20 Questions with Tom Skaar

tom-skaar22009 HBA President Tom Skaar never had a game plan for what he wanted to be when he grew up. He never had ambitions of being a firefighter or police officer. He never went out looking for the perfect career or life path.

But in 1978, it found him when a realtor friend in need asked for help running a small home building business. Little did Skaar know that his simple “yes” would lead to 30 years in the industry, his own building business, and a leadership position guiding one of the largest HBA’s in the country.

Along the way, he threw himself whole-heartedly into a wide spectrum of HBA activities. Skaar was a Street of Dreams builder in 1985, participates in the political sphere on the state and local levels, is a Life Spike, sits on the Board of Directors and has committed himself to several committees. As “el presidente,” as he’s known around the association, he’s sure to remain quite active during the next year.

Skaar has been married to the love-of-his-life, Tracey, for the last 26 years and has twin daughters, Andrea and Brittany, who share his quick wit and love for traveling.

Background Information

Title/Company: Owner/Partner of Pacific Western Homes

Years with the HBA: I’ve been with the HBA off and on since 1982. More on than off I suppose you could say. I’ve been super involved since 1997. The only reason I didn’t get involved sooner was due to an ornery boss who didn’t believe I should be investing my time in “non-work related activities.”

Business Basics

Education: I graduated from high school but never went on to college. I guess you could say my education in the industry was a result of hard won experience.

Secrets to Success: Get up early and work late. Work harder than everyone else. Be smart. Make informed decisions and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Measuring Success: I think it’s important to ask if people enjoy being around you and doing business with you. I think you can also measure success by how balanced your life is. Work is important but family has to be a priority.

Business Mentors or Heroes: Ken McBride, Jay Sterling and Jack Forrell. These fine men were bankers and friends who believed in me through the good and bad times. I’ve had relationships with them for over 30 years. Another would be Pat Ritz, the President and founder of Oregon Title. He also stood by me through it all.

Making the Call

Business Decision You’re Most Proud Of: Diversifying my company by going into the multi-family side of the business. This decision was the catalyst for many good things in my life and gave me the opportunity to retire at a relatively young age.

One You’d Like to Have Back: Getting involved in Central Oregon. I made this decision late in my career and it was definitely a mistake.

Principals I Use For Big Decisions: I try to base my decision-making around maintaining integrity. I ask myself if something is fair, if it’s the best decision for all involved and if it makes sense in the big picture view of things.

The Best Business Advice You’ve Received: Bill Gentry beat into my head that I should never be satisfied with the status quo but rather should always strive to improve.

Where I’ve Been, Where I am Going

What I Learned From My First Job: As a teenager, I was a lifeguard and learned that driving power boats on a big lake can be a whole heck of a lot of fun.

First “Career” Job: I was part of the retail grocery sector and worked at Albertsons for a while.

As a Kid, I Wanted to Be: Honestly, I had no idea. I was never focused on something specific. All of my careers kind of just fell into place.

If I Weren’t Doing This, I’d Be: Working as an airline pilot, traveling around the world to ever more exotic places. Some would say, so what would be different?

Insider Information

People Would Be Surprised to Know: I didn’t fly in my first airplane until I was 21, then six or so years later I got my pilot’s license. Also, I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve hit every continent except for Antarctica. Big surprise for most of you here.

If I Could Work For Free For Any Cause/Charity, It Would Be: The Home Builders Foundation and Habitat for Humanity.

Famous Words I wished I’d Said: There are two I like. “Experience: That’s what you get when you don’t get what you wanted,” and “Luck: When opportunity meets ambition.”

I Need More Time on Weekends For: Traveling. New people and cultures fascinate me. I’d also like to hit the road in my motor home more frequently. I haven’t seen that much of the United States.


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