Mark Richardson: Are you a professional?

Defining and articulating what is a professional in remodeling or new construction is tougher than in some other industries.

July 12, 2013

Are you a pro? Do your clients think they are hiring a professional when they do business with you? Do you believe that paying more for a professional versus an amateur is appropriate? 

Defining and articulating what is a professional in remodeling or new construction is tougher than in some other industries. Dentists have extensive education, testing, and credentials to prove their pedigrees. Pro athletes have team owners paying their salaries based on game statistics. But being a remodeling or building pro is much less well defined. What is not up for debate, however, is that most all of you want to be a professional.  
Often times the best way to understand and improve is to look at other occupations. I like to use the athletic analogies because those comparisons generally can be translated to business. Watch a good baseball game, and you’ll see similarities that can be applied to a business. In that spirit let’s look at attributes that make a professional. 
1) Commitment to constant improvement: A professional believes that constant improvement is a requirement. If you are not focused on always improving and adjusting, you will slip backwards. Investing time on a daily and weekly basis to improving is a necessity not only for the player but also for the teammates (or the co-workers in the case of a business). Professional athletes invest 20-to-40 hours a week into practicing. How much time are you and your team devoting to constant improvement? If it is not several hours a week, then you may not be able to compete in the future.
2) Thinking long term: A professional balances short-, medium-, and long-term goals. You need to win today’s game but not at the expense of losing the season or being unprepared for the future. Achieving this balance has been tough with the challenging market, but this perspective will affect many business decisions and investments for healthy sustainable growth. Begin with making a weekly one-hour appointment with yourself. Focus on what your business might look like in one-to-three years. You will find this exercise insightful and energizing.
3) Have a coach: Do you have a coach? Do you think there are any professional tennis players who do not have a coach? Very few remodeling owners have a coach. Those who do are generally in much better shape than those who don’t. Having a coach is about being professional. A coach can be an adviser, a trainer, and a sounding board. A coach will help hold you accountable to your success goals. Coaching can take as little as a couple hours a month or more if your needs are greater. We all need a coach to take our game to the next level.
4) It’s a business, not just a game: A professional understands that 80 percent of your success is about business acumen, not just the sticks and bricks. As fans we see the tennis player on the court but in the stands are his business manager and coaches. This support network is counterintuitive for many remodelers and builders because you got into construction as a result of your passion for the house or your interest in helping homeowners live in a better home. While these are prerequisites to get into construction, the professional understands that a big part of being professional is about the business. It’s about leadership, team development, financial acumen, marketing strategies, and sales skills. A professional devotes a large majority of their time to working on the business, not just in it.
5) Failure is not an option: A professional does whatever it takes to achieve the goals and succeed. This mission requires a very high work ethic by everyone and an understanding that goals are not just wish lists. Goals are what you need to have the vision and direction to know where you are heading. Failing to hit the goals will have an effect on the future of your business. 
The real question at this stage is not are you or are you not a professional. The real question is will you do what it takes to move toward a more professional disposition. Like a pro athlete, being professional takes time and commitment. It takes a buy-in by all of those around you. Your business results may go up or down, but you can control your own destiny by how professional you are.
Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design/ Remodeling Inc. and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business?,” and a forthcoming book, “Business Themes to Live By.” He can be reached at [email protected].

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