College buddies Gregg Nelson and Michael Maples formed Trumark Cos. in 1988 to focus on value-add residential and mixed-use entitlements. Since then, Trumark has successfully entitled over 5,000 residential lots and committed over $1.5 billion in investments. By 2008, Trumark Homes was building communities throughout California and Northern Colorado. The company has been instrumental in the development of more than 4,000 homes.

Zonda principal Mollie Carmichael chats with Maples and Nelson in the latest episode of the Inspirational Leadership with the Best in Home Building podcast. Here are some excerpts from Maples:

On lessons learned in divinity school
“It helped us understand that our value was never going to be in our self-worth, which was important because we started the business and we were really smart for like 18 months, and then we went broke. And I realized that didn't measure who we were. Just like when things go well, [that] doesn't measure who you are, and it gave us a real sense of you still need to have an impact on people you come into contact with every day. I think it affects our business culture around the office, that people have human dignity, and it matters who they are. They deserve to be respected, whether it's an investor that's coming in or someone who's delivering and dropping off a package.”

On what sets Trumark apart in the industry
“Our mission statement is to enhance the lives of people by creating inspiring living environments to inspire. So, our idea, whether it's a commercial development, a master plan community, or a house, is how do you do it in a way that inspires people and catches their imagination, but also enhances the way they live. And I think our team is very thoughtful about that. They know how they're programming a house for the needs of a family. And I think that makes a difference.”

On forging a way forward through challenges
“We went broke, you know, after the first couple years, and there's nothing quite like coming home from a soccer game when your house has got a notice on the front door, and your 5-year-old says, “What's that?,” and you realize that's the foreclosure notice, that you're in the process.”

“We didn’t take the traditional path. We were very undercapitalized. You know, we were just out there trying to do it. … But you know, we have great investor partners that came out of that, because we operated with integrity during that, and it made a big difference. But coming out of that we had to take risks.”

Click to hear from the leaders in the last five podcast episodes, which feature Doug Yearley, chairman and CEO of Toll Brothers; Rick Severance, president of Wellen Park, Mattamy Homes; Shravan Parsi, CEO of American Ventures; Spencer Rascoff, former CEO and co-founder of Zillow; and Joan Webb, New Home Co.'s former chief marketing officer.