Mark Richardson: How to be 'In the Wave'

Being 'in the wave' is all about timing

September 26, 2011

Writers are always looking for ways to communicate a message. In some cases, the analogies they use are very direct and literal.

However, given the complexities of business today, I  sometimes find it necessary to use metaphors from a very wide range of sources. The goal is to give readers that “A ha” moment when they clearly get a point, however subtle it may be.

One dynamic in business (and life) today that is more important than ever is timing. When and how you address an idea or a challenge can be as important as the solution itself.

Many years ago, a colleague of mine at Case Design Remodeling, Joaquin Erazo, our vice president of marketing, spoke of a marketing idea as being “in the wave.”

For surfing afficianados and for those who regularly see the ocean and watch the waves, this metaphor really hits home. The concept of being “in the wave” really sheds new light on the subject of timing.

In this sense, being “ahead of the wave” also takes on new meaning. By being ahead, you open yourself to new risks. You might be the first out of the gate, but you are about to have the wave come down and knock you off your surf board.

This not only results in looking bad, but you also risk injury. If, on the other hand, you are tentative and hesitant, and are behind the wave, you not only miss the ride but you also miss the energy (and fun) the wave gives you to move ashore.

Being “in the wave” involves knowledge and experience. You must take a leap of faith, with full knowledge of what the outcome of being “in the wave” can bring.

Being in the wave takes confidence and courage. Some of this comes from knowing the situations and possible outcomes ahead of time, but waves all too often are unpredictable. So you have to possess the edge to willingly go for what you think it is right.

Being in the wave also involves patience. You know that jumping the gun just because it has been awhile since the last good wave is not the solution. The magic and power all come from not only picking the right wave but making the most of the waves (big or small) you choose.

This simple metaphor could not be more important in remodeling today. Many business owners still have their tail between their legs. Many business owners are afraid of making a mistake. This could come in the form of a marketing campaign or just bringing onboard a talented person that has come available.

The following are a few tips that may help you apply this to your decision process:

1) Balance short-, medium- and long-term decisions

If you keep all these in check, you will make not only the best decision but you will also be more likely to be “ in the wave.”

2) Be patient but not complacent

If you are fully aware of your full range of challenges and opportunities at all times, you will know when to pull the trigger.

3) Listen, learn and then respond

Listening is more important than ever in these times. There are many false-positive signs that could be misleading. The process of listening, digesting what you have heard, then being quick to take appropriate action is especially important when the goal is to be “in the wave.”


Success or failure often comes not from a particular idea or initiative, but from the action or timing of when it is launched or addressed. If you always seek to be “in the wave,“ you will not only see better results but you are also more likely to enjoy the ride.

Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design Remodeling and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business,” and a forthcoming book, “Business Themes to Live By,” to be published this fall.

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