Since Sheryl Palmer became CEO and president of newly-merged Taylor Morrison, she has been living life at a cruising speed of 300 miles per hour, with a lot of landings and takeoffs in between. Palmer, formerly with Morrison Homes, moved into the cockpit of British home builder Taylor Wimpey's North American operations last August, replacing John Landrum who had spent about one month in the position after the companies merged. Since that time, the integration of the former operations has kept the home building veteran jetting between several divisions spanning the southern half of the United States, as well as its Monarch home building operations in Canada, and across the pond to Great Britain. With more than two decades of experience working for Del Webb, Blackhawk Development, Pulte, and Morrison, Palmer is used to being busy. But she managed to carve out time to speak with associate editor Teresa Burney in January.
SP: I work out of here. Obviously I travel the country. Actually I travel North America because we also have a Canadian operation.
BB: That's right. The Monarch brand.
SP: So I'm a little bit of everywhere.
BB: It seems like Pulte alumnae are everywhere these days. It's like you should have a reunion or something.
SP: It's kind of wild.
BB: How is the merger going?
SP: It's a process. There is no doubt about that and it could be a long one and I've been through a couple. Actually, I can say today I'm really pleased. I don't know if I could have given you an upbeat progress report 120 days ago because there was so much to do. I started in August. I look back, as you kind of do during the holiday season and it's so easy to beat yourself up. But if you look at all we have accomplished it's pretty significant. It's been six months. And then we went through a management change.
BB: At some point I need to talk to you about this because I was in this room talking to John Landrum one June day and we ran a cover story. I'm surprised you even want to talk to me.
SP: There was obviously no way to project. It was very unfortunate timing. But when you are in that process of making those kinds of big decisions you can't really let it out before you know what the decisions are.
BB: Everything was moving a breakneck speed.
SP: It was quick.
BB: And an international merger.
SP: That actually, I think, expedited it because acquisitions and mergers in the U.K. are a little bit different than they are in the U.S. It did move very quickly and we had no sooner gone into the merger, or actually closed the merger and then, I guess 30 days later I had the opportunity with this role. Through the integration, two big companies. And two different companies, all with the same desire at the end of the day to do the same things with the customers. But the approach. One was really more of a home builder and one was really more of a developer. But pockets of the operations had the skills of both but there was definitely a higher production skill set maybe in one company and more sophisticated in land development and planning with the other.
BB: And different divisions with different skills.
SP: And different divisions with different skills. And different parts of the business, and different consumer targets.
BB: Let me try to remember this. Now, Morrison was more of the developer, right or was it the other way around.
SP: It was the other way around. If you think of Taylor Woodrow and all the large communities. And if you think about Morrison in many markets they were really production builder. Not across all markets, not a pretty defined model. And Taylor Woodrow they were really a developer on the east coast and a home builder but it was a relatively new home building operation. It was more niche, high end operation. So we have crossed over more consumer cohorts now and when you look back and you look at strategically why this was done and you look at the skills in these two organizations, the two legacy organizations and you look at the footprint, really it was quite beautiful.
BB: When I was doing the merger story I was sort of amazed at the compatibility in the sense of you were all in the same states, but you were building to different consumers.
SP: Exactly, so it was a complement.
BB: That way you were able to double your efforts in those particular markets.
BB: Both with British roots.
SP: Which culturally is a different interaction, coming from a very American company, this is a wonderful cultural organization.
BB: So you feel like you got a lot accomplished.
SP: We have. When you look at all the behind the office stuff. The integration with the systems. That can be so overwhelming, and it has been. Our teams have done just a phenomenal job across all disciplines to roll these two together. We have more than half the company on one system now so we have actually merged all the combined organizations from a systems and accounting standpoint. All the merged businesses are now on the same system. You can imagine if you have one operation and you have to work off of two systems. And then as we move through this quarter and the next quarter, we will do all the stand-alone business. So by September of this year we will all be on one system. The name change. We have gone to a simplified legal structure.
BB: A simplified legal structure?
SP: Well, there were so many entities within the two organizations. So we are moving through all of that and creating a reporting structure. Doing all of this at the same time you are dealing with the market.
BB: And then there's that.
SP: So when I reflected back and wrote my New Year's message to the team I was really proud of what everyone's accomplished in 2007 to set the plate for a systems and a process and a cultural, to be Taylor Morrison.
BB: To create this blended entity.
SP: So culturally, both legacy organizations both held on.
BB: You took the best of both. So the nitty gritty, actual physical merging of the IT was one of your bigger earlier tasks.
SP: That's big in any merger acquisition.
BB: Especially since a lot of builders are not that good at that anyway.