At the age of 8, Pam Keller moved with her parents from Florida to Colorado to lay roots, so to speak. Keller’s parents were florists, and it was from them she says she inherited her “business drive.” Keller entered the residential real estate industry before her 20th birthday, having attended UCCS for a year.
“I was ready to get out in the real world and work,” she said.
Today Keller is the CEO of Keller Homes, a homebuilding company she runs with her husband, Dave. The company employs 35 locally and works with about 350 subcontractors in the region.
The company has certainly grown over its three and half decades in business, but Keller said there are some business lessons she’s learned that never go out of style: Ask questions, build a team that puts integrity above all else, and remember that creating community is more than constructing a home.
What should we know about Keller Homes?
We’ve been in business for 35 years. The company was incorporated in 1983 and we’ve built to the north, south, east and west. The core of our business since the early ‘90s has been up north with about 50 percent of our work being in Briargate, Pine Creek and Corderra.
We also don’t do entry level homes. We build for move-up buyers — in the $400,000 to $800,000 range. We like to be in locations that fit our product and demand is high — places people want to live.
Talk about your company’s growth.
We’re not trying to be the biggest company. We want to be a good company with good products and good locations.
We’ve built about 4,000 homes in 35 years. We’re a production builder so we have plans to select from. We also have one of the first design studios in the United States. We started that in about 1994 and we’re about to do a sixth iteration. It really allows people to make their house their house. … The costs on some high-end products over the years in custom homes has come down. That’s good for folk because no two houses look alike anymore.
What are your greatest challenges?
Government regulation is one for sure. There’s lots of time and energy spent on documenting and complying. But that’s always been the case. Another is lack of land and resources. The downturn in 2008 lasted a long time here. We rolled up the streets and have not overbuilt since the market turned. Now we’re playing catch up. People looking to live here can’t find what they’re looking for because there’s not enough supply to choose from.
Some say the interest rate’s a problem but I’m not seeing that. We’ve seen more activity and sales in November and December than we’ve ever seen versus goal during the same time. That’s because Colorado Springs has a lot happening. In more than 30 years here, I’ve seen more happening now. There are a lot of positives at this point that are causing people to move here.
How would you explain your leadership style?
I listen to everybody. I have a lot of respect for my sales staff, my team, from the lowest position to the highest. They all have something to offer or can evaluate or solve a problem or plan a new development. Everybody has something to share. I feel like if I make a bad decision it’s because I didn’t ask enough questions.
I also try to be very consistent. Sometimes that’s hard. It’s easier to not be consistent.
I try to set great expectations and I also don’t hesitate in explaining why a decision was made. If you don’t understand, we’ll explain it.
I’m very open with everyone on staff. We’re fair and have a thing: ‘Patience, endurance and friendly tenacity is what it takes.’
Patience is the hardest one.
Has your leadership style evolved?
It’s definitely evolved through mentors. I have so many people who have taught me over my career and invested in me. Never stop learning — learning, reading, growing. If you don’t have mentors, seek them out. … Integrity is [a value] at the top of my list and everybody else’s here. If you’re not going to be tenacious and want to get the job done well you’ll have a hard time working around here because everyone else demands it. And I think delivering on your promises is important too.
What are you proudest of?
We build homes for families. That’s probably the most important thing to me. Building a community sounds cliché but it’s important to me that someone is living in what we’ve built and their lives are happening in there. We drive across the Springs and see houses we’ve built and remember customers.
We love our group. We like the size of the company. But we’re really proud of the communities we’ve built. It takes a group to do it well. You can’t do it alone and its important for any company to realize that.
What are your plans for the future?
We’ll always continue to look for opportunities that meet company goals. We don’t have to be the biggest but we’re looking forward to being able to support more volume than we have in the past. It’s a nice economy right now. You read about constraints on land and you can only do so much, we will build in the right places that fit Keller Homes and, hopefully, the Springs will continue to attract growth. But I think the future looks good.
Join the Colorado Springs Business Journal, iHeartRadio, UCCS and Amnet for the 2019 COS CEO Leadership Lessons with Pam Keller, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Sept. 19, at The Warehouse, 25 W. Cimarron St. A portion of the proceeds go to the 2019 Give! Campaign. Sponsors also include the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC and Stockman Kast Ryan + Co.