Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 13 seconds
In an industry where success is measured in dollars on the bottom line, I find it ironic that this little story has nothing to do with revenue or expenses but sets the stage for a different kind of success that sends shivers down my spine and surpasses the traditional model we think of in business.
I often say “remodeling is all about solving problems.” I am frequently asked to untangle complicated issues. I believe that I am pretty darn good at diagnosing problems and fixing them. Occasionally, even I get confused. In any case, our reputation hinges on our results.
In a recent investigation of a flooring problem that was brought to my attention, I found an obvious deformity in a hardwood floor with a sloping cabinet on top. It cropped up several years after an addition we did, exactly where the old house met the new. I instinctively accepted the problem as a warranty issue and developed a plan to fix it.
My plan was to attack the problem from the top, tear out the hump, fix the problem quickly and put it all back together. I jumped to this conclusion because I had encountered a similar situation where the sub-floor was not installed properly and the hardwood floor was laid over the anomaly, ultimately telegraphing the problem to the surface. The stage was quickly set for demolition when I sent my team out to accomplish the repair.
This is where this story gets interesting. Rather than executing my directions and adhering to my specific instructions, my team decided to investigate the problem from a different perspective. They instinctively went under the home and discovered the real cause of the problem. They saw that the supporting structure had been compromised by a HVAC duct run that had been installed improperly. A ledger and floor framing had started to slip slowly over time.
The real solution
Upon identifying what was really causing the symptoms, they threw my plan out the door and called off the flooring company. Steve Wadsworth (center photo) the fearless leader, Dave Vann (Left Photo), and Steve Schuelke (Right Photo) found a better way to fix this situation from below, and then they just fixed it. No fingers pointed, no commotion, no blame game or chest beating, and no charge to the homeowner. My client was ecstatic and our reputation for creating “customers for life” was immeasurably extended.
This illustrates to me that our company goals are firmly aligned. I was focused upon fixing the symptom and not identifying and solving the underlying problem.
I assume every business owner has read Jim Collins book, Good to Great, but how many have actually applied his principals? Now I can actually share an example of my people using the system correctly.
When asked why he changed the plan I had set in motion, Steve just brushed it off. Joe, he said, “On any day at any moment the best idea could come from anyone.”
Great problem solvers are a rare breed.
How do you find, create, or recruit that kind of employee? Why would anyone go out on a ledge and unilaterally change the plan? Most employees fearful for their job, would rather fly under the radar and just do what they are told, it’s so much easier and less dangerous.
What I realized is that pent up in a “top-down” structured business, great problem solvers ultimately become complacent or frustrated and move on. It is traditional in the construction trades for the superintendent to treat the subordinates with disdain. Eventually, if you last, you were promoted and it became your turn to run the field with an iron fist. This sort of behavior has never set well with me so I set out to change the culture.
My little “laterally integrated” remodeling company attracts likeminded folks. We are coming of age. This is now a place where it is safe for anyone to come up with creative solutions, and occasionally make a mistake without repercussions. I empower my team to learn and teach each other as much as they can, and ask for help when they get stuck. Ultimately, everyone wins. You get our “A-game” all the time, even when “the boss” isn’t looking.
The passion for what we do here at Levco as a team is rare. To make sure this isn’t just a one hit wonder, I am nurturing, and cultivating it carefully. Intelligent, caring, thoughtful employees that are motivated by doing great work are precious and deserve celebration.
Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly, or call 208-947-7261
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