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Women - A Builder's Secret Weapon

Ask Caleb McCaleb about his success strategies for McCaleb Homes and he's quick to cite putting women in key positions at his Oklahoma City, Okla., company.

“That's the biggest secret is you let the women run the deal,” says McCaleb. “I promise if you look at the most successful builders they have turned it over to women. I get to make the financial decisions.”

A woman designs McCaleb's homes, another plans the interiors. There's a woman sales manager, accounts manager, and office manager as well. Only the construction manager is male, but McCaleb tells him to pretend he's a woman when he's looking at the final fit and finish of a home during a walk through.

For McCaleb it just makes sense. He sells a lot of homes to single women; and when a couple is buying it's usually the woman who seals the deal, so it makes sense to create product that appeals to the female buyer. And his experience has shown him that a woman home designer can make a concrete difference in sales.

“There is no way a guy is going to be designing our houses,” he says. For McCaleb the proof of a woman designer's worth came in the 1990s when Oklahoma was in a recession created by the energy bust. He went looking for a home designer who was drawing homes that people were buying. By word of mouth he heard about Carol Lavender, principal of Lavender Design Group in San Antonio, Texas. He hired her, built some of her plans, and noticed a difference immediately.

“What we found is that women would go into the house and go, ‘Aha, somebody knew what they were doing when they designed that,'” McCaleb said

So in 2005, when Lavender told him that he had to move to building smaller homes, he listened. “She saw the market starting to collapse and she said Country French and Old World [design] is done. Everybody has been doing it for 10 years,” he recalled.

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