For most of us, the start of a new year brings out a sense of pride and promise about the work we all do--and perhaps a measure of humility over what good fortunes we enjoy in this country. It also means diving into new strategies, new initiatives, and renewed commitments to better serve our customers, our associates, and our shareholders.

That's certainly the case at BIG BUILDER as we begin our eighth year of publishing. This first issue of 2004, however, reflects more than the usual pride and promise; it also represents several major new initiatives we've undertaken to make this magazine more meaningful to those we endeavor to serve.

Foremost among them was the decision, effective with this issue, to cease being a supplement to BUILDER magazine and instead become a freestanding magazine.

Diverging Needs

When it was launched in January 1997, BIG BUILDER was in every sense a supplement, delivered periodically to a portion of BUILDER's subscribers. In form and format, it was an elegant answer to a strategic dilemma BUILDER recognized it would have to face sooner or later. The challenge was how to provide relevant reporting for a small, but increasingly important, minority of readers--responsible for managing large scale organizations--knowing those stories held little interest to the majority of BUILDER's readers.

The problem was not unlike what some builders struggle with attempting to satisfy luxury buyers when the core business remains rooted in delivering first-time move-up product. For BUILDER magazine, BIG BUILDER provided the means to develop and deliver stories uniquely about and for big builders.

Over the years that followed, there were a variety of reasons why it made sense to continue having BIG BUILDER accompany BUILDER, eventually every month. But as demand for the magazine--and its size and frequency--grew, two things became increasingly clear: One, the necessity for readers to subscribe to BUILDER in order to receive BIG BUILDER was creating havoc in our circulation department, not to mention mounting customer service problems. And two, with a record number of editorial and ad pages projected to fill our 15 scheduled issues in 2004, it was clearly time to let BIG BUILDER stand on its own. And so we have.

Katherine Lambert What all this means for readers: Starting with this issue, BIG BUILDER will be arriving independently instead of in a plastic bag with BUILDER. It also means there should be far less hassle for qualified builders to subscribe to BIG BUILDER. In fact, to make it even easier for prospective subscribers, we've set up a new subscriber Web site: Just type in on your Internet browser. Finally, while this is officially Volume 1, Issue 1 as far as the U.S. Postal Service is concerned, it means that readers can expect even more meaningful coverage about the business of running high-volume home building companies.

Expanding Network

Another initiative--and a source of pride for this magazine--was the successful launch of a new industry conference. Approximately 300 operating, sales, marketing, information technology, and financial executives from America's biggest home building firms turned out in Las Vegas in November for this new high-powered educational and networking event (see "Innovation Exchange"). The conference featured more than 60 home building industry veterans as speakers and an innovative new "MarketSpace" where leading suppliers could discuss programs uniquely geared for big builders.

The response and feedback have been gratifying. And we expect the BIG BUILDER '04 conference, scheduled again in Las Vegas next Nov. 9-11, to be even bigger and better.

Brand Building

Behind these initiatives is one other, more subtle, but farther reaching effort to leverage the creative strengths of the company that publishes BUILDER and BIG BUILDER: Hanley Wood, LLC. That effort is reflected by our new corporate logo that also debuts on the cover of this issue. It's the visible part of a new branding and positioning initiative that sums up what we at Hanley Wood try to offer our readers and our advertisers all year long. And that is "Ideas to build on." Here's to kicking off the new year.

Wyatt Kash