Best Practices... Consistently

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What's happening in the "hot" housing markets these days? You know the ones: Phoenix, Las Vegas and anything in California or Florida. People are literally standing in line to buy homes. In some cases, auctions and lottery systems are being utilized to dole out buying opportunities. But with this, there is a price.

September 01, 2005

What's happening in the "hot" housing markets these days? You know the ones: Phoenix, Las Vegas and anything in California or Florida. People are literally standing in line to buy homes. In some cases, auctions and lottery systems are being utilized to dole out buying opportunities. But with this, there is a price.

I recently had the opportunity to visit a number of these markets. In too many cases, the standards of performance are in a gradual state of decline or, in some cases, non-existent. The extraordinary sales velocity seems to justify less than stellar conditions: messy job sites, failure to meet closing dates and "take-it-or-leave-it" attitudes. The old adage of "sales cover a multitude of sins" appears to be alive and well. The message I'm seeing is, "It's OK to be just OK — after all, we can sell everything we can build — even stuff we can't build." I can only surmise that customers aren't feeling too special.

For those of you who have been through the tough times, you know the importance of staying sharp, always improving and not dropping your guard. Why? Because you know at some point it will slow and that's when the companies with the best people, the best systems and the best processes beat the pants off those without! I'm not trying to be a naysayer, but it pains me to see good organizations fall prey to the intoxication of an ebullient housing market.

Since this is a human resources column, let's look at this from the human capital side. After all, in the majority of cases, the "fix" comes down to people. A few questions should illustrate my point. Ask yourself the following:

Is the overall caliber of my staff better today than three years ago?

Are they more efficient?

Are my people growing, learning and developing or are they just doing what needs to be done and little more?

Do I utilize a formal performance review process?

Am I relying on battlefield commissions to staff my management ranks or do I have a training and development plan in place?

Does my company have a planned intake of people?

Am I using a defined selection process?

In the last year, have I made a "rush hire"?

And finally:

Are our homebuyers happier today than three years ago?

The moral of this exercise is this: Now — not when things slow — is the time to get your ship in order. I assure you, the better companies have never stopped. If you don't believe me go through some of their communities. Speak with some of their people. You will find companies who are winning, not because the market is currently in their favor, but because they consistently utilize best practices: doing the right things, hiring the right people, developing their people — keeping standards high.

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