By Gerald Daniels
Reflecting on the first year in our property development business has left me thankful for all of the opportunities we’ve had, for the relationships we’ve built, and for the people who have helped us each step of the way. But what I am most thankful for are the obstacles we have had to overcome. There is something to be said about obstacles that create resistance which always seem to come at the most inopportune time. In physics, resistance refers to the force that opposes motion. Our bodies resist disease, or we would become very sick. During World War II “the resistance” was an underground movement that helped shape a victorious outcome over the Axis Powers. Yet with all of the positive attributes linked to resistance, sometimes we fail to see its benefits.
As I’ve dealt with all of the people, profits and problems this year one question keeps recycling in my mind, how do we improve service to our clients? Well, be careful what you ask for. I received a crash course on how not to do business. Resistance was my teacher. In this case it took on the form of a sage old gentleman who wanted to not only settle up his final payment, but to also pass along a bit of advice.
He was complimentary about our work on the project, but let me know that he felt like we had put him on the back burner, so to speak. He was kind enough to not only share his complaints but took the time to explore a bit deeper into how we managed, supervised, and organized within our company. He is a successful businessman so I listened carefully. He made me realize how important it is to keep every deadline, commitment, and appointment. He explained that problems arise but when they do it’s critical to communicate with the client and resolve the problem in a timely manner. I walked away from that meeting determined to live by The Law of Mathis: I will resist the urge to make excuses. That’s it, no more excuses from employees, supervisors or me when dealing with a customer.
Our company is growing fast. The form of resistance I seem to experience most is the sense that there is not enough time to do all that needs to be done. I shared this frustration with Jim Whitt and he wrote three letters on a note pad: STO. S stands for strategic, T for tactical and O for operational. He explained that most of my time has been spent working at the operational level of my business this year, which he said is typical of a start-up company. And he’s right, I roll up my sleeves and get right in there and work in the dirt with the rest of the guys. But now I have to shift my time to the tactical and strategic levels if I’m going to build a structure that will allow my business to grow and deliver the excellent customer service that my clients and I expect. That means I have to spend my time planning, managing, leading and developing people and projects.
“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made,” wrote philosopher John Dewey. “It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs.” I can let resistance be a rut or be a teacher. My experience with the client who thought he was put on the back burner was a wake-up call. I have vowed to never let that happen again. It’s really not a matter of enough time, it’s a matter of how and where I spend my time. Commitment is what happens when your intention is willing and your behavior follows your intentions. I’m committed to spending more time on strategic and tactical issues this next year and less time working in the dirt. No excuses.