When we bought our house, the previous owners left behind an old but serviceable 11-cubic-foot garden cart, which we have used countless times to haul fill dirt, compost, amended soils, gravel, rolls of sod, and wood chips from my pickup in the driveway to the backyard. It’s a workhorse, no doubt.
As convenient as it is, though, there’s a hitch: The width of the cart’s bike tire-size wheels is less than an inch narrower than the gate opening to our backyard, leaving me scant clearance to get through that opening. It also doesn’t help that the path through that passage slopes to one side, is rutted by use, and often impeded by gravel and/or bark chips.
The 4-by-4 posts on either side of the gate opening show the scars of me being just a bit off-target with the cart as I try to thread that needle, the impact of a wheel catching on a post and putting a full stop to my momentum, causing me to back up and try again.
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But then I began focusing my eyes on a large rock just a bit ahead of the opening. Almost without fail, if I stay focused on that rock, I sail through the opening, no problem. The few times I don’t trust that method (mostly because I don’t truly understand why it works, or when I’m tired), I almost always hit a post. And then curse.
What does this have to do with your business? I offer it as an analogy for how keeping your focus slightly ahead can help you effectively navigate day-to-day challenges and keep moving forward; that smart, strategic planning—and trusting it and your team—will ultimately guide you.
And, as you know better than anyone, the challenges are very real. Sure, sales remain hot and home sales prices are high, but that narrow view neglects issues of labor and materials shortages that are extending cycle times, raising costs, and perhaps canceling sales contracts.
Without a vision you can trust—in my case, a craggy rock; in your case, a solid business plan—those challenges more often cause you to stop, pull back, square up, and try again, further eroding your profitability and causing a ripple effect in construction quality, warranty service costs, and the customer experience.
But when you have a full load, you’re tired, and there’s very little room for error, it’s easy to look down at the wheels and focus on just getting through the gate. That’s human nature. But as a leader, it’s not where your focus belongs.
I’m saying if you believe in your business plan, your team, and keep your eyes on the vision you’ve set for your company, you’re more likely to get through tough times more smoothly and with fewer scars. In other words, trust the rock.