Mark Richardson: 'When is it going to get better?'

Successful builders are not waiting for the market to recover. They’ve accepted the current economic environment as the new normal and wake up every day focused on making it happen in these stormy waters. Mark Richardson talks about what sets these builders apart from the rest.

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Successful builders are not waiting for the market to recover. They’ve accepted the current economic environment as the new nor

June 05, 2011

The last five years have been very challenging to say the least. Many builders have gone from building numerous homes in a year to very few. In some cases, builders have even abandoned home building altogether and shifted to home remodeling. This change in direction not only involves learning a new language or dialect, but also a different client and audience.

Many builders have also hesitated to move forward with new initiatives and programs in hopes of a market upswing to the way things were several years ago.

While traveling around the country speaking to thousands of builders, remodelers, and architects, I have had an opportunity to not only share some insights on the future, but also poll these professionals as to how their businesses are doing. What is consistent across the country is that conditions are much tougher out there, that borrowing money is much more difficult, and there is more of a scarcity of leads and opportunities than five to seven years ago. Not consistent are the mindsets and business results of these business owners. The correlation between the range of mindsets and the range of business results has been quite interesting. About 20 percent of the businesses are not only having good years in sales and profits, but in some cases record years from 2009 to 2011. With these positive results comes a different mindset. None of these leaders are asking me (the guy speaking about the future), “When is it going to get better?” For them, things are better. For the other 80 percent, that’s the first question out of their mouth. The more-positive 20 percent have accepted this environment as the new normal and wake up every day focused on making it happen in these stormy waters.

Let’s use the metaphor of stormy waters compared to sunny day conditions as a way to translate this into your business actions. In stormy waters, you prepare the boat properly to handle the crashing waves, you rely on navigation tools to guide your decisions, and you need every member of the team to be aligned and on top of their game. You also need to believe you’re going to be successful for others to believe and buy from you. Your clients are paralyzed and need someone to be the voice of reason and guide them through these tough times.

Harvard University recently conducted a study that showed how the number of wealthy Americans has dropped in the last several years due to depreciation and stock-market challenges. However, at the same time, the level of savings has increased to three times the level during the go-go times of the last decade.

Business owners that are making it happen in this environment are not only resolved to theses times, but they also have the right attitude to attack it. Here are three common denominators that you can use as a mindset-check:

  1. All negative attitudes are eliminated. A negative attitude is like a cancer or virus that needs to squashed by all. Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”
  2. Go on the offensive. You need to control your destiny and not let the environment control you and your success.
  3. Become a student of success. Success is a verb, not a noun. You must invest time and energy to focus on the business, not just in the business. Put your sites on longer-term planning, not just this week and this month.

In closing, stop asking, “When is it going to get better?” Doing so will give you and your team the license to get better.

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 an Affiliate 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, to be published this fall. He can be reached at

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