The NAHB International Builders' Show: Meet Our Speakers Series

Margaret Whelan is the Founder and CEO of Whelan Advisory, LLC—a company that provides strategic and financial advice to public and private companies globally, with an emphasis on identifying and achieving the lowest cost of capital available.

Margaret is moderating one of this year’s IBS Live discussions, “Offsite Insight: Products & Processes That Will Revolutionize New Construction” on Wednesday, February 20 from 11:30 AM – 12:15 PM.

We caught up with Margaret to get a sneak peek into her program.

NAHB: Without giving too much away, what will people learn at your IBS Education session? 
MARGARET: Our panel will help the audience anticipate what’s around the corner, in terms of new products and processes that are available to increase the time and cost efficiency of the home building process. Consumers have increasingly higher expectations for a quick delivery time, but as an industry we also need to offer more affordable products.

NAHB: What do you enjoy most about IBS?
MARGARET: I love the energy at IBS, and I’m glad it’s back in Vegas! I’ve been attending the show for decades.

NAHB: What’s the most interesting industry trend for 2019?
MARGARET: The trend towards fully-integrated offsite solutions. These processes have been long established and widely used overseas, so we have a uniquely low-risk opportunity to improve the quality and value of the homes we sell. The benefits are wide ranging, from faster construction times and less waste to better quality homes with superior thermal envelopes.

NAHB: How has the industry changed in the past 5 years? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years?
MARGARET: We haven’t had enough change in the last five years, but I believe that 2018 was the inflection point. Capital is flowing into innovative solutions in both the construction technology and property technology worlds. As these two overlap, there is so much opportunity to reduce waste and improve the value and affordability of new homes.

NAHB: What do you see as being the biggest challenge in the industry at the moment?
MARGARET: The lack of diversity in our leadership. Look around and we’re pale, male and stale. We’re a bunch of Baby Boomers talking about Millennials, instead of listening to them. Young people don’t want to work in our industry, and they’re not that excited about the value or design of many new homes. We need to be more open-minded to learning and focused on bridging the generational gap in our workforce so the next generation can benefit from any wisdom we can impart.

NAHB: What’s one piece of practical advice you would give to someone starting out?
MARGARET: I’m an investment banker, which is not a warm and cuddly industry! My best advice is to get over yourself, try harder and keep showing up. We’re all here to contribute, and usually there’s a much bigger opportunity beyond the one you’re helping with now.

NAHB: What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
MARGARET: I love to sail, and navigating wind and currents is challenging and different every time. It keeps me agile, both mentally and physically. Now that my children are older, I’m looking forward to sailing more as they’re eager to crew!

NAHB: What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
MARGARET: I’m traveling to Japan in September to support the Irish Rugby team in the World Cup … er, I mean traveling to Japan to meet with some of my clients, the local builders. 

NAHB: What’s the last book you read?
MARGARET: Atomic Habits by James Clear. He offers some great lessons on the importance of simplicity and repetition in our lives.

NAHB: If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you’d live in for the rest of your life, what are the top three features it would have?
MARGARET: Actually, my husband and I designed and built our dream home ten years ago, and subsequently welcomed four children. I’ve never met a window I didn’t love, circular staircases make me happy, and heated floors are a luxury for me having grown up in Ireland where the long winters are cold and dark. An added bonus is that we live on the ocean; we plan to grow old there.

NAHB: What’s in your fridge right now?
MARGARET: Greek yogurt, berries and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc

NAHB: If you were home on a rainy Sunday afternoon, what movie would you most want to see on television?
MARGARET: I love documentaries about successful people.

NAHB: What product would you seriously stockpile if you found out that they weren’t going to make it anymore? 
MARGARET: An iPhone charger … who took my charger again?

NAHB: Do you have a success quote to share? 
MARGARET: This quote underscores my views on the benefits of diversity in general, but in particular for our industry: “One thing a person cannot do, no matter how rigorous his analysis or heroic his imagination, is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him.” —Thomas Schelling, economist and Nobel laureate

IBS Live is shaking things up by exploring the future of housing and the products, processes and people disrupting home building. Programs will dive into major changes that will shake up the home building industry as we know it. Industry leaders and futurists will discuss the tremendous shifts in design, construction techniques, sales, products and more that are expected to take place over the next five years.

Margaret Whelan