The buy-in

Lately I’ve noticed that builders are using more sophisticated methods of marketing to get their message out to potential clients. From slick postcards to sponsorship of local charities, many contractors are opting for these attractive and effective methods of communicating with the public.

There are so many venues which can be exploited for this purpose. It’s nice to see companies thinking outside the box. But for all the advances we may have made in our solicitation of clients, our success or failure still comes down to how well we manage our businesses.

To that end, there are many different business systems for sale in the design/build world. Even though some of these were not created exclusively for the custom home industry, they are great resources for running a successful business. Among the business tools you’ll find in some of these out-of-the-box programs are: business form templates; estimating spreadsheets; operations manuals; and sales guidelines.

The problem with using business models is understanding them and adhering to them. It takes tremendous discipline to analyze your business, recognize its weaknesses and strengths, research possible solutions, decide on the optimal solution and carry through on the execution of change. However, doing only one or two of these steps will result in failure.

Recently, a client of mine knew that things were not going as well in his remodeling business as they should have been going. To improve his company’s operation, he purchased a remodeling business operating system. But he was frustrated that his operation did not turn around the way he envisioned. He hired me to conduct a company Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis at his remodeling business. SWOT is a business term for a strategic planning technique for analysis of a project, business or other venture.

What we found was a common flaw that seems to be present in every business. The company owner had literally and figuratively bought into an operating system, but the employees did not view the new program in the same light. To them, the new way of conducting business was the idea du jour. They had seen new forms and procedures before, and were not buying into the latest incarnation. The result was finger pointing, behind-the-back complaining and frustration. None of the employees could see their place in the new system.

Once we started to uncover the real issues underlying the business’ failings, it was like a pressure valve was opened. Items which may never have seen the light of day were aired. Some seemed inconsequential, but to the aggrieved party they were huge. By the end of the SWOT analysis, we came up with variations on the business operating systems that all of the employees could embrace and support.

Few design/builders can wing it and find success. So it is a good idea to research a system that will work for the type of business you are running. But don’t be shocked if you are met by resistance to change. Try to have the crew self-discover why and how the changes will improve the operation. Some may still not like the change, and most businesses are not run as democracies so you will need to find a way to either work with the resistant employee or end the relationship.