A streamlined operation is one that can grow easily and effectively and can build 20 or 200 homes with the same organizational structure. To help your company adapt to what will likely be a changed marketplace, look at your organization and plan on rebuilding in a smart way.
Here are 10 keys to prepare your organization for the market change:
- Processes: Look at the activities and the process flow to find what you can rearrange to be more effective with fewer people — and have more control. When analyzing your process and efficiencies, start with your existing process flow.
- Responsibility: Look at your processes and assign responsibilities according to who is best qualified to oversee those processes. Consider looking outside the organization for the right person.
- Documentation: Document what is being done or should be done. When you begin hiring again, this documentation will help you train the new people the way you want your organization to be run. Documentation should include job descriptions; policies and procedures; job ready and job complete; in-process inspections; forms; and checklists.
- Roles and functions: When an employee is given more than one responsibility, do it in a planned fashion. Your job descriptions should be well-defined so they can easily be understood and responsibilities can be shared by various employees.
- Communication: Fix any lack of communication (or sometimes miscommunication) and force communications to go through an integrated process. Poor communication often leads to dissatisfied customers and fewer referrals.
- Customer care: Fine-tune your customer interface processes to make the customer experience not just a good one but an excellent one. If you offer great customer care, your customers will be praising the experience they had with you throughout the process and well after.
- Trade involvement: Get the trades involved in your processes and ask them for their input on both products and processes. Make them deliver a consistent product each and every time. Have them work together with each other and with you to improve communication along with job ready and job completion procedures.
- Benchmarks: Look at what other builders are doing to benchmark their operations. It also may help to look at other industries for ideas that can work for your company.
- Quality Trades: Price is an important factor, but it should not be the only factor in selecting a trade. Looking for experience, dependability and quality each time will eventually cost you less than the lowest bidder.
- People: Take care of your employees. If you want them to be loyal and do an exceptional job, you need to make them feel important and let them know they are an integral part of the building team. This should be done not just once in a while but all the time.
Let's start preparing for the upturn.
Analyze: When analyzing your process to become more efficient, start with your existing process flow.
Document: Documenting what is being done or should be done will help you delivery quality products once growth resumes.
Join: Learn and improve what you do by contributing and sharing best practices with peer groups.
Ask: Ask your employees for their input and check how things are going on a regular basis.
Serge Ogranovitch is a senior partner and founder of The Potomack Group, an international management consultant firm. He is a National Housing Quality Award judge and works closely with NAHB to develop the program.