“Art Rutenberg wants to know if you ever return your telephone calls?”
It was 1991, and the question came from Bill Kendall, then-EVP at Arthur Rutenberg Corporation and my direct report. The question stung, because it was a sad truth. Since then, I have had a policy of returning every telephone call (and replying to every e-mail message) within 24 hours. Just one of the many lessons I learned from this man.
Over the years, Art and I periodically met and spoke, exchanging our thoughts and ideas, discussing different opportunities, different perspectives.
He was always the same.
A few years ago, I sent him the draft on an Escape from Averageness® post that mentioned Arthur Rutenberg Homes, and I asked him if that was his recollection, as well. As usual, he responded within a day. His reply: “Fletch, You can say anything you want about us so long as it is true. You have a better memory about these things than I do, so I’ll trust yours. Best, Art”.
In the Preface of both editions of The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production©, I wrote this about Art Rutenberg:
“There are few people in the homebuilding industry from whom I have learned more than my former boss, Art Rutenberg, the always-accessible (he taught me that, too) chairman of Arthur Rutenberg Homes, Inc.
“I hope The Pipeline repays some of that debt, because ARH is a picture of consistency, discipline, and elegant systems integration on everything related to how much a franchisee makes on each home – and on absolutely nothing related to how many homes that franchisee can produce with a planned, finite, and controlled amount of production capacity.
“Art and I agree that we live our lives on opposite sides of the DuPont identity; he is all about margin, and I am all about velocity. The reality is, a homebuilding company needs both.
“He tells me my job is easy; I ask him, if what I do is so easy, why isn’t he any good at it.
“I hope Art enjoys reading The Pipeline.”
I think Joanne Burton said it well: “Art was a special guy, and will be missed by many.”
Art Rutenberg, founder of Arthur Rutenberg Homes, died March 31, 2017.