Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Compensation in non-financial currencies

   In the building business we are generally focused on one currency - the U.S. dollar.  If asked, our peers may also grope for answers for foreign currencies including euros, Canadian dollars, and pesos.  In my perspective we also deal in other currencies of pride, respect, self confidence and reputation. A solid balance sheet in these currencies is a valued commodity.

  It is always a good time to make deposits in accounts for every currency.  You can’t buy pride but surely you can earn it with continued excellent work.  You can squander it with poor work or deteriorating business ethics.  Pride can be reinvested through shared exuberance in talking about your successes or perhaps mentoring others.

  Respect can’t be bought, but surely can be earned in your treatment of others.  Respect can be lost through a moral fall or it can be leveraged for a host of benefits including gaining loyalty, trust or good will.   

  Valuable self-confidence can be earned by successes over time. Self confidence is built through risk analysis and mitigation. It can be lost in poor planning, poor execution or a lack of trend analysis leaving you wondering just what happened.

  These are not exclusive currencies but a few bullets to get you thinking about your current balance sheet.  Have you ever measured your successes in these currencies?  Metrics can be established and a tally carried in full expectation that you will be wealthy over time in many currencies.  As the dollar economy continues to beat our industry, some focus on the other currencies is in order. Start making some deposits in other currencies.  And these are non-taxable!

Is your business road map in place?

Success is the result of a solid plan that has been well executed over time.  Like driving directions from point A to point B, a business road map is a required tool to minimize the chance of getting lost.  Would you run a company in today's business environment the same way you ran one in 1994?  I should think not.

   The steps are simple enough.  Templates exist at www.score.org and www.sba.gov to walk the novice through the basics or to get the veteran builder to commit his vision to paper.  In teaching a number of the NAHB University of Housing courses, I get to ask attendees “How many of you have a written plan for your business?”  Invariably, the response is small.
  The process starts by rethinking your goals.  These should be concise, meaningful, and truly a place you want to land. Next freshen up your plan of how you expect to fulfill these goals. If this does not work on paper it surely will not work exercising decades of effort that leads nowhere.  Evaluate your resources but count on all strengths that can help animate the plan. These include your health, family support, employees, people smarter than you (they do exist), money, risk tolerance, time and attitude to name a few.  At the bottom of the chart above you would now execute the plan, and into the left quadrant monitor and measure your progress toward your goals.   If they are not being fulfilled you need a new plan.  If you are getting the goals fulfilled perhaps they can be expanded to have greater impact from your efforts.
Establish your personal goals first.  Your company must be capable of fulfilling your personal goals, for no other entity will be in the wings to make them happen.  No, government cannot be counted upon to fulfill goals, nor can any third party.  Your company is an excellent tool to help them come alive.

Can we turn the regulatory ship?

In the anti-growth movement of the past few decades our society has certainly put massive regulation in place.  These layers often created a maze so tight that approvals were delayed or thwarted entirely.  Collateral damage was loss of housing opportunity for everyone and the demonization of the housing industry.  Whether intentional or accidental, builders and certainly developers were cast as vanquishers of the environment.  The negative pall has been so strong that good people who actually know how to mobilize resources and accomplish something are cast as self-serving and a blight on the politically correct society.  Political stair climbers have often “made their bones” by slandering builders and thwarting developers' efforts.  The naysayers and negativists have clearly been successful.  Terms such as sprawl, developer, clearing and paving all carry a negative connotation in today’s conversations.
    During the past year disparaging nets have been cast ever wider to capture and demonize bankers, Wall Street, insurers, capitalists, doctors, the wealthy and plenty of industries.  I find the methodology tiring. Regrettably, it is effective.
   I wonder when or if the pendulum will swing back to embrace the creative, the industrious, or the risk takers.  These folks are actually getting things done. They should be the envy of society.
   Having just sat through eight hours of a “safe lead practices” class the regulated playing field is not getting easier to navigate. 
   My hope is that society will turn against negativism and over-regulation before Atlas shrugs in frustration.   Next time you see anyone accomplish something: give them a shout out of admiration.  Maybe we can turn this ship.