What Actions Do You Need to Take to Accomplish Your Mission?

If You Aren’t Clear on What You Should Do, Your Mission Will Fail

It’s week three of the BMSU’s Mission Statement course. The first week we worked on discovering and getting clear about the mission and the importance of having one if you are going to turn your dreams into reality.

From a young age we have dreams of what our life will be like when we grow up. You remember those big and exciting dreams that you had as a kid.

But, as we grow older those childhood dreams begin to get buried under the weight of daily adult living. Then we convince ourselves that those dreams weren’t real…they were just childish imagination.

Sometimes we get hit in the head with a board to remind us that they are real.

Dreams are the possibilities placed in us by God at the beginning of our lives.

The second week we researched what critical characteristics are needed in people to carry out a specific mission. Different people have different skills and abilities. These differences are what give us the exact strengths needed to carry out that mission.

I don’t have the skills and abilities to play professional sports. I’m much more suited to building.

As a child my dream was different than my life now, but the big picture dream is still the same. There’s a connection with that dream and today’s reality.

Our characteristics need to align with our mission.

This week’s focus is…critical actions. We can talk big, but it’s no good until we do. Thinking and planning are important, but until you do something…nothing is going to happen.

It’s easy and safe to plan and prepare. If we actually do something it might result in mistakes and disappointments.

Not doing…keeps us from our mission.

Accomplishing a mission requires action. Think about what “action” movies all have in common…ACTION. If there isn’t some action taken, the building is going to explode, or the girl is going to die, or the bad guys are going to win.

We can’t let that happen.

Critical actions need to be simple and understandable. They need to be specific, focused and habitual. They need to become second nature, done without thinking in reaction to varying situations.

As with my mission statement and key characteristics, my critical actions are always being tweaked and improved. Going through this week’s study, I made some changes to my critical actions.

If my mission is:

Bridge the gap between construction companies and customers. Construction companies struggle with a lack of business knowledge and customers don’t understand or know what to expect from the construction process. We help both achieve their dreams, by providing businesses with systems and training to make their companies more efficient and profitable while educating customers in what to expect throughout the entire construction process.

Then I need to take these critical actions to achieve that mission.

  • Make all we can, save all we can, give all we can: Vigilant focus on generating revenue, being frugal and sharing our blessings.

(With a Servant’s Heart, I tend to forget that we have to be profitable as a company to stay in business. This reminds me of that)

  • Communicate clearly: We design and implement business systems, giving construction companies and their customers the opportunity to understand each other, allowing both to build their dreams.

(Without clear and accurate communication no one knows what to expect. This is the number one problem that construction companies and customers deal with. We help them bridge that gap)

  • Spend time wisely: Using the limited amount of time we’ve been given each day to generate the best return for us and our customers.

(I tend to be a thinker and planner. This is to remind me of that and push me forward to prioritize, focus on the first next thing and take action)

A dream is where a mission starts. Action is what make it a reality.

DREAMS   →   VISIONS   →   GOALS   →   ACTIONS   →   RESULTS

ACTION…it’s the most important thing to accomplishing a mission!

How To Build A Better Proposal

 

 

 

 

One of The Foundational Building Blocks of a Successful Company

 

Small and medium size construction companies struggle with preparing detailed and accurate proposals. This problem isn’t restricted only to small companies. It begins there, but only gets worse until they either get big enough to absorb the costs of guessing at project costs or give up trying and quit.


When I started doing construction forty plus years ago, I had no clue how to prepare proposals and like every other small construction company…I guessed. I used a common method called, trial and error. Doing proposals this way is a real crap shoot and doesn’t leave much room for mistakes.


Preparing accurate proposals that communicate clearly doesn’t have to be a roll of the dice.


Early on I began working on a proposal system that worked for me. It has gone through years of experimenting and tweaking to become what it is now. Over the last fifteen or twenty years I’ve been asked multiple times by other contractors who saw my proposals how I did them. I just assumed that everybody else was doing something similar.


Several years ago, it hit me that this wasn’t the case after being hired by other contractors to do proposals for them. This is when it became apparent that there was a real need for a proposal system. I kept pushing this down the road until God hit me upside the head with a board and pointed out that my system could help other contractors.


I’ve been busy with construction projects and life in general and continued to procrastinate developing a system that other companies could use. Earlier this year I decided I better get to work on this before I get hit in the head again.


I’m happy to announce that we are currently in the final stages of preparing a proposal system that will be made available for other contractors to use. It’s currently being tested by independent contractors. We are rebuilding the Solution Building website to allow for downloading the proposal documents. It’s not just for general contractors either, it will work for any of the construction trades.


This proposal system will include templates for:

 

  • Bid sheet – A Word document with all the construction sections and individual items already listed out with space for filling out the scope of the work to be done, dimensions, materials, locations, etc., as needed for communication.

 

  • Worksheet – An Excel spreadsheet with all the construction sections and individual items already listed out with optional overhead and profit markups inserted in the appropriate cells.

 

  • Estimate – A word document with spaces to fill in the pertinent information, i.e. customer’s information, what will or will not be supplied by the contractor, the scope of work, the estimated price for each specific element and a total estimated price.

 

  • Proposal – A word document with spaces to fill in the pertinent information, i.e. customer’s information, what will or will not be supplied by the contractor, the scope of work, the proposed price for each specific element, a total project price, payment arrangements and project duration.

 

  • Contract – A word document with spaces to fill in the pertinent information, i.e. customer’s information, list of referenced documents, construction funding information, property specifics, project start date and legal terms and conditions.

 

  • Proposal-Contract – A word document that is a combination of a proposal / contract in one.

 

It also will include a data base for material and labor costs:

 

  • Data Base – An Excel spreadsheet with prices for material and labor for a wide variety of specific construction tasks. This information will be copied and pasted to a blank worksheet.

Clear communication between contactor and customer is difficult, especially when there isn’t any. Last week I wrote about the importance of communicating clearly through proposals and reasons contractors avoid doing them


Next week I will break down the proposal process even more.

 

 

There Is A High Cost to No Communication

 

 

 

 

The Best Way to Avoid This Is to Communicate

 

You probably guessed it already, this week’s topic is COMMUNICATION and the all too common lack of it. Because communication is such a big issue, I’ve written about more than any topic, including last week. In that post I wrote about the major reasons construction projects fall apart. Half of them are communication related.


This week we’ll look at those reasons, results and remedies for…


• Misunderstandings due to poor or no communication
• Being blindsided by cost overruns or hidden costs
• Completed projects not being what you wanted or expected
• Not understanding construction terminology

 

What is communication?


According to the Cambridge Dictionary, communication is:
…the exchange of information and the expression of feeling that can result in understanding


We all have our own perceptions and understanding of words, phrases and gestures. I presume I know what you mean, and you do the same thing. This happens with spouses, family and close friends, people we know as well as anyone. If it happens in these relationships, it only makes sense that it will be more likely with strangers.

 

Reasons people don’t communicate:

 

  • Takes time – People now expect things instantaneously. We have high speed internet at the tips of our fingers. Photos are developed the moment they’re taken and can be printed instantly via a wireless connection to a printer. We don’t have time to read through a multi-page document explaining our construction project.

 

 

  • Overwhelming – Reading through pages and pages of descriptions and explanations of construction legalese is a daunting task. Probably won’t understand half of it. It’ll be easier to just go ahead and start. We’ll figure out the details as we go. I know what I want and I’m sure the contractor does too…NOT!

 

  • Lost skill – Communication is a two-way process. It requires both giving and receiving, speaking and hearing, writing and reading, expressing and understanding. If we don’t know how to use these skills, we can’t communicate effectively. Good communication requires more than emojis and hashtags.

 

  • Don’t like conflict – Most people don’t like conflict, but it can be positive. Conflict is always difficult but can lead to growth and change. It indicates commitment and can lead to better outcomes. It allows us to see the other side’s position. We should be willing to discuss disagreements without our feelings being hurt.

 

Results of poor communication:

 

  • Project wasn’t what you expected – You have a vision of how your finished project is going to look. You can see it in your mind. When you come home one evening, excited to see what has been done and then…it doesn’t look anything like the picture in your mind. What happened?

 

  • Cost overruns – You’ve saved and/or borrowed the money you predict you’ll need to do the upcoming construction project. You get an estimate of what it’s going to cost. Sure, it’s more than you expected, but that’s alright it will be worth it in the end, right. Then you get the final bill and it’s a lot more than expected. Now what? Where are you going to find the additional money?

 

  • Time overruns – The contractor says; “Your project will be done in no time.” “This won’t take too long.” “We’ll be finished by the end of the month.” “This project will only take a few weeks.” This sounds great, but how long is too long, by the end of which month, how many weeks is a few? Trust me, your contractor’s ideas and yours are different.

 

  • Not knowing what’s going on – As you’re talking with your contractor, he’s telling you how this thingamajig is going to support that doohickey. We use the newest and best gadget to build our gizmos. All the while you are nodding your head as if you know exactly what he’s talking about. When, in reality, you have no clue. Wouldn’t it be worth it to ask some questions?

 

 

 

Poor communication can be solved with more time and intentional effort.

 


Come back next week to discover the remedy for this communication problem by learning what should be included in builder communication.

What Is It About Communicating That’s Missing?

It’s A Lost Practice That Is Getting More Lost All the Time

Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing or the use of another medium. It’s common for one person to presume when communicating with someone that that person understands what they mean. When, in reality, those receiving it don’t. When we receive a message, it generates a range of things including pictures, perceptions, emotions, etc. Often these aren’t the same for both people.

I think social media messages are lowering the communication bar. The lack of punctuation and proper English in emails, texts, social media posts seem to be increasing. It can be fun to use abbreviations, symbols, slang and acronyms in these conversations. We just need to be careful that we don’t loose the ability to communicate effectively.

A poorly communicated message makes an already overwhelmed customer feel even more overwhelmed.

Communication between the contractor and customer is critical to a positive outcome for both parties. The importance of good communication is key to helping customers accomplish their dreams. It takes time and effort to prepare comprehensive proposals but it’s worth it.

An example of how words mean different things to different people is in last week’s post when I wrote about a “manufactured” home. I received a communication that it was a “modular” home, not manufactured. This is how communication should work. Thank you, Ivy.

Technically it’s both “modular” and “manufactured”.

Modular – Relating to a module. A construction system using units or sections for easy construction. A system that subdivides construction into smaller parts or modules that can be built in one location and moved. Constructed using standardized units or dimensions for flexibility and variety.

ManufacturedMaking something from raw materials by hand or using machinery. The process of making something systematically. Producing a product in a large scale. Built in one location and able to be shipped to the end destination.

Both definitions describe this home and depending on who you talk to the definition is likely to be different.

Historically manufactured housing is connected to the trailer house industry. These homes aren’t attached to a permanent foundation (another one of those words that can be misleading, nothing is permanent when relating to construction). They typically have a steel frame that remains as part of the home’s construction.

Modular homes on the other hand are generally fastened to a concrete foundation and have no steel frame remaining. They are usually constructed using standard construction materials.

When communicating we need to be intentional in our choice of words. We need to be clear about our message. It’s a good idea to repeat that message multiple times in a variety of ways.

The most important part of communication is to ask questions!

When it comes to communicating, listening is twice as important as talking. Why do you think God gave us two ears and one mouth?

As the business owner or professional is it even more important that we communicate clearly. We have (or at least should have) more knowledge, experience and understanding than our client.

Communication is the number one problem between businesses and customers.

Generally, the customer is a novice and have come to us professionals for guidance and direction. This doesn’t mean that we should tell them what they want. Rather, we need to ask questions and listen to the answers. Find out what their dream is and help them accomplish that. We need to guide them through the process from the beginning to the end.

Communicating is a problem on both sides. The customer generally knows what they want but doesn’t know how to explain it or is afraid to ask questions for fear of appearing dumb. The contractor thinks they know what the customer wants but doesn’t bother to clarify and just charges ahead leaving the customer feeling disappointed, disregarded and regretting having done the project at all.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We are working on some ideas to help narrow the chasm between customers and businesses. Let us know in the comments below if you or someone you know has some specific issues regarding communication that needs solved.

Christmas Is About Giving, Business Should Be Too

How Do We Know What to Give Without A List?

Last week I wrote about the coming new year and our excitement about the possibilities and opportunities it will present. This week I’m going to back up just a little (chronologically) to focus on Christmas (considering that it is just a few days away).

Christmas at its very foundation means giving. “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him would not be lost but have eternal life.” John 3:16, ERV. We’re talking about the ultimate gift. The giving of His child to be mistreated and ultimately killed on a cross. This Holiday is the celebration of that Child’s birth.

“God created humans in His own image. He created them to be like himself.” Genesis 1:27 ERV. If we have been created in His image, then shouldn’t we be willing to give. Isn’t this a part of who we have been put here on earth to be?

What does giving look like in business?

It doesn’t mean we do work for free. It doesn’t mean that if we win the customer loses or the other way around. Business isn’t supposed to be a win-lose arrangement. It can and should be a win-win.

Once again, this last week I met with another couple in the middle of a remodeling project that has taken a bad turn…they had to fire their contractor. What should have been the fulfilling of their dream turned into a nightmare. This was primarily due to a breakdown in communication. As professional builders, or businesses of any kind, this responsibility is ours. This is such a big problem. I have written about it as much or more than any other.

Here are links to some of those “Weekly Solutions”:

So, how do we know what it is that the customer wants? WE ASK THEM

This seems to be a no brainer, but for whatever reason the question doesn’t get asked, not really. The basics get discussed and everybody thinks they know what the outcome is going to be, but some where in the process things go off track. It takes time and effort to dig deep and find the underlying dream. This is critical to the project being a win-win.

It’s like finding out what a child wants for Christmas. Sure, we can go get them a gift and it might be something they like but, the odds aren’t very good. Or, we can have them fill out a Christmas list. If we don’t understand something on the list, we can ask and get some clarity before the process starts or money is spent.

Have the customer fill out a “Christmas List” for their project before moving forward.

To the point of having a list filled out…I need a list filled out to help determine the best direction for Solution Building going forward. I have a lot of ideas, but your input will help me know what would be the most beneficial to helping you build your dreams.

Please share your thoughts, questions, ideas or dreams in the comments below. This will help me know what gifts I can give you.

If you would prefer you can give me your list by taking this short 8 question survey.

Good Communication Is Not A One-Way Street

 

Remember That I Have Two Ears and One Mouth

 

In January last year I wrote about my core values and how I use them as a life filter. In that post I told you that I would go into each one in more detail. In this week’s solution we will dig into another one. It is to Remember that I have two ears and one mouth.

This core value points out that good communication is twice as much about listening. This makes perfect sense why God gave us two ears and one mouth. I have accepted the fact that I like to talk and do quite a lot of it. I believe that over communication is better than poor communication.

This core value reminds me of the importance of listening.

Within the last week I had two different people compliment me on my ability to communicate. One was directed at speaking and the other to writing. This was nice because I haven’t considered this to be something that I was particularly skilled at. The fact that this was communicated to me, was encouraging and inspiring.


Poor communication or the complete lack of it is one of the biggest issues in business and in life. How can I expect to help people build their dreams if we don’t communicate? Too often assumptions are made, and they lead to disasters.

If I don’t know what you want to achieve, and I don’t accurately tell you what to expect, somebody is going to be disappointed.

It is understandable why communication gets ignored. We’re busy. Communication takes time and we don’t have any extra. Whether it is listening, talking or writing…it takes time. You’ve probably heard the proverb ‘haste makes waste’. This is more evident now than ever. We are an instantaneous people. We want everything now. Aesop’s Fable about The Tortoise and the Hare points out how intentional focus on the goal and a steady movement toward it will win the race.


The constant connection to our electronic devices also contributes to our losing the ability to communicate well. There is nothing wrong with electronic devices. They allow us to connect with more people than ever before. It’s just that it can be hard to convey emotion electronically. We need to be careful to strive for and maintain a balance.

This is the ninth core value that I have written about in more detail. You can read the others here:

 

Honor God in all that I do

Intentional action

Take off the blinders, be more observant

Pay attention to detail

Spend time wisely, there is a limited amount

Never be satisfied with mediocrity

Find and maintain the balance in everything

Move the mountain one shovel full at a time

That only leaves three more to examine more thoroughly. I will communicate about them in more detail in the future so keep following these Weekly Solutions and if you know of anyone that you think would enjoy or benefit from these solutions be sure to share this link with them.

 

What We’ve Got Here, Is A Failure to Communicate

And What Can Happen When We Don’t

 

The above title is a famous line out of the 1967 movie, “Cool Hand Luke”. In the movie Lucas Jackson, played by Paul Newman, is a guy with more guts than brains, a man who refuses to conform to the rules. After being sent to a prison camp for committing a misdemeanor he is constantly giving the camp bosses trouble. After his mother dies the bosses put him in the box afraid he might want to attend the funeral. When he gets out he runs and gets caught and runs and gets caught, the bosses try to break him but he just won’t break. They try to force their ideas and rules on Lucas, but he is having none of that. In this case neither side is listening to the other.

The point is that effective communication requires listening, not trying to force your ideas on someone else. We all have our own thoughts and ideas how something should be done. In a business relationship we need to remember who has the check book, whose project it is. Our job as the business should be listening to the customer and helping them accomplish their goals. Not telling them what we think they want. Most of the time communication is thought of as what we say or write to someone. We need to remember that communication is a two-way street and we need to be listening twice as much as talking. We need to listen before we write.

I was involved in a situation this week that is a good example of what can happen when there is little or no communication. I was in small claims court as a witness in a double law suit between a building contractor and their customer. The contractor sued for an unpaid balance for work performed. The customer counter-sued for inadequate and poor-quality workmanship. Both parties had legitimate claims and neither party won. When everything was over they both dropped their suits. What could have, no should have, been an enjoyable and rewarding experience for both, ended as a losing situation for everyone involved. This whole mess could have been avoided had they started communicating in the beginning. There was no written agreement of any kind, just a verbal agreement with an hourly rate. This left too many unanswered questions and assumptions.

When I prepare a proposal for a construction project I am thorough and write the description of things to be done in detail with prices for each separate item. Yes, it takes longer than just giving an hourly rate. Some people, maybe most, would say I spend too much time working on proposals. Maybe I do, but I would rather waste some time on the front end than waste it in court on the back end.

I have been asked several times over the years by other contractors about my proposals. They want to know how I do them and if there is a software or a program that I use. Actually, I have been designing and building and tweaking this system over the last 30 plus years. I have even been hired by other contractors to do proposals for them. This got me started thinking that I need to share this system with others. So, we are just beginning the process of designing and developing a system that will include blank templates, a customizable data base and instructions on how to use it. We plan to have this ready and available by the end of June.

If you or someone you know would be interested in using a program like this then please forward this blog to them.

Can Communicating Too Much, Be Too Much?

For those of you who know me or know somebody that knows me. You know that I talk a little…okay…maybe I talk a lot.

When I was in grade school my Mom went to a parent/teacher conference. The teacher asked my Mom if I was required to be quit at home. My mother said no and asked why. The teacher replied that she thought that maybe I wasn’t allowed to talk at home and that was why I talked so much at school. I have realized over the years that this is a part of who I am. That doesn’t mean that I’m not continually working to rein in my talking. I also realize that this a part of how God made me and realize the benefits as well.

Being able to communicate well is key to good relationships. Communication is not just what we say, write, draw or even an expression or gesture we use. Communication is also what we hear or see. Our receiving may be the most critical part of good communication. Quite often we forget that we need to listen to what our customers want or to hear the different idea that a team member has. We need to remember that communication is a two way process. I think this may be why God gave us two ears, two eyes and only one mouth. He knew that the receiving part was going to be twice as hard as the giving part. If we don’t communicate well how can we expect to have fulfilling and productive relationships?

We all perceive things differently. Different things mean different things to different people. Several years ago we were in the early stages of building a new home. I was in a partnership at the time and each of us had different roles in the company. Quite often when putting figures together early in the process it is difficult to know specifics. We had included a 50’ allowance for running the electrical entrance from the pole to the house. As we were laying out for the house location on the property the customer pointed out that it was going to be 150’ from the electric pole to the house. He asked if that WAS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM. My partner responded. NO, IT WASN’T GOING TO BE A PROBLEM. The construction continued and everything was fine…until the final billing. When we gave the customer the final bill with the additional cost for the extra 100’ he was angry. As we worked through this, it was pretty clear what had happened. When the customer asked the question what he really asked was. IS IT GOING TO COST MORE? When my partner responded what he was really saying is PHYSICALLY IT CAN BE DONE. Being clear when we communicate is hard, but important.

If we say something once then saying it 10 times is better. Saying things enough without saying them too many times is a difficult balance. I would prefer to over communicate rather than not communicate enough. This certainly makes the process take longer, but can minimize if not eliminate misunderstandings later. This is the main reason that I have developed the system and documents that I use in my business. It comes from years of trials and errors. Is it perfect? No. It is, however, closer to where I want to be than I was 30 years ago. Is this system right for every business or every customer? No. Some people just want that much detail. Either way, if there is going to be a misunderstanding I don’t want it to be because of something that I didn’t communicate.