Doing the Right Things Right

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Think about the last time your company debuted a new product line -- bigger homes at a higher price point, attached homes for entry-level buyers, a maintenance-free community for empty nesters.

September 01, 2002

 

Heather McCune, Editor in Chief

 

One of the hardest parts of any job every day is resisting the urge to do what has been done before. Human nature being what is, we all seek comfort in the familiar and security in doing what we know has worked in days gone by.

Think about the last time your company debuted a new product line -- bigger homes at a higher price point, attached homes for entry-level buyers, a maintenance-free community for empty nesters. Internally, it can be a hard sell to a reluctant sales staff, especially in organizations that have been market leaders with an established, successful product offering.

The same scenario plays out in the field. How easy is it to convince foremen and construction superintendents to try a new wall system, switch window suppliers, or use trusses rather than stick-building the roof? It's done every day, but it's never easy. Trade partners need to be retrained, local sources of supply switched and, usually, existing production schedules thrown out the window.

There's a reason it's hard to change -- the risks look huge from the starting line. In an industry in which product is built in front of customers day by day with different crews, everything new is an opportunity for an error, an occasion to disappoint a buyer, to watch profit per house head south and cycle time climb.

However, every builder -- every business -- is learning that the risks to staying the same are even bigger. How else do we explain "new" Coke, purple ketchup, single-malt scotch aged in sherry casks and every upgrade of any software? Customers didn't ask for any of these product innovations; the makers were seeking ways to grow market share and product acceptance.

In retooling this issue of Professional Builder, we considered these opportunities for improvement as well. How do we preserve the best characteristics of our editorial while making each article more accessible to every reader? How do we package content so that every reader can quickly determine which articles are must-read right now, which to mark for later and which to circulate to staff? How do we make graphics and words work together so that combined they communicate more clearly than either could alone?

In seeking these answers we confronted the same issue we all face each day -- an urge to keep doing what we've done, what we know how to do well. To break out of that box, we did what any business should do -- turned to the word of our readers. We poured through research, we asked questions, but most of all we listened. We heard clearly your description of must-have, hard-to-find content. Your direction made charting a new course seasier.

Ours isn't a new lesson, just one no one seems to learn just once. The first winners of the National Homeowner Satisfaction Award offer a lesson for us and for you: Use information directly from your customers to make sure everyone is focused on doing the right things right. With the word of the customer as the guide, the risks of change are smaller and the reasons for change so much clearer.

It is a fine line between conforming to the world around us and trying to transform the same. Market leaders navigate that fine line every day, believing in what buyers say they want, rather than doing what is familiar, and then overdelivering on the same.

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March 2014

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