of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a collaboration of the UM Business School, the American Society for Quality and Fornell’s international consulting firm, CFI Group.

William McDonough: Eco-Effectiveness
Architect William McDonough is a radical. He also is lauded as a pioneer in sustainability, representing ideals admired by green builders.

Randy Jackson: Grayfield Villages
Wherever you go in America, strip malls are part of the landscape. That is the beauty of Randy Jackson’s proposed housing solution for land-strapped Orange County, Calif. If it works there, it probably will work in many other places.

Tom & Caroline Hoyt: Exit Strategies
In an era when some of the biggest home building companies are consolidating, the founders of one privately owned company made a very different decision. After 35 years, Tom and Caroline Hoyt are transferring ownership of McStain Neighborhoods, No. 201 on the 2001 Giants list, to the people who most passionately share their vision — their 100 employees.

Paul Smith: Place-Making
Among a small but growing group of developers who build lifestyle communities, an unusual land-visioning process is taking root. Before they map out a plan for a new and particularly important parcel, one of the first calls they make is to Paul Smith, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based marketing consultant who describes himself as a professional storyteller.

Joe Lstiburek & Betsy Pettit: Better BuildingCalling himself a forensic engineer, Joe Lstiburek has done more work than he’d like finding problems and fixing failed buildings. Ideally, he and architect Betsy Pettit say, houses would get built correctly from the beginning. “Right now, I’m a building pathologist,” Lstiburek says. “I want to be an obstetrician. I’m tired of doing autopsies. I want to deliver healthy, bouncing baby homes.”

Verne Harnish: Growth Formulas
As the clock chimed midnight and the old year gave way to the new, you probably resolved: “I will grow my business in 2002.” Now, more than a month into the new year, you’re facing the harsh reality of your resolution, and only one question looms: How?

Paco Underhill: Shopping Behavior
Relentless focus on buyer behavior has been a 20-year devotion for New York-based consultant and author Paco Underhill. Like a naturalist observing the wild, Underhill and a staff of correspondents follow shoppers through stores and capture their movements on hidden video cameras.

David Weekley: Human Accounting
Home building is a unique business. Consider the assets most other producers list on their balance sheets: physical facilities, manufacturing equipment, warehouses, etc. Now do the same exercise for most home builders.

Andres Duany & Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk: Home/Work
If you think Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk are interested only in peppering the landscape with re-created 19th century villages, guess again. First, look at plans for Aqua, a modernist neighborhood the planners designed for Dacra Development on 8.5 acres at the tip of Allison Island in Miami Beach, Fla. Then listen as they discuss the housing products they believe 21st century America demands.



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