Doing a search for "change" on Amazon.com, I turned up 146,394 listings in the books category alone. Leading Change, A Survival Guide to the Stress of Organizational Change, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change — as a nation, we're obsessed with change and how to control it.
Few people like change in the workplace. Variety, sure. Doing the same thing day after day gets boring. That's one big reason for choosing remodeling over home building. Working on existing homes ensures new challenges and surprises. We like the idea of change, too. Increasing sales volume, adding employees and purchasing new software all represent improvement and progress.
Actual change — developing and sustaining new patterns of thought and behavior — is more demanding and therefore more frightening. For example, buying new estimating, job-costing and accounting software doesn't automatically improve job profitability. Using the program wisely to enhance basic operations processes does. In addition to learning new computer skills, employees might have to adjust to a better "paper trail," increased accountability and higher expectations for accuracy. Some might even leave the company as a result.
Do you, as a business owner or manager, have good processes in place? If not, why not start changing there? If you think those processes are solid, do you have a clear picture of the potential risks and rewards of adding new software tools to the mix? Do you have a realistic time line and budget for choosing, purchasing and implementing a new software program? Who will help you, since you can't do everything yourself?
This overload of unanswered questions is why it's so common to come back from a conference or trade show brimming with good ideas and then drop them entirely after failing with a half-baked attempt. What sounded utterly inspiring in theory might have had no basis in the reality of your business. Real, lasting change often feels overwhelming and cannot be achieved without planning, hard work, adjustments to the plan and still more hard work.
In fact, the only thing more painful than change might be staying the same. My boss likes to say that one of the greatest threats any business faces is business as usual. Is she right? Look at your business and read about others featured in this issue before you decide.
For cover subject Gary Marrokal of Marrokal Construction, business as usual would have meant risking losing his high-end clientele to a competitor with a more organized design/build process.
For Matt Podesta of Podesta Construction, business as usual would have meant sticking with an incomplete, inaccurate estimating and job-costing system that limited profits.
For Remodelers' Exchange participant Cindy Knutson Lycholat of Knutson Bros. II, business as usual would have meant allowing customers to jeopardize schedules and quality by not restricting their ability to provide some of their own labor and products.
Gut instinct and the school of hard knocks certainly will propel you along the path of change, but a strategic plan can provide a straighter route with faster and better results. And each successful change will open up new possibilities for you as well as your employees, customers and trade partners.
That's important, because even when you love what you do, a day will come when you no longer can or want to run a remodeling company. Having a strategic plan for that big, inevitable change just might be the biggest challenge of all.