Great, but not Perfect
I say, and for the most part it is true - that for 20+ years, I’ve woken up and run this company of mine like it’s a start up, just getting off the ground. There is little to no administrative fat in the ranks, there is little to no waste of time, little to no costly inefficiency of poor organization. I wake up every morning breathing fire, and pushing for a productive day. Ask anyone who gets my 4:45am texts.
That was true even as I say that the last few years I delegated a lot of the client-facing day to day operations. There was/is plenty to coordinate beside tile and kitchen selections.
I bring this up because as the business owner who runs their large company like it’s a small company I rarely see something in the business without seeing a way to improve it. We are going through that right now with our marketing, incorporating cutting edge renderings into our marketing efforts of our new homes.
Frankly, it’s amazing what can be done currently in the realm of - let’s call it ‘artificial design”, as in ‘artificial intelligence’ but wow that sounds horrible so let’s try something else, like ‘computer renderings’ (ugh), ‘digital design’ - ummm, that’s not terrible.
What it is is a combination of our stock photos from when we take pictures of houses as we complete them, and a computer-generated enhancement of the photo, as well as the addition of new colors, landscaping, outdoor furniture and other accents on the outside. They can change the large- the colors- to the small, like the color or style of the front door or stone around the porch columns.
On the interior, they can take pictures of a home we built in the past and change the floor colors, the kitchen, the paints, and then add room by room furniture.
The problem that I saw in the past with this stuff is the execution was only fair, and it looked artificial and to me once it looked less than 100% real, then it wasn’t worth doing. But the other week my friend and realtor extraordinaire Erik Freeland showed me a house he is marketing and I was blown away by the digital design of the interior and that opened my eyes as to what is really possible for us.
And because we sell so many houses before they start or make much progress, it’s easy to see how valuable this would be to the potential client, in terms of informing and inspiring them to buy from us.
Our newish employee Jordan comes from a strong design background and has been leading the charge for the digital design of 11 homes - we aren’t talking about what type of fixtures we are using, it is more like ‘what this house could look like’. And I got to tell you, it’s a game changer.
But it’s a game changer for the same reasons it’s always been - I didn’t stop trying to improve our offerings and our process, I know the company well enough to know what still could be improved, and then I insisted on quality when we endeavored on this new initiative. And you can’t neglect the one variable that has always been true - I have good taste and a good eye - I don’t deserve to have either since I don’t really come from any background that would lend itself to that talent, and I never in anyway developed formally that talent, but it is there, and it runs through everything we do - an eye that knows when something is good looking, and aligns with the design inclinations of our clients. You can do whatever you want, but if it is generic, or lacking in pizazz, that does have a measurable impact on it’s impact on the business- our business has always found a lane because our design eye has always been sharp.
But to circle back - even this exercise of digital designing is not done leisurely. I want it done, fast, as well as it can possibly be, and out the door and into production. There is zero value for me in a partially completed project, however awesome it is. There is no time to waste in a startup, and while we may not be that anymore, we still definitely act like everything is on the line, everyday.
To circle back to another point, one of the hardest parts of leading any initiative is truly evaluating what is possible- from a budget vantage, and more importantly, from a talent and time vantage. Seldom, and possibly if ever, have I had the luxury of saying ‘make this perfect’ - ‘go back to the drawing board’, ‘start from scratch’ ‘do another draft’. On the path of many if not all of our initiatives over the last 20 years, there is a hard to accept but critically important aspect of knowing your team well enough to know when you’ve reached ‘pretty good’ and ‘we can live with that’ - where ‘pretty good and done’ outweighs ‘perfect’ - I’m not really talking in construction, but everything else from book-keeping to marketing, to design, to tracking sales leads to fleet management to a million other things we do each day. There is just truly diminishing returns of chasing a level of execution that isn’t available at the moment - you can yearn for it, you can keep it in mind for another day in the future, you can nurse your heartbreak, you can bookmark it, but you got to keep moving, and many times that involves the heartbreak of not a reaching level of finish you were hoping for, but dialed back as other urgent needs require attention, and as you always must, you prioritize and allocate scarce resources in a fashion you see as most pressing.