Brian Hutt is a testament to the power of networking, as he was able to parlay the job he lost at Lennar last year into his current position with Masco Corp.
Hutt had been director of Lennar's design studios since January 1997 until the builder let him go on March 1, 2006. But Hutt knew as far back as the fall of 2005 that the design studios—32 of them at the time—weren't long for this world once the Miami-based builder shifted toward its “Everything's Included” marketing program, which limits the options available to home buyers. “Stu Miller [Lennar's CEO] was the creator of Everything's Included, so it was a fait accompli,” says Hutt.
Lennar's late chairman Bob Strudler had been an advocate of the design studios, and he and Hutt had worked together in Houston since their days at US Home, which Hutt joined on March 7, 1989, and which Lennar acquired in 2000. US Home was one of the first builders to sign up for Masco's Design Solutions program. And even though this relationship waned after US Home merged with Lennar, Hutt maintained his contacts there. As project manager for the design studios, Hutt met annually with Masco's executives, including its creative director Linda Kirby, with whom he established a professional bond. At IBS several years ago, Edwin de Silva, director of marketing for Masco's business unit in Great Britain, asked Hutt to make a private presentation about Lennar's design studios to Persimmon Homes, Masco's biggest customer in the United Kingdom, which Hutt remembers delivering in his hotel bedroom.
After he left Lennar, Hutt had every intention of staying in home building, but more on the support side. He did some consulting work for a while and went on several interviews with builders in Florida, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, California, and Pennsylvania, a process that sometimes lasted months. “One company flew me out four times, and I spent the whole day with its industrial psychologist.” But by July 2006, the market had softened “and the positions I had applied for disappeared.”
He approached de Silva about joining Masco in October 2005. And two days after leaving Lennar, Hutt and his wife flew to England for what turned out to be a week-long interview and audition, during which he drove all over the country making presentations to home builders and Masco operating companies. Apparently Masco liked what it saw, because it offered him a job there. On Dec. 3, 2006, Hutt became director of builder solutions for Masco Onestep, the supplier's version in the U.K. of its Masco Contractor Services division in North America. Hutt oversees Masco's “Option Center” program for builders, and he has his work cut out for him because design centers don't have anywhere near the market penetration in the U.K. that they do in America. There's also relatively little brand recognition there. He notes that only recently has Masco started marketing itself as a corporate entity to British builders.
That being said, the 47-year-old Hutt has already scored a victory, as one of Britain's top five builders plans to roll out 40 option centers. As for living abroad, Hutt says it's been an adventure. “It's like joining the armed services, but you don't have to worry about going to war.
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