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Devil in the Details

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Leadership

Devil in the Details


February 4, 2019

In the fall of 2018, I had the privilege of taking a day to tour two very special companies while I was visiting Copenhagen, and the level of craft and attention to detail evident in their products blew me away.
Both businesses (a cabinetmaker and a handmade tile brand) are relatively young—founded in 2001 and 2006, respectively. But in their brief existence, each has managed to cultivate a culture unlike any I’ve seen in the building products space.

These companies sweat the details—the things no one seemingly sees or cares about; the minutiae that, for most people, hold no value. The cabinetmaking company is so fanatical about quality that its workers milled the lumber on site to make the tongue-and-groove flooring for the company’s showroom and design center. Two elderly gents also fabricate every piece of cabinet hardware on site in a tiny shop. What’s more, two ladies make the reusable cardboard boxes that the company uses to ship its hardware and other small pieces. If you think these companies place a high premium on their products, you’d be right—and for good reason.

Later that night, over Danish-Mexican street food, I posed a rhetorical question to my wife: “Why go through all of that fuss?” Of course, I knew the answer, but then I started thinking about the similarities between those companies and custom home builders. 

The work you do and the details you execute day in and day out may not matter enough to the average homebuyer, but those details are absolutely important to you (or should be), and that means a lot to your clients. And, akin to those companies in Copenhagen, your work is likely unaffordable to all but a few percent of homeowners.

Hopefully, like those Danish brands, you also charge enough for your expertise. Pros in the custom home game—architects, designers, builders, and remodelers—sometimes undercut themselves by not charging enough, neglecting to submit change orders, or miscalculating prices. It’s one of the topics we explore in this month’s business management feature. After all, what’s the point of being a builder of exquisite homes if you can’t run a sustainable business to support your efforts?

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