Short-term thinking gets us to tomorrow. A well-executed strategy illuminates the future and builds the bridge to get there. Without a well-executed strategy, the future most of us want will always seem one step ahead and out of reach. But despite all of the complex stuff keeping you up at night and thwarting your best efforts, the next 12 months can be different – very different! It’s up to you.
Strategy: “A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” Strategy exists for one reason and one reason only: to achieve results! It’s your most potent weapon, for in it lies latent power for real, lasting change. So, why do more leaders in the construction industry take advantage of it? I believe it’s largely because most builders are conditioned to live in the day-to-day and find it too challenging to think intentionally about the future, much less plan for it. And it has cost us.
As an industry, we’ve missed a lot of opportunities, especially considering the volatility and complexity of the business we’re in. It’s about time for that to change – for you, the leader to change, and do away with business as usual. Executing a strategy does take some time and discipline, which always seem to be in short supply. But that’s nothing new. Change is hard work. When a leader begins to see how that hard work pay off in terms of profit and peace of mind, the future comes into focus and “strategy” takes on a whole different meaning.
In his well-known treatise on strategy, The Art of War, Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote that “The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.” Many “calculations” equals victory. Few or no “calculations” equals defeat. It was these simple principles that informed his strategy, dictated his plan of action on the battlefield and brought about victory. But Sun Tzu’s main goal was not to overcome or defeat his enemies as much as it was to avoid war when possible while remaining in control. A lesson all leaders can learn from.
Strategy should be about controlling the outcomes we want while avoiding unnecessary battles – the ones that too often exhaust and frustrate us. Sun Tzu also noted that “…the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting.” It’s not as difficult as most of us make it out to be, it just requires being purposeful and disciplined. So here are some key points to get you started along with some additional parallels from Sun Tzu (in italics). Taking control of the future you really want defines leadership.
1) Love your people: The General who advances without coveting fame …whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service …is the jewel of the kingdom. Only a humble spirit will others follow and be loyal to. Loyal people give willingly to the cause. All the leader need do is give them a venue to be heard and new ideas spring up and flow with enthusiasm and good will.
“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys …”
2) Define value: Strategy is about delivering value – to all constituents, from staff to subs to end users. A leader’s vision for the future must be all inclusive. If it is not, who is losing? Everyone has to win and that is the implicit purpose for every business – yours included. Defining the ideal future for your constituents (owners and leaders included) is the most important component of strategy. Without a clear picture of a compelling future there can be no motivation to pursue it. The status quo becomes our zone of comfort.
Invest the time to answer the question “What do we really want?” Wrestle with it and test it for authenticity until you are sure it is clear and complete (for the time being). “It is a matter of life and death, a road to either safety or to ruin.” No strategy is a strategy, but who knows where that will take us. Success though, is not random.
3) State and accept the current condition of your business. Maybe the hardest part of strategy is looking in the mirror and facing the truth about our people, leadership, organizational skill (or lack thereof), and financial performance. But if leaders (and staff) are not willing to face reality, there will never be a compelling desire to abandon old thinking and pursue a brighter future – however you define it. As Toyota’s devotion to the term ‘Kaizen’ has demonstrated via years of domination in the auto industry, nothing is perfect, and everything can be improved.
Allow people the freedom and safety to speak up and share their unique perspectives. Too often they have something to say but have never been given the chance to say it (or they’ve been too afraid to). What they say may surprise you but when a leader is most surprised there is almost always new possibility for growth. Successful teams achieve unity by allowing for creative dissent.
4) Document your action plan and know what to measure. Once a team knows where they are and where they are going, constraints become obvious. Be bold and relentless naming your constraints to ensure the right action steps! “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself and not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” Good advice! The enemy is whatever can stop you from succeeding.
Action steps connect the present to the future and end with quantifiable results. Put each action step on a timeline for completion and measure results ruthlessly! Use the Legacy One Page Strategic Planning tool as a guideline to document and organize your work.
Reminder: as you and your teamwork through your action plan and metrics, always remember to stay focused on delivering value. If any energy, time, or money is invested in an activity that does not or cannot deliver value, it is waste. Cut it out!
What’s your plan? What needs to change? Legacy Business Leaders has the answers you need to help make your epic leap to self-sustaining success in the building industry. Want help working out your strategic plan for the next 12 months? Try out our one or two-day onsite Strategic Planning Accelerator. Being together in person creates a dynamic climate for lasting change and profitability. For more info click here and fill out the form to receive a prompt reply with more details.
Also, feel free to head over to the Legacy website and schedule a no-obligation conversation to find out if coaching could be a good fit and strong ROI for you! Or check out and download any of the Builder Templates there as well. We’re here to accelerate your path to blazing profits and lasting success – results guaranteed!
Wishing you the best!
Legacy Business Leaders, LLC
Fred Reikowsky, LPBC