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In these times of turmoil in the buildings industry, it’s time to take stock and truly understand the new trends and how successful players are making a killing and improving the bottom line of their business dramatically. Stephen Covey wrote a wildly popular book called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, and we will use this structure to analyze how people are doing well in our industry (with thanks to Mr. Covey’s visionary views).
When it comes down to it, we have two basic choices in how we do things: be reactive to things that happen around us, or proactive to ensure things happen as we want them to. The changes occurring within the buildings industry is a perfect backdrop to practice this habit, and fundamentally it’s about change.
In a way, “change” is a four-letter word. None of us like to have change imposed upon us, it disrupts our status quo without, it often seems, any benefit to us. Some changes however are good. Think of the last car you bought. The chances are that you could not wait to get that brand new model vehicle, oh that new car smell!
The problem is the buildings industry is changing--seemingly out of our control--and recent developments have made one thing very clear: Change is a certainty. So, in this turbulent climate one question must be asked: Will you either just wait for the industry to change your business and let circumstances change you, or will you meet this change head-on by positioning your business to leverage the possibilities of the changes? Successful players have taken the latter approach, trying (however small) to be proactive.
On this habit, Mr. Covey talks about Stimulus and Response, the stimulus being an external factor happening to an individual, and the response being what that individual does in response. His point is that the stimuli for the most part are things beyond our control, but the response is something completely within our control. The stimulus in this case is the changes occurring with the buildings industry; the question is what your response will be!
Incidentally, if you do not believe that this industry is changing, stop reading this article now; you have better things to do.
Begin with the End in Mind
Why are you in business? What are your long-term goals? The answers can be varied, but unless you have an answer you are in trouble. Almost any ethical answer is okay, from world domination to getting the satisfaction from your work to help people.
Companies doing extremely well in buildings right now have their goals clearly visualized in their personal and corporate mission statements, formally written and easily verbalized. When you understand the end goal, it will be clear what steps you should take in these tumultuous times. Understanding the end goal will calibrate your comfort with risk and thus with technology. And again, there are no wrong answers, just the right one for you.
First Things First
Our time is precious, and a common habit among those who do well is a sharp focus on what is important. Once you have the habit of being proactive and you know what your ultimate goal is, it really becomes much easier to prioritize.
Part of this decision is focus, and in this complex world that we now live, the other important component is an understanding that you cannot do it all, that you have to have a partnership mentality to survive. So how do you focus and partner at the same time? The answer, any successful player will tell you, is that you have to focus and prioritize on your strengths, and partner with others in areas where you are lacking, and where they are strong.
No matter what happens in the future of this industry, all disciplines of building controls will still be required. It’s just a question of understanding what things you will put first. Leave the rest to others.
Once you accept that partnership is a mandatory aspect to your future, you have to be open to a Win/Win approach to these relationships. Partnerships are difficult, as anyone who is married will tell you, but partnerships can only succeed if all parties truly understand the first three habits above and approach the relationship in a Win/Win manner.
Successful players who partner also understand that this is a relationship they should establish with many types of people and companies. Two of the most important people you should look to for a partnership are your customers and your suppliers. Without these two groups of people, you do not have a business. Treat them as partners, not simply clients and vendors.
On a simple matrix of Win-Lose, you have four possibilities. The first scenario being you lose and the other party loses, which is clearly not a good thing. There are two scenarios of one party winning and the other losing, which may well be a good outcome for you if you are on the winning side, but it’s a bad scenario in the long term. In a world where partnerships are necessary to succeed, you can’t annoy too many people. This is a critical point as many contracting relationships are often based on Win/Lose scenarios. Truly successful players will refuse to enter into a Win/Lose relationship; unless they and their partner both win, there is no deal!
The last and only long-lasting outcome is Win/Win. Here you not only have to focus on winning and improving your business (in your strong areas), but you also take on the responsibility of making sure that your partner wins in his strong areas.
Implementing an integrated project is a good example of the importance of Win/Win, and such projects are becoming more prevalent today. By its very nature, an integrated project involves a number of systems that need to work together for it to truly deliver the value to the building owner and occupant. Many times in such projects, different companies are responsible for parts of the system; you may be responsible for only one piece of the whole system. Companies that are successful with integration care as much about how other systems work, and how the integration works than they do of their own piece. The measure of success to the owner and occupants is the functioning whole system. Without a Win/Win attitude this is difficult to achieve.
Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
This habit is one of the fundamental aspects of successful players in today’s buildings market, especially as the world is becoming more complex with technologies and issues, many to which there are no right or wrong answers. It is far too easy to have a notion of the right thing to do to solve a problem and belligerently try to convince someone of your point of view, often without truly understanding their needs or issues. This is very much a Win/Lose philosophy that will just not fly these days.
Whether dealing with customers or suppliers, successful building controls players make an effort to spend as much as required to understand and empathize with their point of views and needs. It is only after you empathize should you consider proposing anything by way of your opinions. And, if your solution or product does not fit their needs, your best bet is to thank them for their time and find some other opportunity. People who do this find that their relationship with their partners is strengthened from this, to be well rewarded when another problem arises. After all, they will know whom to call when they need an understanding ear for their problems.
Outstanding companies who do well right now use the previous five habits to form a basis of how they conduct their business, focused on a synergistic relationship between vendors, “peer” partners and customers. When the foundations have been set well, and a team of like-minded people or companies starts to work toward a common objective, the world becomes their oyster.
This habit is probably the most difficult to explain in the scope of this article, but those who have worked in a synergistic team will do two things: Firstly, they will attest that it is the best and probably only way to work on any project as complex as today’s buildings. Secondly, they will be successful in business and reap the benefits of their labor.
There is no better time than today to be involved with a synergistic team, the electronic tools available at your command are nothing short of phenomenal, and we’re not just talking Email and cell phones. Collaborative web-based tools for project management, trouble management and eCommerce technologies are enabling incredible power to be placed in the hands of all successful players.
Sharpen the Saw
Mr. Covey’s last habit is something that we see very clearly in this building space, especially in these changing times. Mr. Covey tells a story about two lumberjacks, one sawing trees as fast as he can without stopping, the other taking time to rest occasionally and sharpening his saw. Initially the hard working lumberjack is more successful, but the other easily overtakes him as he is fresh and his tools are sharp.
Successful companies in the buildings space dedicate a small but important portion of their time and effort to self-renewal. They learn new technologies, best practices and industry trends. Successful companies allocate, and in many cases, mandate that employees spend time as a priority on continuing education and self-renewal. The technology changes going on today is not a one-shot deal, it will be a continual learning and re-learning experience. If you treat this effort as a necessary evil, you will surely not become one of the profitable companies now enjoying the fruits of this changing industry.
For those interested, it would be worth your while purchasing copies of Mr. Covey’s book, and providing one to each of your staff as mandatory reading. It will probably be the best dollars you will invest in your business.
The Amazon.com link is www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-People/dp/0743269519
Happy reading and good luck.
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