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Sheryl Palmer says it was nice when Builder asked her what she considered her biggest challenge when she was named CEO of Taylor Morrison in 2007. “Most of the time, the first question people ask is, ‘What were you thinking?’”

Palmer has plenty to think about as she plans the direction of the Bradenton, Fla.–based builder created with the merger of Taylor Woodrow and Morrison Homes. “It’s an exciting time,” she says. “It’s very frustrating and difficult with the amount of unknowns, but it’s easy to do [a job] when everything is good, right? This is a little different.” The biggest challenge, she says, has been balancing the realities of a difficult market, the inherent issues that accompany a merger, and her new job. “I just have to keep my head down,” she says, “make the difficult decisions, and keep going forward.”

Q: You’ve said that a core value of the company is that all the divisions are local businesses. How does that play out in day-to-day operations?

A: It goes back to balance. … Some builders have tried to go with one set of specs across the country. But what’s important to people in Atlanta might be very, very different for someone in Houston. To feel that we know [what works best] at the corporate level is not allowing local operators to use what will make them successful at a local level. But you’d be crazy to have 15 divisions and not create synergies and best practices.

Q: You are the only U.S. home builder with a U.K.–based parent company. Does that have advantages?

A: It’s an exciting part of who we are. Having the ability to brainstorm with someone with different ideas is very healthy. The home building business in the U.K., Canada, Spain, and the U.S. is fascinatingly different. ... There are shared resources. My national vice president of sales and marketing is here for two years from the U.K. And there is some enjoyment at the consumer level with having that international name. We’ve sent sales and marketing folks to Canada to promote our communities in the U.S.

Q: Looking ahead, what will be important in a home to Taylor Morrison’s target buyers?

A: We’re seeing more personalization. It depends on the local market. You have this mass inventory of sameness in markets because so many houses were absorbed by investors who just wanted the house to look okay. Now people are saying, ‘I need my house to look different.’ We’re getting to a healthy place of making a home your dream instead of it being a commodity. ... Understanding local divisions’ supply and demand is key.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.