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Be it a home builder or a magazine, it is sad to witness either's demise. Too many good home builders are no longer with us; good people, smart people who couldn't dam the rising waters of difficult economic times. Now we learn that Big Builder is publishing its last print edition with this issue. It too is a victim of dramatic changes in its industry, especially as it relates to print advertising. Its focus on medium to large home builders also contributed significantly.

I have been fortunate to write the Big Money column since 2004. I'm proud it won an American Society of Business Publication Editors' award. Yet, what is more important is it afforded me the opportunity to share the concerns and trends important to me. While there were many topics from the yield curve to compensation, I focused my efforts on a few common themes.

The most popular theme was the importance of competing by differentiating products and services rather than competing solely on low price. As a competitor, it is critical that customers view your off ering as superior, allowing you to generate premium pricing and, therefore, aboveaverage profits. I still believe this remains a challenge in our industry.

Another common theme is the importance of people to a company's success. Innovation, creativity, and problem-solving are a result of having people on your team who are committed, intelligent, and agile learners working in an environment of trust, respect, and appreciation. During these difficult times as unemployment has risen dramatically, many home builders, consistent with companies in other industries, are not providing such a working environment. The impact has been a lack of commitment and loyalty on the part of employees, negatively impacting performance in a time when it is critical.

Leadership was always important. Three years ago I wanted to know if leadership could create a sustainable competitive advantage. I decided to go back to school to earn my doctorate in executive leadership in human and organizational learning. What I have learned is that leadership is more complicated than I once believed, but I am more convinced that it truly matters at all organizational levels.

Leadership matters because it impacts organizational culture, organizational change, and organizational learning. Warner Burke, an organizational development expert from Columbia University states, "If you look at change eff orts in organizations around the United States, 70 percent of these eff orts fail." He also argues, 50 percent of leaders fail. These poor performance statistics are a result of failed organizational change initiatives impacted by an organization's culture and by a lack of eff ective leadership. The good news is since leadership matters, those organizations with outstanding leadership throughout its ranks have a significant advantage over its competitors.

Ross Ashby posited, in his Law of Requisite Variety, that in order to overcome challenges in complex environments, an individual or an organization needs to have a greater variety of alternatives to choose from than the number of challenges presented. As I look back over these last seven years, I think too many of us, individually and our organizations, didn't ensure we had numerous alternatives to help us address the challenges with which we were presented.

Finally, I am indebted to John McManus for his advice, eff orts on my behalf, and his friendship. I would also like to thank Boyce Thompson for his support as well as the eff orts of some great people at Big Builder, including Sarah Yaussi, Christine Serlin, Teresa Burney, Bill Gloede, as well as many others. Finally, thanks to all of you who have followed this column and for all of your insightful feedback.

BB Jamie M. Pirrello is CFO and San Antonio division president of Sivage Homes. He may be reached at jpirrello@jamiepirrello.com.