Fabrizio Costantini  

On Aug. 14, Steven Petruska officially retired as PulteGroup’s COO. He completes a 26-year career with the builder—in his words, an “amazing journey” that began as the South Texas division’s vice president of finance—during which Petruska spearheaded several strategic initiatives that drove product quality, construction efficiencies, and greater operating leverage. “It would be hard to overstate the incredible impact Steve has had on the organization,” says PulteGroup’s CEO and chairman Richard Dugas, who has assumed operational responsibilities as Pulte flattens its management hierarchy following its 2009 merger with Centex. Petruska, 51, says retirement will give him time to reconnect with his family, lower his handicap, and look for new opportunities. “I plan on seeing what I can do to help companies and people grow.”

Q: What were your career highlights?

A: What I will remember most is opening our Las Vegas operations in 1992 and growing that business into the largest builder in Las Vegas, with over 4,000 closings by 2004. The merger with Del Webb was certainly a memorable time. Recently, the introduction of the Pulte Operating System—changing the way we do business to create consistent processes in all markets—has been fun. And our merger with Centex has also been exhilarating.

Q: How different is the industry from when you started?

A: The emergence of publicly traded home builders as the largest players in almost every market has probably been the biggest change, and one I am fairly certain will continue. Home building at its core is still a locally based business, and the ability of the nationals to embrace that, yet leverage capital and other resources on a national level, has been game changing.

Q: What future lies ahead for your company?

A: PulteGroup will have to remain nimble. Consumer wants and needs are changing, and consumers are highly segmented. The trade base has eroded over the past three to four years, [so] working hand in hand with trades as the market recovers will be a major undertaking. The mortgage finance business will also present challenges; the landscape has changed dramatically and will make the dream of homeownership difficult to obtain for many people.