In many cases, we are not only integral to running the operation — we are, in fact, the brand. Many of us have our name over the door, and our businesses would (sometimes in reality, other times in perception) be worth significantly less without us.
It can be difficult comparing a construction company with other operations in other industries. Our product is highly emotive and is delivered over a significant time period. In most cases our customers are purchasing a product from us that does not exist at the time of purchase.
Unlike other products, the customer does not walk in the door, pick it off the shelf, pay over the counter and walk out the door, with little or no interaction with the business owner or management.
In our case, we actively work with, and alongside, our customers for a significant length of time. This time can either harm or enhance the purchaser’s enjoyment. We have the opportunity to build and solidify a great relationship and provide them with a truly memorable and satisfying experience.
Or, conversely, we can do the opposite. And, as we are all aware, both parties impact greatly on the success of the relationship. We see this so often with winning House of the Year entries.
In many ways, it is my view that the very nature of our industry places even more importance on us individuals as business leaders. In so doing, our business and we are often regarded as one and the same.
We have all heard of Steve Jobs, a co-founder and recently resigned chief executive of Apple, one of the two largest companies in the United States.
With Jobs standing down, amazingly, international analysts and commentators are asking the question of a company valued at about US$400 billion. Will it survive and thrive without him?
Apple investors have been concerned for some time because they see Jobs as irreplaceable. They see him as an industry guru who seems to know what consumers want long before they themselves do!
One analyst has said: “Apple is Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs is Apple, and Steve Jobs is innovation. You can teach people how to be operationally efficient, you can hire consultants to tell you how to do that, but God creates innovation … Apple without Steve Jobs is nothing.”
The consensus among commentators is that Apple will continue to perform well for a number of important reasons:
• Jobs is remaining involved as chairman and in that role will continue to set standards and keep an eye on things.
• Because his health has been questionable for a number of years, the company has had time to plan and groom a successor. That successor has also had some time filling in during those illnesses.
• The standards set by Jobs have filtered throughout the work force. With or without him, it is believed that staff will continue to ask themselves questions such as “what would Steve do?”
• The company put in place a strong management team of people who have worked together and alongside Jobs for some time. It is thought that as long as that team stays together, the company will be in good hands.
I think there are some valuable lessons in this. Let’s not hesitate to become very important to the success of our business, but (and we all need to heed this), let’s ensure we build a business that can, and will, survive without us.
Easier said than done — I know that from personal experience.