Leadership Q&A

Leadership Q&A with Richard J. Dugas, Jr., Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of PulteGroup, Inc., the nation’s most geographically and product-diverse homebuilder with operations in 29 states.

What lessons did you learn as an individual contributor that you still try to apply today? 

  • Ask questions because I believe curiosity equals learning.
  • Always remember to set an example – people notice, no matter what your level.

What is the best and the worst business or leadership advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve received:

  • Always hire people smarter than yourself.
  • Don’t care who gets the credit.

The worst advice I’ve ever received:

  • It’s all about the money and what chips you have on the table when you leave a company. (I couldn’t disagree more.)

Which leader (outside of your own organization) would you choose to be stranded with on a deserted island with and why?

I would pick Abraham Lincoln for several reasons. I’d love to hear how he handled severe adversity and how he was able to do the right thing in the face of incredible opposition – especially with his work to help end slavery. From what I’ve read, and in the way he was portrayed in the movie Lincoln, he had such great character, always took the high moral ground and had an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing. And he was a master at telling stories to illuminate his points.

If you had to it all over again (your career), what’s one thing you would do differently?

I wish that as a new CEO, I would have questioned why we were successful versus simply assuming that I knew. As Bill Gates has said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” As a new CEO, I knew our company was wildly successful, but I didn’t dig further to truly understand why.

What business failure do you cherish most?

Once of my responsibilities as a new division president, running one of our local markets, was to help prepare a report (100+ pages) to receive national approval to buy property – whether it was a $2 million deal or $50 million. The report included all types of information on that piece of land, from financial data to marketing information. Along with each report was a “President’s Memo” – a three- to four-page document outlining why this transaction was good for the organization.

In the home building business, buying land is a big deal. It can be risky, so it’s really important that the 100-page report and the President’s Memo are accurate and done properly.

One afternoon, while I was across town at a meeting, I got an urgent call from my boss. He didn’t specify the problem, but I had to rush back to the office, fighting two hours of traffic. When we met, he gave me an earful for having a minor typo in my President’s Memo. He spoke about the importance of the first impression and how even one typo could make the national team question the content in the rest of the report – had we crunched the numbers accurately? Reviewed all comparable properties?  In short, had we really done our homework on this land transaction?

Initially, I thought he was overreacting – after all, it was over one small typo in the context of a large report. But then I realized he was right. You just can’t overlook the importance of a first impression. To this day, I still put great importance on making the best first impression possible and I always sweat the details.

Richard J. Dugas, Jr., is Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of PulteGroup, Inc., the nation’s most geographically and product-diverse homebuilder with operations in 29 states.

Since July 2003, he has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of PulteGroup, having been named to the position at the age of 38 – at the time, the youngest CEO of any Fortune 500 company. In August 2009, Dugas was named Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer following PulteGroup’s successful merger with Centex Corporation, creating America’s largest home building company. The expanded company serves all major customer segments through its family of brands that includes Pulte Homes, Centex, and Del Webb. Prior to mid-2003, he was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the company.

Since 1994, Dugas has served in several management positions at PulteGroup. Prior to becoming COO in May 2002, he was Coastal Region President with responsibility for the Company’s Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee operations. In 2001, the Coastal Region was PulteGroup’s largest with approximately 3,400 closings and $650 million in revenues.

Dugas also served as City President and Market Manager for PulteGroup’s Atlanta Division and, earlier, as Process Improvement Vice President. In this role, he was responsible for driving system-wide process upgrades via two major national initiatives.

Prior to joining PulteGroup, Dugas worked for PepsiCo in process improvement and plant operational efficiency, and at Exxon Company USA in marketing, retail, and customer service functions.

Dugas is a graduate of Louisiana State University and in 2007 was inducted into the LSU Alumni Association Hall of Distinction. He currently serves as Chairman of Leading Builders of America, an association of the country’s largest home building companies focused on preserving home affordability for American families. In January 2014, Dugas was named to the Board of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.