Developing a Culture of Engagement

HBA of Greater Des Moines President Kalen Ludwig looks forward to an active year.

Last month the HBA of Greater Des Moines introduced Kalen Ludwig as incoming president, the second consecutive female president for the association. Ludwig was part of the first all-female leadership team in National Association of Home Builders history, serving as 1st Vice President under Hubbell Realty’s Rachel Flint with Jenna Kimberley of Kimberley Development as 2nd Vice President.

“I’m coming in on the foundation that Rachel and [former president] Adam Grubb set,” says Ludwig. “I just want to keep that momentum going.”

Ludwig says she’s never really seen herself as a natural leader, but her involvement in organizations like the HBA, motivated by a desire to give back and to be a valuable member of her various communities, has resulted in very active professional and volunteer lives.

“Getting on an HBA committee that first time was a turning point for me,” she says. “Being involved in those activities from the planning side helped me see not just what the HBA was doing but what it could do when the members were really involved.”

Because of that experience, one of her goals as president is to encourage broad membership in the HBA with current company members. “I’d love to see each company’s representation grow exponentially this year. For some companies, only the owner or president is an HBA member. We’d like to get employees throughout the company involved because that’s when change happens across the industry.”

Ludwig’s own experience has been a result of that attitude modeled from others. Her senior year at the University of Northern Iowa, majoring in marketing with a minor in real estate, Ludwig was awarded an internship with Peoples Company. That internship laid the groundwork for everything that followed for her professionally, she believes.

“I sold my first house that semester, which was exciting, but meeting Steve [Bruere], owner of Peoples Company and a fellow UNI grad, gave me the opportunity to move to Des Moines and be part of the Peoples team here. Steve has really been a mentor to me, and his philosophy of business—that we only succeed when everyone succeeds, and we only succeed when our industry succeeds—has been so influential in getting me involved with the HBA, with the construction industry as a whole, and with some of the major projects I lead.”

Ludwig has been integral in planning and leading the annual Builder Developer Luncheon hosted by Peoples Company and Diligent Development, as well as her regular blog on home sales and new construction statistics for the Des Moines metro area.

Both of those became ways to strengthen the local industry and provide a tool to help others succeed. Having spent much of her career not just building her own professional reputation but strengthening the industry as a whole, Ludwig says that attitude informs her vision for the Greater Des Moines HBA as well. “I want to see the construction and real estate market do well for everyone in the metro, not just for me,” she says. “One of the ways I hope to promote that is through an emphasis on our core values and mission statement.”

As Peoples Company’s Culture Chair, Ludwig has learned the value of nurturing common values in order to nurture corporate growth. That’s an emphasis she brings to her role at the HBA as well. “We have one-, three-, and ten-year goals at the HBA. So my vision as a president is to make those goals possible, to build on what Adam and Rachel have been doing, and to set Jenna [Kimberley] up for even more growth,” she says.

Events like the Home and Remodeling Show, the HomeShowExpo, and other activities will continue this year—some as virtual events, some in-person, and some in a hybrid fashion—despite restrictions from the coronavirus.

“We created a really nice virtual event for the HomeShowExpo last year, and we got a lot of positive feedback, especially from people who wouldn’t have been able to participate if we had only had an in-person event,” she says. “This year, hopefully we can have a more typical event, but we plan to incorporate many of those virtual aspects that our members and attendees valued.”

She says the vast majority of members surveyed have said they prefer in-person meetings and activities with appropriate precautions and safety measures taken rather than exclusively virtual events.

Responding to members’ needs and interests—and growing that membership—are evidence of Ludwig’s desire to cultivate the HBA’s mission and core values.

“If we only ever see each other as competitors, we won’t get anything done for the industry,” she says. “Our word for the year is ‘engagement.’ We want to get everyone involved. We don’t just want people to join. We want them to be active because that’s how we grow and succeed.

HBA of Greater Des Moines

Mission: To make Des Moines the best community in the world to live, to work, and to raise a family

Core Values: Collaborative, Leadership, Good Communicators, Integrity, Passionate