BEHIND YOUR BACK: A Buyer’s (Unfiltered) Perspective

New column with tell-it-like-it-is insights from the viewpoint of a major homebuilder’s former buyer.


Working in the Purchasing Department at a national homebuilder is like working for the IRS. Overnight, you become very interesting to people because you control their money.

It was in late 2007 when I transitioned from project manager to purchasing manager at Pulte Homes, one of the nation’s largest builders. I was responsible for buying a handful of homebuilding labor and materials across the Midwest.

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Among them: insulation, interior millwork, interior and exterior doors, trim carpentry, hardware, cabinetry, stairs and railings. Even before I got settled in my new home—the cube farm at Pulte Homes’ suburban Chicago headquarters— the phone started ringing.

A millwork guy from Michigan. Drywall gal from Minnesota. Ivy Leaguer from Illinois. Amish from Indiana. For some of these callers, I was an opportunity. A fresh start—a way to get a foot in the door.

For others, I was a threat. A frustrating change. A way to lose existing business.

Although the role was in purchasing, this was a crash course in sales. In the ensuing years, I worked with dozens of subcontractors, suppliers, and manufacturers of all sizes. I learned a great deal about products, pricing and presentations, but it always came back to the people.

The variety of people made the work fascinating; it made my job fun. Okay… the good ones did.

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