Throughout my career, which started in 1983, I have always been impressed with progressive companies, especially those in the construction industry. Our industry has always been crowded with the barrier of entry relatively easy. The challenge is sustainability and growth. I have seen many companies, large and small, who have been very successful in finding ways to differentiate themselves in a crowded industry.
I’ve had the privilege to work in several geographic markets with some great companies. I’ve been greatly involved in starting up new companies as well as making good ones great. Each time, I have asked myself how do we differentiate our company and services resulting in sustainable growth and increased profitability?
There are many philosophies and approaches, but for me, it comes down to three basic elements, customers/relationships, benchmarking, and risk taking. Here are a few things to consider:
Customers are your life blood. In the construction industry, we have an opportunity to get to know our clients personally. Taking the time to cultivate and nurture these relationships is invaluable. It is not enough to take clients to lunch; you need to invest in a personal relationship that cultivates trust. Clients always want to do business with people they like. If they want to use you, they will find a way to navigate through the obstacles to do so. Once you have a relationship and a project, your company must have a culture of striving to exceed expectations. Don’t settle for just meeting their needs, find ways to surpass them. This should be your number one goal regardless of the types and sizes of the projects you are working on.
This is a very common practice within the corporate world of business. Companies evaluate competitors to see if they measure up with processes, performance, quality, time and cost. Although it is always good to know what your competitors are doing, I have found the best ideas come from looking outside your industry. Great leaps of advancement, in all areas of construction, have come from researching and incorporating best practices from the world’s best companies.
In our industry we have become very risk adverse and for good reasons. Every aspect of our business has some impact related to those risks. We spend countless hours and resources in training and improving processes and procedures to mitigate threats to our business and bottom line. But in order to grow, differentiate and progress you need to push the envelope. The best companies encourage out-of-the-box thinking and take on the attitude of trying new things regardless of the outcome. You can’t allow your company to become stagnant or comfortable with the status quo. Change is hard, especially for those who have been in the industry for many years. But everyone in a company should be encouraged to look for better ways of doing things. Taking risks can be very rewarding and sometimes the only way to improve and differentiate your company.
We are currently enjoying some of the best years we have seen in construction for many years. This is the time for self-improvement and finding ways to differentiate yourself. When the market starts to retract, and it will, you will have a greater piece of mind knowing you have a jump on your competitors and have positioned yourselves for a better future.