Choose to be a leader

Leading executive Bruce Case reminds remodelers that your choices are crucial

July 31, 2009


Bruce Case

Contributing Editor

Laying off employees who have given their souls to the company for 15-20 years can rip your heart out. Many of you have had to go through layoffs to survive this recession. Those employees did nothing wrong; there just isn’t enough work to support everyone. These decisions are made not just on today’s results or today’s economy, but on the outlook for the next 12-24 months. While we have seen elements of our economy stabilize in the last several months, few think this winter is going to be robust for the remodeling industry. And most think that when the economy does turn around, that it will be a slow, gradual climb; not a race back up to the times we knew 3-4 years ago.

So I woke up the other day with an epiphany. I need to either lead or get out of the way. Our team needs a true leader they can trust will take them (and thus their families) through these turbulent times intact. They need someone who is looking out 12-24 months and making moves today to proactively respond to that outlook. They need someone who instills stability and confidence during times when they aren’t getting that from others.

I have a path. It is a path focused on excellence and not on growth for growth’s sake.

1. Market Share: I am going to find ways to capture more market share by marketing to new clients, leveraging past clients and increasing our brand awareness. A cornerstone is delivering what we promise to our clients on a consistent basis.

2. Cash Flow: I need to make proactive decisions based upon cash and other key metrics. Yes, it can lead to some tough decisions, but if I don’t make them no one will. And our business/everyone will suffer as a result.

3. Innovation: I am going to find new and innovative ways to differentiate Case. How can we bring more value, transparency and consistency to our clients? How can we create a culture that balances excellence with the financial pressures of any business climate?

4. Individuals: Trust is fundamental to any team, business or relationship. In its June 2009 issue, Harvard Business Review proposes that trust requires predictability, understanding, control and compassion. The more I think about these four elements, I agree — and I want to find ways to give more of them to each individual on our team.

5. Team: I am going to let our team know this path and make them part of figuring out the “how.” As the leader, I am focused on the direction and the goal — but the team will determine how we get there. They have better insights than I and without them, nothing will get achieved. And by the way, our team includes employees, subcontractors, suppliers and clients.

Since my epiphany, I realize that I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to be a leader. I choose to be a leader. That doesn’t mean that I know all the answers or that doubt doesn’t ever seep into my thoughts. But it does mean that I need to develop a plan and act on the plan in a holistic fashion.

Leaders have a uniquely holistic perspective. They see the marketplace as well as the internal workings and support mechanisms of the business. One day I am greeting a prospective client and discussing their project with one of our consultants. The next day I am visiting projects with a project manager. And the next day I am dealing with accounting, marketing, human resources or technology issues. Compare that with someone on our field team. They know the craft and how to take care of our clients, but insights on how coding of their time can affect our insurance rates is not their specialty. We need to work as one team toward one common goal.

Leadership will not allow uncertainty to stand in the way of our team, of our clients or of our business.

Author Information
Bruce Case is president of Case Design/Remodeling and COO of Case’s national franchise organization, Case Handyman & Remodeling. He can be reached at

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