President and chief executive officer, Lennar Corporation
Education: Harvard University, BS, 1979; University of Miami, JD, 1982.
Family: Son of Leonard (founder, Lennar Corporation) and Susan Miller; married Vicki; children: four.
Career: Lennar Corporation, 1982–1992, officer; 1992–1997, vice president; 1997–, president and chief executive officer; LNR Property Corporation, 1997–, chairman of the board.
Awards: America's Most Powerful People, Forbes , 2000.
Address: Lennar Corporation, 700 Northwest 107th Avenue, Miami, Florida 33172; http://lennar.com.
■ Stuart Miller served as president, CEO, and director of Lennar Corporation, a homebuilder and provider of financial services. In 1997 under Miller's leadership Lennar spun off the commercial real estate and management operations into LNR Property Corporation, where Miller served as chairman of the board. During his tenure at Lennar Corporation, Miller led the company through a series of acquisitions that resulted in rapid growth and profitability. As of 2004 Lennar had built more than 500,000 houses, and annual revenues exceeded $6 billion. Coworkers and analysts described Miller as an innovative and driven leader who also was known for his imaginative and unconventional motivational style.
Lennar Corporation had always been part of Stuart Miller's life. As the son of Lennar's cofounder, Leonard Miller, the younger Miller grew up in 1960s Miami watching his father's business grow. Miller did not take his position as the boss's son lightly. He had inherited his father's hard-working and entrepreneurial nature and desired to make his own way and earn his own money as soon as he was able. At the age of 11 Miller began mowing the lawns of Lennar's model houses. By his teens Miller was working odd jobs around Lennar's construction sites to save money for a car.
Miller left Florida for Harvard University. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Miller attended the University of Miami Law School, being graduated in 1982. Having achieved his educational goals, Miller returned to the company he had grown up with. He was intent on demonstrating his leadership skills, helping grow the family business, and continuing his educational development in the realm of business.
Miller helped grow Lennar into one of the largest house builders in the United States. A key to the company's success was its ability to branch out into all aspects of construction services. The company's operations included house construction and sales, land development, mortgage financing, title insurance, closing services, insurance agency services, high-speed Internet access, cable television, and alarm installation and monitoring services. Miller understood that by diversifying Lennar's operations, he could tap into all the needs of house buyers and provide them with a complete service platform.
Miller understood that intelligent and well-researched land acquisitions were essential to the company's success. By closely following the markets across the country, Lennar was able to acquire prime property in depressed markets poised for a comeback. For example, in the late 1990s the San Francisco Bay area housing market crashed. In response Lennar bought property in the area at a reduced price, believing that the market would eventually come back. It did, and Lennar prospered. "We respond to opportunities," Miller said in an interview with Marilyn Alva of Investor's Business Daily . "We recognize that market trends do change" (June 18, 2003).
Under Miller's leadership Lennar developed a dual-faceted marketing program, which allowed buyers to choose between custom and standard options packages. The custom packages, called the "Design Studio," worked much as did other custom builder programs by allowing customers to choose finish options at one of Lennar's design studios. With its standard options package, the "Everything's Included" program, Lennar was able to keep its costs and prices below those of competitors by building relatively simple houses and including all the options buyers wanted in the base price. For the program to be successful, Miller realized that Lennar had to do its homework. The company performed extensive consumer research and conducted customer surveys to identify the upgrades buyers wanted most. "Because we simplify our processes and keep our overhead low, we're able to keep our costs lower—and use that reduction as the mechanism to provide some of the desired upgrades in the base price," Miller said in an interview with Bill Lurz of Professional Builder .
In another move that demonstrated Miller's foresight to adapt to the changing face and needs of American house buyers, Lennar began building multifamily dwellings in urban areas. Although primarily a purveyor of single-family houses, management saw shrinking land supplies in areas such as metropolitan Miami and responded to the changing needs of the aging baby boomer generation. In certain areas where baby boomers were relocating, Miller guided Lennar to shift away from subdivisions to build more condominiums, thus satisfying an important demographic group while responding to land shortages. Many experts agreed that the versatility and adapt ability Miller commanded allowed Lennar to ride the waves of volatility in the housing market. "Lennar's broad swath across all the housing market opportunities gives them an ability to manage through all cycles," one business analyst told Alva (June 18, 2003).
Under Miller's leadership Lennar earned a reputation for rapidly acquiring small house-building companies and success fully turning those acquisitions into viable branches of Lennar. This string of acquisitions enabled Lennar to expand rapidly in the 1990s and 2000s. Lennar acquired two homebuilders in Texas in 1995 and two in California in 1996. In 1998 Lennar acquired the North American Title Company, a purveyor of title and escrow services in Arizona, California, and Colorado. In 2000 Lennar gained significant growth nationally with the acquisition of U.S. Home Corporation. With this merger Lennar doubled in size. In 2001 Lennar acquired nine homebuilders.
While business acquisitions were not uncommon among large companies, the ability to carry out so many acquisitions successfully took forethought and insight. Miller said that his process of determining whether an acquisition would work was to analyze whether the acquisition would make Lennar a better company. Miller conducted extensive financial, cultural, and marketing research.
Throughout his tenure managing Lennar Corporation, Miller focused on making every employee feel accountable and responsible for the growth and success of the corporation. At the same time he made extensive efforts to foster an atmosphere of creativity and fun in and around the office. Miller believed that empowered and happy employees were vital to the success of the company.
Early in his career with Lennar, Miller attended a seminar at the Disney Institute, a management training program run by Walt Disney Company. He returned to Lennar impressed by Disney's philosophy that motivated employees to be friendly regardless of their positions within the company. As a reflection of this philosophy Lennar began a tradition of wearing name tags that bore only first names and no job titles. In a company that was growing so rapidly that many employees did not know all of their coworkers by name, these name tags fostered an intimate and relaxed environment.
For many employees Miller's management style gave everyday business an unexpected twist at Lennar's Miami headquarters. On Fridays, before regularly scheduled meetings, Miller played music and danced with employees. He did not assign parking for executives and had no reserved space himself. Miller also instituted the production of lighthearted holiday videos that were distributed and shown to all Lennar employees to laud their accomplishments and encourage further success in the upcoming year. Miller mixed this creativity with a disciplined approach to management. All employees played a part in Lennar's commitment to maximizing return on net assets. Each of Lennar's 50 divisions sent Miller a monthly, one-page report showing whether it was meeting its financial goals.
Of the many influences in his life, Miller found the writings of children's author Dr. Seuss especially relevant and applicable to his business philosophy. Miller was known to use Seuss's writings during business meetings and training sessions to boost the confidence of employees or illustrate an important lesson. For example, to break tension in a meeting with U.S. Home Corporation managers during the 2000 acquisition, Miller sat on the conference room floor and gave a reading from Dr. Seuss's classic book, Oh, the Places You'll Go! . According to an article by Evan Perez in the Wall Street Journal , Miller and other executives wrote their own nursery rhymes in the style of Dr. Seuss. "Where's the Wow?" taught that to stand out from a crowd requires ambition that comes only from within. "Where's the How?" told of using research, practice, and simplicity to succeed. The books were illustrated by the company's advertising firm and published in hardcover for internal use.
Miller was responsible for starting the Lennar tradition of using a children's fable to demonstrate the company's values. Each new employee received a card imprinted with "Scratchings from the Little Red Hen," a story adapted from a popular children's tale. Lennar's version told of a little red hen digging for worms during a drought while an arrogant rooster waited in vain for worms to come to him. The hen was able to eat and prosper because of her work ethic, whereas the rooster's lack of initiative left him weak and hungry. "It's a very simple story," Miller told Perez. "It speaks about challenges and how you deal with them" (July 27, 2001). The little red hen story became a rite of passage of sorts for Lennar employees. New employees were encouraged to recite and memorize this tale of an underdog. The fable also illustrated the creativity and drive Miller brought to Lennar in his own tale of challenges and success at the helm of one of the largest house building corporations in the United States.
See also entry on Lennar Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories .
Alva, Marilyn, "Builder's Opportunism Hits Nail on the Head," Investor's Business Daily , June 18, 2003.
Cook, Lynn, "Lennar Corp: Raise the High Roof Beam," Forbes , January 8, 2001, pp. 122–123.
Fields, Gregg, "Changing with Times Keeps Lennar a Leader," Miami Herald , June 9, 2003.
Lurz, Bill, "One on One: Lennar's Team," Professional Builder , July 1999, pp. 77–78.
Perez, Evan, "Happy Homemaker: Lennar Corp. Thrives as Residential Builder," Wall Street Journal , July 27, 2001.