Jean Greer McCarthy
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Jean Greer McCarthy

Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada | SELF

Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada | SELF
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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"A Woman In Full"

Home builder, recording artist and helping hand for disadvantaged women, Jean Greer McCarthy still has things on her ‘to do’ list

By Jane Harris
Photography By Bookstrucker

Seated at an oak bistro table in the waiting room at Greer Homes, I’m scratching notes when a willowy young woman walks up from the parking lot and opens the garden doors. Wearing jeans, boots, and a leather jacket, she looks like a recording artist. I close my notebook and jump down from my chair to grasp Jean Greer McCarthy’s outstretched hand.

Greer McCarthy, founding partner of Greer Homes, doesn’t just look like a recording artist. She is one. She released a CD, Coulee View, in 2007. And her website lists upcoming gigs throughout southern Alberta. She’s also one of the most successful home builders in Alberta, first vice-president of the Canadian Home Builders Association Lethbridge Region, and creator of Sisters in Success, a mentoring program for women entering the workforce.

“Get out of your comfort zone,” Greer McCarthy tells fellow CEOs. She thinks too many executives miss out on growth sticking to what they think they know. “What comes easily is stepping up to the front of the room to talk or give orders. Going beyond that to new experiences, where you take a supportive and learning role, provides a growing experience. It is humbling, exciting and thrilling,” she says.

Greer McCarthy has been moving beyond her own comfort zone since she was a teenager, when she talked her parents into letting her go to boarding school. “It made me brave at a young age by putting myself in a completely unfamiliar situation,” she says. Even then, she was working with her dad, a Lethbridge home builder. She and her sisters spent summer vacations cleaning up his construction sites.

In those days, girls didn’t grow up to be builders. And the sight of Wes Greer’s daughters working on a site was a novelty. But that didn’t matter: Greer McCarthy knew she was going to be a home builder.

So, after high school, she majored in business at Augustana College. To her utter shock, she failed her business courses, switched to computer classes, and failed those too. But she got As in the arts and science courses she signed up for. Her adviser suggested a move to an arts and science program. Greer McCarthy fought back.

“I told him I didn’t want an arts degree because it was a waste,” she remembers. “My adviser said, ‘It’s never a waste to pursue your strengths. If you don’t, you’re sentencing yourself to mediocrity.’ I didn’t want to be mediocre. So I majored in English.”
After university, she landed a job as administrative assistant for the County of Lacombe. Not long after, she married Ross McCarthy, a computer programmer for Alberta Hail and Crop Insurance. In 1993, Greer McCarthy was expecting baby number two when she, along with Ross and her father, founded Greer Homes.

“Starting a new company had tax advantages for one thing, but more importantly it allowed us to create a structure of ownership of active members, which made succession planning easier,” says Greer McCarthy. Since then, Greer Homes has won dozens of design and customer service awards.

“We were the first environmental builder in Lethbridge,” she notes.

“The industry had changed. There was all this opportunity for marketing. All my creative strengths were suddenly needed.”
She fit in better in other ways too. “As a teenager, when I worked on job sites helping clean up the sites, I wore a hat and smoked a cigarette, and tried not to look like a girl. Today the men and women on our staff are all a team,” she says.

A higher level of education is essential at all levels of the industry. “Now customers come with questions they have researched on the Internet. We have to be able to answer the questions. We need to go beyond formal education to stay ahead of the customer,” Greer McCarthy says.

Home buyers’ needs have changed since her teens. “We don’t have six or seven people in a home. We don’t have three generations in one house. Grandma has a condo. University students buy houses. And kids go back and forth between homes. Younger people are moving several times, not necessarily always upgrading, not necessarily to monster houses,” she adds. Greer McCarthy believes generational shifts will continue to influence the industry as Generation Y, born between 1980 and 1995, puts its mark on society. “Gen Y demands their ‘me’ time, their right to be who they are.”

She thinks Generation Xers, like herself, are picking up Generation Y thinking. “Only recently have I shared with other members of the Home Builders Association board that I have that artistic side. I’ve started to be open about who I am,” she says.

Still, that creative side was evident in a series of three-minute profiles of southern Alberta homes Greer McCarthy produced for cable television in Lethbridge a few years ago. Aired several times daily, the profiles of “homes with a story” – including heritage homes, homes with unique designs, and even a home a baby had been born in – raised Greer McCarthy’s profile, boosted her credibility as a home builder and expanded her creative bent. “That project shows the way you can take all those corners of your life and roll them into a ball, if you work at it,” she says.

In 2007, Greer McCarthy’s creative juices won out again with the release of her contemporary folk CD, Coulee View. So did her philanthropic bent. She’s donating proceeds from Coulee View to the Canadian Cancer Society. “My sister is a cancer survivor,” she explains. Last year Greer McCarthy celebrated her 40th birthday by giving Lethbridge

women a career clothing bank. (Clothing banks provide donated office fashions to women free of charge.) Greer McCarthy’s goal was to help women who have been out of the workforce gain confidence by looking professional on the job. Diana Sim, partnership manager at the YWCA of Lethbridge and District, agreed to help create and house the clothing bank.

They soon discovered storefront models used in larger Canadian cities would not work in Lethbridge. So they devised a new model, Sisters in Success. “We implemented the concept of mentors who would meet with the client by appointment. That solves the problem of someone being there when they need access,” says Greer McCarthy. An executive woman becomes the client’s mentor, coaching, supporting and helping choose clothing. “Getting the nerve to see herself in business attire, that is assuming a new identity. This removes the intimidation factor,” explains Greer McCarthy.

“When you hear yourself saying, someone should be doing it, it’s you that should do it,” Greer McCarthy tells other business leaders. “From a business perspective, I call it non-traditional marketing. If you are sincere in the things you sponsor, people won’t mind that your business gets mentioned. People do value sincerity.”

Greer McCarthy still shuns mediocrity. Every Greer Home meets the Green Gold standard whether it is a starter, move-up or custom project. “If there is a right way to do things, why would you do anything less?” she asks. “We know exactly how much work we can take on and still consistently meet deadlines. We stick to that and don’t go over it – even in the hot market of the last few years – and as a result we have our customers in their homes on time. Yes, on time!”

Thanks to her stint in municipal administration, she knows public policy changes

slowly. But Greer McCarthy is convinced it plays a key role in urban design. “Neighbourhood development is crucial. We need to reconsider things like walkability, common spaces, and rethink where we are putting people. Why would you build affordable
housing miles and miles away from where people work?” she asks.

Does that mean Greer McCarthy will be standing for office one day? Maybe.

“I have some time to decide how that will develop, whether it’s running or volunteering on a municipal committee,” she says. Having already achieved a lot at a young age, Jean Greer McCarthy is still moving beyond her comfort zone. - Alberta Venture

""Absolutely a Hit""

Only two years ago, we heard for the first time of Canadian singer Jean Greer McCarthy when she became famous because of the acoustic CD “Coulee View” full of folksongs.
For her second CD she decided to move back to the studio to record her new songs which were supported by a full orchestra. This was for her a totally new experience which she liked quite well. She writes vey strong songs. Just listen to f.i. the CD-opening song “I own it” and the next balad played on the acoustic guitar “ So life goes”. That’s why her song style is compared with the big names in this genre as there are Rickie Lee Jones, Suzanne Vega and the Canadian singer Jann Arden. She is socially engaged as well since a big part of the profit of the sales of “Blessing and Burdens” will be donated to a development program for young Canadian women with financial problems. For now, we are only interested in her songs, though. We thoroughly enjoy sons as “ Midnight Baby”, “You should know” and the beautiful titletrack “Blessings and Burdens” For the lyrics Jean Greer McCarthy doesn’t refrain from searching for subjects in her own personal life for the songs in this album. Some examples for such intimate songs are “ The Deed is done” and “Wave” which she sings in duet together with local singer Richard Doerksen. Apart from giving her compatriots a conscience, she confronts her cd-listeners with strange texts and tries to move them to deeper thoughts. As a daughter of a construction worker, she was already very young convinced she wanted herself building houses, a rather awkward profession for a woman. But she persevered and continued her studies, for which she received several certificates (diplomas). After getting married and having 2 children, she decided together with her husband and her father to erect an organization “Greer Homes” for environmentally friendly houses. But with “ Blessings and Burdens”, Jean Greer McCarthy proves se is also good at making strong CD’s of which the basis are her capacity to write nice texts and to accompany those texts with beautiful music. This extraordinary album is absolutely a hit.

- RootsTime


Coulee View - 2007
(11 originals songs by Jean Greer McCarthy - acoustic)
Singles - Grace
- Vagabond Bar Star
- Hope and Wait

Blessings and Burdens 2008
(10 original songs by Jean Greer McCarthy - studio album)
Singles - I Own It
- Wave



Her living room window overlooks the rolling hills of the Oldman River valley in Southern Alberta and the Rocky Mountains beyond. From this serene viewpoint, Jean crafts songs that are reflective and moving.

Jean tells her own deeply personal stories (everything from donating bone marrow to motherhood is fair game), and shares her observations on others' lives.

Jean has performed in many Southern Alberta venues, from university recital halls to intimate pubs to large outdoor concerts; connecting with her audience and creating a feel of intimacy that draws a strong and loyal following.

Jean's 2007 album, "Coulee View", is enjoying strong sales and her fans have welcomed the release of her second album, "Blessings and Burdens" (Nov '08). From quiet acoustic ballads to fuller productions to the moving duet "Wave", Jean's range has wide appeal.