Bernard "Bud" Rotter, who helped create The Rottlund Co. in Minnesota, Florida, and Iowa, died Monday after a long bout with cancer. The St. Paul, Minn., native, who was 64, is described as a "pillar" among builders.
"Bud Rotter was a pillar among Minnesota home builders," said Todd Stutz, president of Rottlund's Minnesota division. "He and [his brother] David looked at how business was done back in the early 1970s and turned it completely on its head. Bud was an entrepreneur first and a builder second who emphasized best practices and professionalism at a time when most builders managed their companies out of a pickup."
Michael Noonan, a division president with Toll Brothers and the president of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, met Rotter 10 years ago when he interviewed with The Rottlund Co. Noonan went on to work with Rotter for seven years and described him as a "visionary."
"Bud had the ability to help guide us and establish the strategic vision for the company and then challenging his management team to arrive at the strategies to get there," Noonan told BUILDER Online in a telephone interview. "He was truly a visionary in terms of guiding the company and guiding Rottlund in the direction that we may have been overlooking.
"The one thing that impressed me about Bud was that he was willing to always push the envelope of exploring areas of the market that weren't necessarily heavily populated by other builders. He was a bit of a risk taker and visionary in that respect," Noonan added.
The Rottlund Co. was founded in 1973 by David Rotter and Roy Lund, who is now retired. Bud Rotter, whose first business venture with his brother dated back to a paper route on St. Paul's east side, joined the company as a co-owner a year later.
During the mid-1990s the company sold more than 800 homes a year, or nearly twice as many as its nearest competitor. Last year, privately held The Rottlund Co. had sales of $130 million and was the largest Minnesota-based builder, according to the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. Since its inception, Rottlund Homes has built more than 15,000 homes. The Rottlund Co. was No. 71 on last year's BUILDER 100 with gross revenues of $302 million and 1,189 closings.
"Bud had a vision for home building that anticipated the needs of our customers," said Tim Whitten, Rottlund's executive vice president and lead architect. "He wanted to build homes people would love regardless of where they were in life. 'Your Builder for Life' really is the company mission, and that all started with Bud and David," he added.
Bud helped pioneer several other innovations in home building including:
* Early adoption of advanced technology for managing the company, monitoring production and sales, and researching the market;
* Detailed written contracts with contractors and subcontractors as opposed to the informal agreements that often resulted in delays and financial headaches for builders;
* Aggressive use of branding and marketing techniques including radio advertising, special promotions, and highly visible sponsorships;
* Recruitment and support for exceptional company officers, construction managers, salespeople, and other employees to help them excel both personally and professionally; and,
* A company culture that emphasized integrity and fairness in all of its business dealings, while also serving the broader interests of the community.
"He always had a strong vision," David Rotter told BUILDER Online. The two brothers were business partners for 37 years.
"He had the ability to see the market--and know where the market was moving. I don't know how he did it," his brother said. "We had a good business life together. It is a credit to both of us to be able to do that."
People have asked David about his brother's other passions; rumor has it that Bud had a little "American Idol" in him and did a mean Elvis impression behind the microphone. David confirmed his brother's love for karaoke but stated that it wasn't his passion.
"Bud's enjoyment was business," he said.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.