Big Builder took some time out of its annual conference?themed "Building a Better Tomorrow" for 2008?to honor those in the home building industry who have found success during a volatile year.

Dan Gorski, Vice President of Home Building Services, Design Studio, and Purchasing, Veridian Homes; 2008 APEX Award winner

Jim Ryan, founder of Ryland Homes, took top honors, receiving Big Builder's Leadership Legend award. Five other industry leaders were named APEX Award winners at Big Builder '08 on Nov. 4:

  • David Carlins, president of Magellan Development
  • Jeffrey Peterson, chairman, president, and CEO of Standard Pacific Homes
  • Emilie Haddad, California regional president of Lennar Corp.
  • Dan Gorski, vice president of home building services, design studio, and purchasing at Veridian Homes
  • Cathy Smith, CFO of Centex Corp.
  • Jeffrey Peterson, Chairman, President, and CEO, Standard Pacific Corp.; 2008 APEX Award winner

    Big Builder editorial director John McManus told the crowd, "These heroes have navigated the financial markets while doing more with less."

    Carlins commanded an 81-tower in Chicago and worked a financial deal that brought three lenders in on the project. Gorski earned the award for integrating a more efficient team and brought in accuracy ratings of plus or minus 1%. Smith also pushed for improved efficiency in dealings that allowed her to unload non-core assets. Haddad, based in one of the hardest hit markets, conducted a bulk sale of 11,000 lots to Morgan Stanley. And Peterson, was honored for leading Standard Pacific in its recapitalization with MatlinPatterson in just two months--a $535 million equity commitment.

    As honorees accepted their awards, the highlight of the ceremony was Jim Ryan, who humbly accepted his award and spoke of companies needing to get back to conservative ways?giving nearly all the credit of his success to his mother.

    Of his mother, who was widowed while he was a young child, Ryan said, "This scared woman set the way we do business. We managed our resources. We don't take chances. We had optioned lots and signed mortgage commitments with a down payment before we would break ground."

    Jim Ryan, Founder, Ryland Homes; Big Builder's 2008 Leadership Legend Award winner

    While conservatism is a principle upon which Ryan and his brother Ed built the company, knowing the employees on a personal level was something he took to heart. As Ryan explained, "If you work for me, I want to know everything about you, your family."

    Specifying how indepth he would go, Ryan told the crowd, "I would have a three-hour interview [for an applicant] to be a salesman. Just a salesman, you may ask, but who meets our customers?"

    Ryan also imparted the wisdom of getting to know employees by asking about their family, noting his belief that individuals take after their parental figure of the opposing gender. "If you're interviewing a guy, find out about his mother on a deep level. If a gal, find out about her father," he said.

    He also told the crowd to avoid yesmen and respect those who say no. "The 'no's make your 'yes's valuable."

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