Leadership

The Power Of The Pulte Name And A Crusader Sustaining It

The name Bill Pulte lives — but not just as a memory or a legacy. One of the PulteGroup founder's 27 grandchildren bearing his given and family name is building on his grandfather's philanthropic foundation. Here's what that means to flourishing homebuilders in 2030.

Leadership

The Power Of The Pulte Name And A Crusader Sustaining It

The name Bill Pulte lives — but not just as a memory or a legacy. One of the PulteGroup founder's 27 grandchildren bearing his given and family name is building on his grandfather's philanthropic foundation. Here's what that means to flourishing homebuilders in 2030.

December 14th, 2021
The Power Of The Pulte Name And A Crusader Sustaining It
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Left: Bill Pulte, late-founder of Pulte Homes
Right: Bill Pulte, Principal/CEO of Pulte Capital

One unforgivingly hot Detroit day in the summer of 1950, as he laid down asphalt shingles on the roof of a newly framed home, an 18-year-old fresh out of De LaSalle High School looked down at a Cadillac and its driver in the street below. A glass of iced tea, vapor molecules glimmering in the sharp sunlight, sat on the dashboard. The young fellow's boss looked out at the job from the driver's seat.

It dawned on him then. Framing, masonry, roofing, they were all a good enough trade to keep the young man's old clunker of a car filled with gas, but that wasn't enough. He decided as he looked down at his boss in that shiny new Caddy, to do something and make a name for himself.

I thought, ‘I'm smarter than that guy. I'm going to be a builder,'” recalled the late Bill Pulte, when he, Teresa Burney, and I spoke in early 2010.

William J. Pulte did something and made a name for himself. For the human being Bill Pulte, doing, being, and serving essentially meant the same thing. When he passed in March of 2018 at age 85, I wrote:

"I am a builder," he'd tell you. It mattered to him that that's who and what he was. It meant two things. One, being a builder meant being clever, hardworking, and resourceful in every way it takes to give a family a direct and accessible pathway to owning a new home.
And two, it meant educating, training, and carrying that same message to dozens, to hundreds, ultimately, to thousands of men and women who'd work for and with William J. Pulte.

Bill Pulte considered his calling to be a gift, not just to enter a career but to stand for something. His vocation, his livelihood ... it all may have started with that glass of iced tea on the dashboard, but what it became was a great deal more than his own ability to flourish.

You do it. You are it. You love it. That's who you are, and it defines and binds you in a way that can barely be explained to the life of a man and woman who take the keys to a new home, to a community of homes that you can drive through 50 years later and feel a swell of pride and accountability, and importantly, to everyone who calls him or herself a builder.

Transformation Trend No. 2: Stakeholders

Assertion: 100% of public homebuilding enterprises, and most privately capitalized firms will thrive in business only via heroic commitment to being trusted platforms serving customers, shareholders, partners, team members, and their respective communities.

Suffice to say, few names in any business community mean what the Bill Pulte name means in homebuilding. Pulte doesn't only say "big, successful homebuilding enterprise," but rather it stands for people earning their way to mobility, to achievement, to homeownership, to prosperity – both in livelihoods as builders and in livelihoods as working households everywhere.

Among highly compensated consultancies, and high profile capital investment firms, and academic circles, much of what Bill Pulte coined in his approach to business success and charitable effort might fall under the rubric of what now passes for "social impact" or "social sustainability." For him, it was common sense business. Do right by others, and they'll do right by you.

And the thing is, Bill Pulte does not live in memory only. He's very much alive in every way, in the flesh, and in the person of Bill Pulte, the grandson – and one of 25 grandchildren – of the young man who had his epiphany on the rooftop of a newly-framed house. The two Bill Pultes started Pulte Capital in 2011, and they co-founded the Blight Authority, a 501c3 non-profit focused on cleaning up blight from urban areas, that year. Their career journeys re-merged in 2016, as the two successfully pushed PulteGroup Inc. for a change in management, after which younger Bill served on the PulteGroup board for four years.

Pulte, principal and founder of Pulte Capital and serial philanthropist with more than three million Twitter followers and 1.6 million on Instagram, doesn't only share the DNA but the self-same equivalency of calling, identity, and service.

The charitable work of Bill Pulte and the homebuilding innovation and customer focus, and the extensive legacy of the Pulte name converge in what I call the Pulte-verse," young Bill Pulte told me. "This, for me began when Bill and I began work together in 2011, when we set up Pulte Capital, and it included the importance of giving as Bill had anonymously developed the Angel Fund to help provide shelter and electricity and food for those who needed a hand."

As the story goes, Bill Pulte – founder of PulteGroup, the nation's No. 3-ranked homebuilding enterprise – kept most of his philanthropic work off the radar, but in keeping with his sense that he'd made a name for himself that now very much stood for something bigger, he strayed at the end from anonymity for a purpose:

Shortly before my grandfather William Pulte died, he decided to publicly name this Pulte Family Building. He’d given privately his whole life. But, he told me he Named it Publicly to Inspire Others to Give. This inspired me. And THAT has inspired Tens of Thousands to GIVE! RIP,” wrote Bill Pulte in a tweet on August 25, 2019. The tweet included a picture of the Pulte Family Life Center, an addition to St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Naples, Florida.

These days, in addition to actively running Pulte Capital, a firm whose investment portfolio focus is on capital structure opportunity and deals in the homebuilding, building products, and residential development space, Bill Pulte's work, his identity, and his service carries the name forward, from the present into the future.

Advanced technology – so important a fundamental driver in how the earlier Bill Pulte served working-household families bridge to the American Dream of homeownership – gets a refresh and an update for the new Pulte generation.

Some of the beneficiaries of Pulte's crowd-sourced charity have included injured veterans, a family living in a car, a colon cancer patient who faced eviction, teachers in need of classroom supplies and the relatives of 9-year-old Emma Hernandez, who was killed Aug. 19 in a dog mauling while riding her bike on Detroit's west side.
Pulte calls himself the "Inventor of Twitter Philanthropy" in his Twitter bio and presents the outward manner in real life of a man two decades older.
He said he has a team of more than 10 people who help field and vet thousands of charity requests, many of them for medical-related expenses.
Some of those individuals tried to raise money on their own through online GoFundMe crowd-funding campaigns, but made little progress until Pulte gave a shout-out Tweet urging his followers to help out. Public contributions to the GoFundMe page for 9-year-old Emma Hernandez' funeral expenses soared after Pulte publicized it, and the girl's family ultimately raised $64,435 from 2,200 donors, far surpassing the original $25,000 goal.

Having evolved his Blight Authority model from earlier days in Detroit into more recent initiatives in Pontiac, MI, and – with Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey – in St. Louis, Pulte pushes not only in his own humanitarian ventures, but prods and encourages the company namesake PulteGroup in its extensive charitable commitments, like its Built To Honor program for homecoming military servicemen and women.

To sustain and, he hopes, grow the impact of his philanthropy, Bill Pulte has been working with a team of business executives on developing the Teamgiving.com crowdsourced platform to bring together both funding and those in need, leveraging the vast network of connections he established through his Twitter and Instagram account development.

Having over 800,000 teammates on board, participants in Twitter Philanthropy come together through micro-donations to help those in need by spreading kindness, love, and small monetary donations. Within three months, Mr. and Mrs. Pulte have given away over $100,000 dollars of their personal money and teammates have added another $200,000 to help fund things such as cars for veterans, school supplies for teachers, medical assistance for terminal patients, dental work, housing needs, and day to day bills. Team Giving looks to build on this movement to continue to bring people together to help fellow mankind in need.

One of the motivations 18-year-old Bill Pulte – founder of the homebuilding empire that was to carry on not just his name but what he stood for – may have unconsciously found driving him was the desire, the need, the resolve to disrupt the ways things had always been done if it meant he could serve more customers, more team members, and more stakeholders.

That unrelenting motive continues to course through the real-live in-the-flesh version of one of his 27 grandchildren – the one who's name happens to be Bill Pulte.

Being a disruptor is a good thing when it means we can get the company that goes by our family name to be the best it can be," says Bill Pulte. "And it's a good thing when we can use the Pulte name to inspire others, many many others, to give what they can to help ones who need that hand up."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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