From being the inventor of Twitter philanthropy to helicopter pilot and CEO of Pulte Capital, Bill Pulte is one of the most dynamic guests we’ve ever had on To The Point! Born and raised in Florida, Bill is also grandson to Bill Pulte of Pulte Homes. If you’re living in the United States, chances are you’ve lived in or known someone who has lived in a Pulte Home. That includes our host Chris Yano, whose first house was a Pulte Home! Of course, Bill is so much more than the legacy of his namesake. A pioneer, visionary, and philanthropist in his own right, Bill Pulte joins To The Point to share wisdom, advice, and inspiration for home service businesses and people of all kinds.
Bill’s father, Mark, is also in the home building industry like his grandfather. His father builds giant, high-end estates including a recently sold 130 million-dollar home in Palm Beach. While Bill grew up in the Pulte Homes family, he saw a different future for himself. He attended Northwestern for a degree in Journalism. Still, he knew firsthand from his childhood the power of owning a business and the impact it can have on lives. With perhaps a genetic disposition to entrepreneurship, Bill had a plan for making money in college.
Bill got his helicopter license while in college, and realized that while flying his helicopter around Chicago, he could take great aerial pictures and sell his photography. He and a fraternity brother would go up in the sky, take thousands of pictures, and then sell them around. He was making money hand over fist, and quickly forgetting about his Journalism career. One of the people he sold a picture to was a man who had made a comfortable living in private equity, and he asked Bill if he’d ever thought about the PE world. He explained to Bill how PE worked, and got him an internship.
Bill completed his PE internship, and after college went to work for a PE fund. Around the same time, his grandfather had stepped off of the board and retired as Chairman of Pulte Homes. Bill spoke with his grandfather about starting a PE firm together, and investing in housing-related companies. Shortly after this conversation, in 2011 Pulte Capital was launched, beginning a series of investments in housing and housing-product businesses.
The first business they invested in was a kitchen and bath countertops business. It turns out that manufacturing countertops is a pretty big hassle, but they worked hard on their first asset. His grandfather knew all about products and the consumer side of things. They reinvented the entire product line and tripled the size of the business. In 2013, after the economy had boomed and busted, Bill began to look into HVAC assets. No one else wanted anything to do with the HVAC industry at the time, and he got a good deal on a company in 2013. This was Advanced Air & Heat out of Florida.
What Bill learned quickly was that HVAC companies are much easier to scale than, say, a kitchen and countertops business. Life was a lot easier. Pulte Capital then started Southern HVAC, coming up with the name and getting the management team together. While these businesses have been sold since, they have laid the foundation for Pulte Capital.
At Pulte Capital, Bill and his team know that the fish rots from the head. Businesses are only as good as the leadership. That’s why in partnering with companies, they focus on giving business owners the best of two worlds. This means not only retaining equity in their company, but having the benefit of a minority partner to bring economy to scale, financial sophistication, and ways to become more profitable.
Back in 2013, no one wanted a piece of HVAC businesses. Nowadays, Pulte Capital does a lot of minority ownership deals because the businesses are worth so much. They’ve had to adapt their model slightly to be competitive in an increasingly competitive market. This benefits the business owner! Most PE firms want 100% of the economics. Pulte Capital is willing to take a minority ownership position because they understand that a small piece of a big pie is still plenty to eat. They’re also from the trades, which is something many owners will find incredibly valuable when looking for a PE partner.
What Pulte Capital brings to the table is that they have figured out how to market in order to grow revenue. They also understand how to get costs under control while growing your top line. As Bill says, “revenue is vanity, and profitability is sanity”. A lot of business owners want the vanity; that big revenue number. The key isn’t your top line, but how you manage costs in between those revenue and earnings lines. From equipment savings and piece rates, Pulte Capital brings value to not just your top line, but also in cost containment and making sure your financials controls are in place. They just want to help other people make money!
While Bill isn’t busy running Pulte Capital, you’ve all but certainly seen him on Twitter. With over 3 million followers, Bill is known as the Inventor of Twitter Philanthropy. In fact, he and his team have given away over $2,000,000 dollars!
A few years ago, Bill started wondering if he could use Twitter for something good. Social media is often a place of vitriol, hatred, and anger, and he saw an opportunity to do something better. He decided to give away 10 thousand dollars, and it went viral almost immediately. A week later, President Trump retweeted Bill. It didn’t take long for his account to gain a ton of followers. Since then, Bill has continued to utilize technology to give money to people who are in need. He and his team have created a corner of the internet that is good; a place where people come together for people who are dying of cancer, need insulin pumps, can’t pay rent, and just need help can get the help they need. Of course, we at To The Point love to see people giving back!
Of course, with any success comes haters. People at first thought the whole thing was a scam; that Bill wasn’t actually giving away any money. Over time, however, the noise of the haters has drowned. The Twitterverse has recognized the true nature of Bill’s charitable works, and the people involved has grown exponentially over the last two years.
Bill sees a future of helping thousands and thousands of people every single day. While 501c nonprofits do lots of great work, they can also be bogged down by overhead and politics. He sees a crowdsourced, peer-to-peer model of philanthropy as a more efficient and effective way to send microdonations and help to people in need.
Whether he’s building businesses or changing the way philanthropy is done, Bill Pulte is focused on a better future. From focusing on his family to the businesses he’s partnered with and the millions of people in need across the globe, we can all take a page from Bill in creating a world we’re all happy to live in.