Publisher's Letter: Find your game, again

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This month, we profile four builders whose systems and processes have merited National Housing Quality Awards from a panel of quality management experts.

October 22, 2011

This month, we profile four builders whose systems and processes have merited National Housing Quality Awards from a panel of quality management experts. Quality is not always Job No. 1 in this industry, particularly now when so many builders have been discombobulated by the tough economy. Each firm profiled is outstanding in unique ways. But they share a common trait — an ability to step back, examine their business as a whole, identify needed changes, and make those changes in an organized way.

Far too often we encounter builders who work IN their business not ON their business. The distinction is significant. Those who work IN their businesses tend to be pulled in a lot of directions, putting out fires and pivoting to jump at possible business opportunities. When times are good, this works adequately. A builder who works IN his or her business may even credit their ability to multitask as a business virtue, critical to their success. Indeed, everyone needs to be fleet-of-foot when staffing is low and revenue-generating projects are few. You do not need to embrace a full-blown quality management system in order to work ON your business. It is more of a mindset, an ability to raise your elevation to get a better view of the overall business despite a slew of urgent demands. With a better view, you are better able to put your company in a position to take advantage of new products, technologies, and ideas — ideas that can help lift your business out of the deepest malaise.

In golf, players often describe a certain locked-in feeling when they are on their game, playing well. Players also know when their game is slipping away, playing erratically. They then go in search of their game. A golf-equipment manufacturer aired an advertisement that memorably featured an old Scottish man looking into the camera and saying, “Find your game.” In the home-building business, you will not find your game, your zone of profitability or growth, by always working IN your business. The four companies who have been awarded NHQ Awards this year have found their games. Whether their strategy involves buying distressed land or bringing green and sustainable building features to lower price points, the goal is to do it profitably and to know how to replicate those results going forward.

The second part, replicating profitable ideas, is the hard part. Each of the winners have built systems that enable them to evaluate their progress at every juncture. Looking at your company, can you say the same thing?

Finding your game, as golfers will attest, is not easy. You need a systemized approach so that you are not constantly fine tuning one area of your business and dislodging another part of your business at the same time. This is possible only by occasionally taking the time to work ON your business and not always being IN the thick of it.

Finding your game also means playing to your strengths, your interests, your goals. Not everyone is cut out to be a builder of homes for first-time buyers just as not all builders have the temperament and interest in designing and building custom, one-of-a-kind homes. Most of all, finding your game means evaluating your market today for the opportunities it offers and then matching your skills, interests, and abilities to best fit that need. These four firms have done it. So can you.

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