Lessons Learned Building My Home**
By Billy Arcement—The Candid Cajun
After 18 months of daily obligations that go with building a new home I’ve been through it all. It was 1966 when I built my first home. A lot has changed since that time. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the events of these past months. To say building a second home has been a learning experience is an understatement.
As I was planning this article, the thought occurred to me that sometimes-an overwhelming homebuilding project was really like running a business or managing a department. Here are the lessons I’ve learned that hopefully will help you whether you are building your own home or leading your business to new levels of success.
I would more quickly make my expectations clear to those I hired to work for me. As the contractor for my home, I should have stated my expectations of the quality and quantity of work to be performed before the work started. Overall, everyone did an excellent job with quality. Quantity is another matter. There were times when workers did not show up or the amount of progress made in a day was minimal. How often do we let the same thing happen in the workplace? Workers do their work at a pace and level they feel is acceptable. As leaders and managers, we must quickly establish what we expect and hold everyone accountable to those standards. I’m not advocating dictatorial tactics. I’m simply saying that if we fail to make ourselves clear on what we want, people will do what they want. Then, we have no right to complain if things don’t go as we feel they should.
I would do more thinking before doing rather than doing and then thinking. Time is wasted and tasks are duplicated when planning is inadequate. I watched skilled craftsman waste time because they did not study the house plans or did not adequately assess the situation they were in. It’s sometimes hard for people to remember (myself included) that planning time saves working time. How often does your business lose money because you did not plan your jobs well? Don’t commit the mortal sin of business by neglecting to plan your work. Exam your daily tasks for efficiency and effectiveness. When you do, you will consistently find that the more detailed planning you do, the better results you will get.
I would consistently insist on superior customer service. Building today is a costly process. For these costs, one should receive excellent service from contractors and suppliers of goods. During our building project, a contractor left with about four hours work to complete. He never returned my calls nor came back to finish what he started. Two other contractors promised to complete his work but never came on the days they promised to do so. I ended up completing the job myself. None of these individuals understood the meaning of customer service.
Another vendor, when questioned about the goods he had supplied, blurted that he had spent too much time with me for the money I’d spent with his company. He was rude and unconcerned that I did not get what I had paid him to deliver.
How is your customer service? Do you place the people who provide you with a living on the top of your service list? Do you insist that everyone working in your business interact with customers with pride, politeness, and professionalism? Do you feel the small customer is not worth your time forgetting that they might one day become a large buyer of your goods or services? Are you consistently providing good internal customer service to those you work with in your business? Have you forgotten that a dissatisfied customer tells many more people about their poor service experiences then they do about the good ones?
I would only pay for the work done, not the work promised. Early in the house building process, I paid a contractor the extra $150 dollars he requested for work not in the original bid process. My mistake was paying him the money before he performed the service. You guessed it! I had to finish the work myself. But I never made that mistake again.
For workers under your supervision, pay them for what they do, not for what they promise they can deliver. Quality work deserves a just reward. Empty promises deserve empty pockets.
Keep a close eye on cash flow. No matter if you are building a home or managing a business, you must be on top of costs. To manage my home building costs, I used a computer program to track daily expenditures and to compare costs to projected budget figures. When costs exceed budget projections, by having a good grasp on costs, one can make quick adjustments and maintain cash flow How are you doing with your business ventures? Do you work from a budget? Do you keep updated on how close to budget you are? Poor cash flow can cripple and ultimately close your business.
Somehow, in spite of it all, I’ve kept my sanity and will get to move into a new home by the end of the month. It’s been a long, trying process. Space does not permit me to share all the lessons learned but hopefully, I’ve touched on a few that will help if you are building your business or, God forbid, building a new home!!!
**This article was originally written in 2002. I thought it worthy of sharing again now.