Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the homebuilding industry as well as construction engineer, site manager and in training, auditing and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental and safety management awards for clients.

Denis is co-author of 'The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence'.

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Now is the time for 100% customer satisfaction and operational improvement: Your trades as true expert partners

August 29, 2011

While all builders are trying to become leaner, more innovative and customer focused to impact the bottom line, we should not forget about reaching out to our trades. Our partners are crucial and remember they are the experts in their specific area of the business.

While the builder may be suggesting improvements and asking trades for ideas, those experts should also be proactively approaching the builder! Yes, create improvement teams and have representatives from your trade companies as real partners on those projects. Yes, create Trade Councils and ensure you are updating your Scopes of Work with your trades involved at every step. These are all key ways in which a win-win can be achieved. But your trades your experts need also to be COMING TO YOU with the latest install, construction and product ideas. Are your trade partners and suppliers coming in sitting down and ensuring that quality and pricing are in line with your customer needs and expectations? Are they suggesting ideas that also may not impact your business but would significantly help to sustain theirs?

The trades and builders need to understand that this is a partnership and the more homes sold with more effective and efficient approaches, less defects, waste and call backs of course means better net profits for all involved. This may take a large or small culture change, a move to opening up the financials to each (some builders DO) other or rethinking a basic like Scopes of Work. So often they are seen as a pain and reviewed by trades briefly BUT they define, most often as part of the contract, how work is done. So rather than seeing them as dictating or constraining view them as ensuring that work is done the best way possible on a consistent basis. What needs to be changed and what needs to be enforced? What inspection processes do you need to put in place (both builder and trade) NOT to create more paper work but to reduce the most common errors! How can you get the best bang for your dollar?

So many in the industry are finding things uncomfortably slow right now. If that is the case then the builder and all of their trades MUST be having 100% customer satisfaction? RIGHT? If we have than enough time to do the work we must be doing the best possible job and taking this opportunity to improve? Are you? Are your trade partners? Are your customers and the customers of your trades (whether they are working on your jobs or with an individual homeowner) shouting your names from their rooftop as THE BEST, giving you free word of mouth marketing? If not, why not NOW?

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