For the sports fans in the audience, the name Nancy Lieberman should ring more than a few bells. A Basketball Hall of Famer and two-time Olympian, she has provided commentary for NBC, ABC, and NBA-TV and contributes to USA Today, the New York Times, and the Dallas Morning News. Currently, she is a full-time ESPN analyst, covering men's and women's college basketball as well as both the NBA and WNBA development leagues. Add to that hosting and coaching duties for summer youth basketball camps in Dallas, Detroit, and Phoenix, and her plate is undeniably full.
And yet, despite her demanding schedule, Lieberman strives to give back to the community and is heavily involved in such charities as the Special Olympics. Her latest effort: serving as an ambassador for Melbourne, Fla.-based Holiday Builders' new-home communities.
"When I was at Rollins College in Water Park, Fla., back in the early '80s, I was the first woman to receive a full scholarship. I was a basketball player; needless to say, Ms. Lieberman was not only a role model for me back in the days, she was one of my idols," explains Holiday CEO Kim Shelpman. "Our career paths took very different directions, but now they've come full circle."
As the two athletes discussed the business of housing, Shelpman quickly realized that Liberman possesses a strong knowledge of market dynamics and demographics. "My dad was a builder, and I grew up understanding building," Liberman says. "He built the house we lived in and houses in the neighborhood. I remember going in at seven or 10 years old and laying floors or putting in sheetrock. This falls into something that's very comfortable to me. I'm comfortable at being successful; I'm comfortable that people trust me. I'm not the flavor of the month, I've been around for a long time. I like to think that I'm a trusted and valuable resource for families in communities around the country, and that means something to me, to be honest."
Together, Shelpman and Lieberman decided upon the mission of educating the public that now is an ideal time to buy. That educational outreach will be comprised of home-owner seminars, Realtor functions, and various community programs currently in the planning stage.
"I was under contract for many years to Ryland Homes, and then when I met Kim and the people from Holiday Builders, it was obvious to me from the very beginning that we had a lot in common [in terms] of what our purpose was," Lieberman says. "Basketball may have been what I do, but my legacy is what I give to people, educating them to make them better at what they do–better than they ever thought they could be."
Partnering with recognizable figures is nothing new to the home building industry–one need only look to KB Home's alliances with Martha Stewart and Disney for an example. But why sports?
"Both Nancy and I are extremely competitive by nature because of our past in athletics, and Holiday's vision of success in housing mirrors athletic competition," says Shelpman. "Every day, we battle sales to see who wins compared to market share. We strive to be at the top of our game–freshening up our products, looking for new areas or opportunities. We need a company that works as a cohesive unit."
The partnership was announced at the builder's annual holiday party, which Lieberman attended. Since then, Shelpman has seen a tremendous outpouring of support from Holiday employees. "It was incredible; I just got a couple more [calls and e-mails] yesterday," she says.
At press time, Liberman had already done a handful of internal speaking appearances for Holiday, as well as a Realtor convention in Dallas on Feb. 27. Topics on the table for possible events in the future include hosting community basket-ball clinics, blood drives, dental check-ups, and flu shots.
"We really want to be able to do something for families in the communities, not just say, 'Yeah, we want your money,'" comments Liberman. "We want to build a community that you can trust, that you can take pride in, that you know is safe."
"We both feel there's a huge confusion out there among the public as far as negative sentiment," Shelpman notes. "Sales and land prices have regressed back to '02 and '03 levels in many of our areas. That, combined with historically low interest rates–we've got the perfect one-two punch there. We've got to educate the public that this is the right time to buy."
Of course, sales figures aren't the sole objective.
"This goes so much beyond building a house," Lieberman notes. "It's about building trust and building a team. – It's a great, feel-good partnership, but at the end of the day we're going to change people's lives and how they view themselves. And we're going to do it the right way, and we're going to do it together."