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We self-perform testing and provide full reports and investigations.
We provide assessments, electronic leak detection and roof moisture scans.
We tackle quality assurance, commissioning, condition assessments, and design review.
Our AAMA Accredited lab features state-of-the-art equipment for fast and accurate results.
We self-perform testing and provide full reports and investigations.
We provide assessments, electronic leak detection and roof moisture scans.
We tackle quality assurance, commissioning, condition assessments, and design review.
Our AAMA Accredited lab features state-of-the-art equipment for fast and accurate results.
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Have you ever known a person who managed to build up a reputation for being athletic with shockingly minimal athletic traits? This sometimes happens because that person makes something like a buzzer-beating 3-point shot one time, earning them the title “the basketball guy.” That 3-point shot was definitely important, but it doesn’t make that person athletic. In fact if you go back and look at the game stats, it turns out that in that very same game he had more turn-overs than anybody else and out of thirteen attempts that was the only shot he made. We are sometimes so bamboozled by one exceptional action, we forget about every failure that came before or after that one buzzer-beater. From now on, the fans will only think of him as the star player. It won’t matter how many turnovers he gets in a single game. The crowd will think of them all as separate instances of abnormality, because “this is Jarod after all, and Jarod is an athlete.”
The only people who won’t fall for his reputation of greatness, are Jarod’s teammates. And they will be accused, by the fans, of jealousy for not passing to him. The teammates will be far more likely to pass to Ted, who’s never made a three pointer in his life, but is an excellent ball handler, and consistently makes his layups. In other words, Ted has proven his reliability.
Don’t Mistake a Brilliant Flash for Reliability
We can be taken in quite easily by a flash, but more often than not, that flash is unreliable. It’s like lightning, and you can never be sure when it will strike again. Reliability may be less exciting to the viewer, but in the long run, will be the more strategic and fruitful option. And it’s often the reliable businesses and people that produce the best results for you.
Let’s explore 3 key traits that mark every reliable business and person.
One of the easiest ways to be reliable is by being accessible. This step specifically doesn’t even require any talent at all, it simply requires your presence. Imagine you have a cockroach problem. You’re finding them everywhere; crawling in your sock drawer, dead in your coffee beans, burrowing in your flour. You can’t leave a stick of butter out overnight, because in the morning it will look like a cockroach battle took place there.
Your friend advises you to call Mike the Exterminator. He says two months ago Mike helped him with an extraordinarily bad weevil problem. You take your friend’s advice, and try to contact Mike. He doesn’t pick up the first time you call, but that isn’t too surprising. An hour later, you call again. Still no answer, so this time you leave a message. Two days later, he still hasn’t answered so you call your friend, asking if he had a similar problem.
“Oh yeah,” he says. “Took me months to get a hold of him. He doesn’t do very many jobs, and I think he’s only open on Wednesdays.”
At this point, you won’t care how well he comes recommended. It doesn’t matter if he does an excellent job, because right now, you just need somebody in there doing something. You Google exterminators near me, and find Stan the Bug Guy. Stan has two stars on Google review, but seems to be the only option. You call, and he picks up on the second ring. You set up an appointment for 9 AM the next morning, and by lunchtime there is ne’er a roach to be seen.
At the end of the day, availability will matter more to most people than skill. Obviously, you don’t want to botch the job once you get there, but answering people’s calls is the first step on the journey to raking in long-term customers.
Most of the time, when somebody is looking to hire somebody else, it’s so that they can take one more item off their list of “things to worry about.” For instance, Stan the Bug Guy. You had a dire problem, and looped Stan in to help you out. That’s what an expert’s job is: worrying about things, so you don’t have to. He’s adopting the monkeys from your circus. But, there is an occasional person with the title of “expert” who manages to do things exactly opposite. Instead of taking weight off your shoulders, they themselves become an extra vegetable on your veggie platter of causes for distress. They are like that baby sitter who can’t make it twelve minutes without calling to ask about something.
Ideally, a babysitter is supposed to shoulder the responsibility of caring for your kids for one night. You hire them, so that you can get out of the house and leave your kids behind for a couple hours. But suppose, two hours in, you get a call from her. You pick up, and she’s in tears. Apparently she blew up the microwave, then the kids brought the hose into the house and watered all the furniture, somebody dumped a bottle of honey in their hair, one of the kids ran away during a game of hide and seek and nobody can find them, and the rest of the kids locked the babysitter out on the roof. Far from being a help, in magician-like fashion, she has actually produced several more problems out of thin air. You and your spouse call your date short, and return home to rescue the damsel in distress on your rooftop.
Capability is a Big E on the Eye Chart of Reliability
You want to be able to hand over a slice of your worries to them, and have them completely vanish. You don’t want your contractor to become an additional burden. You’re hiring them, so they can shoulder your problems, not so they can hop up on your shoulders, one hand rested atop their Stetson, hollering “giddy-up.”
Capability means they show up to a situation with their own bag of tools, their own game plan, and their own way of doing things. They should know more about your problem than you do. It shouldn’t matter if all you can tell your plumber is “there’s just water everywhere, and I can’t make it stop.” You shouldn’t have to know what’s causing the leak, where it is, or what will make it stop. Capability means that you should be able to hand them the general diagnosis of your problem, and let them go down deep into all the boring pros, and footnotes, and appendices, and bibliographies.
As much as we may hate it when we go in for an oil change and come back with an eight foot list of what’s wrong with our car, deep down we know we should be a little bit grateful. It isn’t pleasant, but for many people it is quite necessary. If all someone knows about their car is that it needs gas and sometimes oil, how on earth will they ever find out that their car battery has corroded into a pancake? They need an expert mechanic to watch for things like that. Would you really rather they keep all your vehicle issues to themselves?
Thoroughness means that they are not just focused on the specific task they were assigned. They are watching for additional issues that could sneak up on the untrained eye. Nobody is ever going to hire an expert to look for problems that they don’t know exist, and yet those problems are still out there. So how does one deal with those sorts of blind spots? You have to rely on the mechanic to go beyond what he was asked to do. That doesn’t mean a full car inspection, but it means that, while changing your oil, he should be observant. And, he should report back to you anything of note. The thorough expert gives us confidence, knowing everything is working at intended.
Don’t Overlook Reliability
Despite its importance, reliability is normally something that we forget to look for in others. Resumes will show the highlights of a person’s career, but not their everyday performance. We tend to look for a person’s best work to determine their ability. But, when looking to hire, pay attention to how consistent they are in their communication, and any references that they may give you. Trust other’s’ evaluations of them more than their own.
Many people mistake being a leader with being powerful, or above others in strength, virtue, and/or character. Others think it’s about being more skilled or more knowledgeable than the people around them. They tend to think that in order to lead you have to have something that people around you want and don’t have. In order to keep your position, you need to keep that leg up, keep that thing that they don’t have out of their reach. Because as long as you have it and they don’t, they will have to remain at your feet.
While this isn’t technically wrong, many power structures are built on this model, it isn’t a very long-sighted one. Eventually, someone with even more knowledge will come along and displace you. There will always be somebody better, more experienced, richer, or more powerful than you. And as long as your grip on those beneath you is based on their not having something that you do, then you will eventually fall. But, there is another way of being a leader that is not built on suppressing those around you. This kind of leader is one who pulls others toward him instead of pushing people under him. This kind of leader is one who will last because people respect him. Because they want to follow him.
This kind of leader doesn’t get his authority from keeping others in the dark, but from trying to bring them into the light. He’s a teacher. Instead of using his expertise as a weapon to point at those under him, he uses it as a prize to pull people alongside him. Instead of being threatened by the idea that someone could surpass him, he welcomes the idea. Instead of his eyes being on himself, they are on his goal. And most importantly, he doesn’t see himself as a leader at all. He thinks of himself as and even acts like, a servant. He cares for those under him, trying constantly to bring them to his level. His end goal is a developed community not an army of minions.
That’s all well and good to say, but practically speaking, how does somebody who is obviously in a state of power over others (an employer for example) practice this sort of leadership without any sort of duplicity? He knows he is above them, so how can he act like he isn’t?
One of the easiest ways to avoid dominating others is by not taking a condescending position with them. As obvious as this sounds on paper, it’s surprisingly easy to fall into this in practice. After all, we are all human, and we all like feeling above others.
Sometimes when you are in the place of the “expert” and are tasked with explaining something to the newbie or a potential client there is an inexplicable urge to complicate things. We all want to make our job sound much harder than it is. So we talk about it with as much technical jargon and insider language as possible. We want to look like we are trying to explain our job when what we are really doing is overcomplicating it to keep others in the dark. We want them to look up to us and our incomprehensible “expertise.”
Many politicians are masters of this. They use legal vocabulary to describe simple policies in order to both confuse those on the outside and to paint themselves as reliable experts. But it’s such an easy trick, bosses use it all the time, as well as parents. Even the TV repairman will talk over your head to justify his price.
This is incredibly easy for you to do, and imperative that you don’t. This trick works for a time, but will eventually become obvious to everyone. They will soon realize that you are talking down to them, and resent you. Instead, you should talk to them like they are equals, working hard to make sure they understand. Respect them. You shouldn’t laugh if they don’t understand something in ten minutes, that took you ten years to understand. Keep it simple, but not condescending. Relate to them, but not with any edge to your voice.
Especially when you really are an expert, it is very hard to not be condescending to those who truly aren’t. If you are an electrical expert, and you have to rewire a house with somebody who isn’t, not seeing eye to eye can be incredibly frustrating. You know you are right, but you can’t play the expert card without sounding stuck up. It’s very easy to fall straight into an argument, and slam them with reason after reason for your way of doing things. But by doing this, you are all but asking for a fight. Your reasons won’t matter to your partner, as much as your presentation of them. They won’t care about your credentials if they feel like you are talking down to them. They won’t even care if they’re wrong, they’ll dig their heels in simply because they don’t like your tone of voice.
Instead of dominating the conversation, you should listen to them, even if you know they are wrong. Treat them like an equal. Hear them out, and then respectfully disagree. Explain to them the parts in their plan that you don’t think will work, but also be sure to mention the parts that will. Approach their solution with a problem-solving sort of attitude, not a critical one. Invite them to help you improve their plan. Work out the bugs together.
Leading Isn’t the Goal
Leadership is not actually an end in itself. You don’t lead so that people will follow you, you lead so that you can reach an outside goal. And when that is your mission, what you really want is for you and those around you to reach some point, leadership becomes a lot easier. It is no longer about power, hierarchy, or pride. It’s about a mission. This kind of leadership requires a certain kind of equality. An environment of respect, and comradery. A vision for working with others to accomplish more together.
There tends to be an aversion to choosing to work for smaller companies when a larger one is available. People tend to think that the larger the company is the more professional company. Or that the larger company knows exactly what they are doing, and will take you further in your career. It’s a simple “bigger is better” principle. But “better” is dependent on what you personally are looking for in the work environment. So what’s different about a small company?
Fewer Staff Members Means More Diverse Experiences
One of the strengths of a bigger company is the sheer amount of manpower. Because bigger businesses can employ more people, it means that their employees all have to specialize. Imagine a track team with several hundred members. On the whole, the team has an increased chance of winning, but the odds are drastically lowered for every individual member. Suppose you have a vague appreciation for running and so you join this mammoth team. You’re immediately going to have to decide if you are a sprinter or distance runner, what distance you want to run, and then if you want to run a relay or a solo race. You start specializing. If you enter the team as a one hundred meter sprinter, you have no chance of coming out like a pole vaulter. The same is true of a large company. You tend to stay in the field you enter.
Broaden Your Skillset
But if your track team only has twenty people, then those twenty now have to spread themselves out over the entire track and field events and you have a much better chance of finishing the track season as a sprinting, hurdling, triple-jumping, shot putter. Smaller teams mean more variety for each member. Again, it depends on personal preference. If you can think of nothing better than the two hundred meter sprint, then perhaps the big team is for you. If you enjoy running in general but the high jump and shot put also sound like they could be fun, then the small team might be the better option.
See the Project Through to Completion
Secondly, the smaller the company the more of a role you will play in a project from beginning to end. If you are ultra-specialized, projects will come onto your desk at the exact same unfinished phase every time and will leave in the exact same semi-finished phase every time. Somebody specializing in sheetrock hanging in a large company will only ever see the house transform from no sheetrock to sheetrock. He will never see the foundations laid, the skeleton built, the sheetrock mudded and taped, the windows installed, the trim hung, or the house painted. Somebody working for a small company will be able to see the project from start to finish. He might never be as efficient at sheetrocking as the first guy, but he will have a broader knowledge and will consequently be a better builder.
Develop Flexibility and a Mindset of Overcoming Obstacles
Thirdly, the smaller the company the more flexible it is. Like a 5’ basketball player, small companies can duck, dodge, and pivot exactly because they don’t specialize. Since everyone on the team is both looking at the big picture and has the ability to maneuver in the smaller picture, they will be in a much better place to troubleshoot. Suppose somebody at the large construction company shows up to hang the sheetrock and finds that there is a problem with the electrical work. At this large company, he has to call in the electrical team and postpone his own work until this other problem is fixed. At a small company, someone can go to the construction site with the intention of doing one thing and end up doing another, because he is working from a mindset of getting things done, and not just doing his assigned task.
Become More Resourceful by Working for a Small Consultancy Firm
Working for a large company comes with predictable rewards and a clear path to growth within a very narrow range. If you have found your niche and nothing else excites you, then a large company is the perfect place for you. But, if you have a much broader interest in your field and would rather spend at least some time diversifying your skillset and understanding your industry in a broader way, a small company will offer you better opportunities and set you up for a solid future.
Most employers on the hunt for new recruits are looking for someone with a “can-do” attitude. What employer wouldn’t want to have that kind of employee? And for that matter, what employee wouldn’t want to have that kind of attitude? The problem is that most of us don’t actually have that kind of attitude 24/7, and it’s very hard to fake.
A can-do attitude is normally something that is inspired, not something that spontaneously springs up out of a select few. Hoping to find the perfect employee with a perfect attitude and resume may not be all that efficient. Instead of starting over from scratch, try working with what you have. So how can you, as an employer, begin to cultivate and inspire that kind of attitude in your workplace? In a few words: productive & open communication.
Let’s explore just how great communication inspires employees who want to bring their A-game to work with them daily.
The Cog in a Machine
In boat races, you normally have eight Rowers and one Coxswain. The eight Rowers are the muscle and sit facing backward. The Coxswain sits at the back of the boat facing forward. His job is to keep his eye on the other boats and bark out instructions to his teammates. He keeps his eye on the big picture and orders the rowers to adjust accordingly. The rowers obey without question.
What makes this system work is communication. The Coxswain is in a position to be able to see which way the boat is headed, and from there he is in a position to encourage or correct his teammates. If the Rowers don’t know what is happening, they have absolutely nothing to motivate them.
When a rower is not being told how far behind the next boat he is, or how far till the finish line, his mind will begin to focus on the single repetitive action of pulling the oar out of the water, pushing it forward, and then plunging it back into the water. His movements will begin to slow as his mind fixates on the burning in his arms and the numbness in his fingers.
Where You Come In
Great communication is essential if you want to keep your employees working hard, excited about what they are doing. Communicate clearly where they are currently, and what they are working toward. Inspire them. If you leave your employees to find their own motivation, they will stop feeling like important members of the team and more like meaningless cogs in a machine, like the Rower lacking direction from his Coxwain. If they don’t see a finish line, then there is no reason for them to work hard, or efficiently, or even work for you at all
The difference between a rowing team and a business is that communication goes both ways. Commands cannot just be barked out, objections to those commands need to be heard. You can’t treat your employees like a doormat, and expect them to not feel like one.
Sometimes the term “open communication” can have a negative connotation. For instance, many people think that a company that promotes open communication is encouraging employees to feel comfortable talking back to their boss, or complaining loudly about new company policies. Obviously, you want an environment that allows for negative feedback, but that shouldn’t be the norm. Open communication should mean that employees are encouraged to take ownership of the company and propose better solutions to the problems they encounter.
Inspire Productive Open Communication
So how do you do that? One way is to set up incentives for employees to troubleshoot on their own. Tell them that you are interested in hearing their ideas. If an employee figures out how to get a job done with ten nails in three minutes, instead of thirty-five nails in eight minutes, reward them. Maybe it’s public praise, maybe it’s a monetary incentive, but make sure they know you are interested in hearing their ideas, and you are willing to adopt their ideas if they are worth adopting. Remember, they are the ones out in the field doing the heavy lifting. They often have a very different perspective on a project than you do.
Communicate Some More
One of the easiest and most important ways of showing your employees that you are looking out for their best interests is to communicate obstacles and difficulties before they hit. If your business is falling on hard times and needs to cut back on some things, communicate that. And communicate why that is. People are much more patient and understanding when they see that a bad situation is outside your control. Tell them that the next couple of months are going to be hard, don’t let them find that out once the hard time hits. Give them time to prepare.
From an employee’s perspective, your job as a boss should be partly that of a cheerleader. Like any relationship, the relationship between an employer and employee can’t function unless its foundation is built on good communication. Your job is to motivate those who are looking down and can’t see the view. They are dragging themselves through the dirt, and it is very easy to get bogged down, forget what the goal is, and give up. They can only see the trees, and you can only see the forest. You can see the company’s long-term trajectory; they see the daily trials.
Your employees will know where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. And when they have a clear vision and know you understand their concerns, they’ll be truly inspired.
A leader’s job is to get a bunch of people to move from point A, to point B. And if possible, to like it.
A math teacher leads their students from ignorance to competence. A General leads his troops from the safety of their camp to the trenches of a battlefield. A boss has to make his employees work in such a way as to keep his business running smoothly. A leader knows how to get others to act. A good leader knows how to get others to want to act.
The term “relatable leader” can tend to conjure up an image of some pushover doormat of a boss But when done right, relatability can actually strengthen the loyalty of employees towards their employer. When we say someone is “relatable” we mean that we have common ground with them. We see ourselves in them, and we then feel much more comfortable following them. So how do we establish this common ground?
I Was There Once
The first step is to treat individuals like individuals, and their problems like real problems.
Imagine Bill is woken up in the night by his son, Sammy. Sammy is worried that there’s a monster under the bed, and as soon as Bill leaves the room, this monster will leap out and attack him. To Bill, this concern seems trivial and a bit annoying, but to Sammy, this is a matter of life and death. For Bill to roll his eyes, assure Sammy that monsters aren’t real, and to return to bed, is for him to abandon Sammy in his time of need.
Even though Bill can see that this is a non-issue, this is a perfect opportunity for Bill to strengthen his relationship with his son. Let’s say instead of mumbling an assurance and walking out of the room, Bill’s eyes go wide as he leaps onto Sammy’s bed to get out of reach of the monster. From the safety of the bed, Bill begins to tell Sammy about the monster that used to live under his own bed, and how he fought and killed it.
After finishing his tale, Bill carefully climbs from the bed onto the dresser, and from there he can barely reach the nerf swords lying in the corner. With one finger pressed to his lips, he tosses one sword to Sammy and climbs back onto the bed with the other one tucked into his belt. Wielding nerf sword and pillow shields, they plot their attack.
Of course, this situation is slightly different than the kind of scenario you might see in the workplace because the monster under the bed is not a real problem and Bill has to enter into a make-believe world in order to relate to Sammy. However, Bill can still remember when he faced the same fears as Sammy.
Instead of playing the adult card and walking away, he returns to his own boyhood, the very act of which makes him a better father than the one whose pride makes him unable to break through the age barrier.
Allow Them to Contribute
The second step of relatability is to allow others to contribute. It’s easy to repeat the story of how you fixed your own similar problem back in the day, and then to assume that your solution is the only right way.
Allowing others to present their ideas shows respect and shows those under you that you value their opinion. Even if in the end, you don’t go with their idea, hearing them out makes them feel like they’re a valuable part of the team.
Let’s say in their little war council, Bill suggests that they try to outflank the monster. He says that on the count of three, they should leap down on either side of the bed and begin thrusting wildly into the dark cavern. Sammy, however, disagrees. He argues that they should maintain the high ground, and so his idea is that Bill act as a decoy, leaping from the bed and stomping around the room, trying to draw the monster out. Sammy will remain on the bed, and once he has a clear shot, will leap onto the monster’s back.
Disagree, but Explain Why
If and when you do disagree with the proposed solution, you should communicate why you are not going with their idea. You have to be careful about shooting other people’s ideas down, because you don’t want them to think that you think that they are a hopeless case.
Remember, this is where you build the relationship: you disagree, holding your ground. Then you show appreciation for their idea, so they know they’re valued.
Even if the idea is shockingly bad, try to find something about it that you like, and tell them that, before turning their solution down. This will not only honor their efforts but also act as a moment of instruction. And since you worked to highlight the good in their plan, you’ve earned the right for them to pay attention to what you have to say allowing you to simultaneously make needed course corrections and build up your relationship with that employee.
Be the Relatable Leader they Will Follow into Battle
Learning how to be relatable is key in becoming the kind of leader that others can trust. The three steps can easily be summarized in one short sentence: respect others, and they will respect you. This takes humility, time, and love, but the reward is an environment of trust, selflessness, and respect that amplifies the effectiveness of your team and business.
Resourcefulness: everybody wants it in their employees, but few know how to make a resourceful employee. It isn’t like honesty or diligence where you can just resolve to tell the truth or to work harder. You can’t just decide one day to start being resourceful. So how do you build a culture on resourceful people when it’s not something you can just demand? Let’s talk about how to recognize it when you see it, so you can hire and promote for resourcefulness.
Resourcefulness is the ability to creatively and effectively navigate your way through new and unpredictable situations. It is not a personality trait that you are born with, but it’s the manifestation of other virtues that can be developed over time, these being: experience, curiosity, and a creative mindset.
These virtues improve leadership and the ability of a company to run smoothly, even if the main leader is on vacation, at a conference or on another job. So even if you have visions of distributed leadership that can make decisions without you there, if you can’t find and develop resourceful people, all this talk about building a company that can run without you is a far-off dream.
So let’s talk about each virtue and so you know how to spot it. Because if you know what it looks like, you can hire for it, promote for it, and build it into your culture.
Experience is more than just the passage of time. And while time can affect experience, it is not the cause. Imagine two men, Bill and Frank. Bill and Frank are both passengers on a plane that crashes, and they end up stuck on an island for two months with the other surviving passengers. Bill rises to the occasion, organizing people, getting them to gather food, find water, and build a shelter. Frank spends the majority of his time on the beach, curled in a ball, weeping. After two months of this, who has gained more survival experience? They were both on the island for the same amount of time, and one could argue that Frank actually felt the situation more acutely than Bill. He really lived through it.
But experience is more than just living through a particular problem. It means learning how to deal with that problem; it requires a sort of reckoning with reality. While Frank spent his time crying and wishing he wasn’t in a bad situation, Bill accepted it quickly and then worked from there.
You can accelerate experience too. Bill benefited through first-hand experience, but that’s not the only way to gain experience. You can also get it through reading and study, by engaging content from those with experience and implementing it in your own life. Second-hand experience is what police and military rely on in training. The closer the second-hand experience is to the real scenario the better.
Know it When You See It
Experienced people bring a kind of confidence. But overconfident people can too. So how do we tell the difference?
- Experienced people have nothing to prove to themselves, and consequently are much more level-headed in tight situations.
- They can quickly analyze problems and propose solutions, without letting the pressure get to them.
- They tend to have backup plans that they know — from experience — will probably work.
So if they’re uptight and worried at every stage of the conversation or have a hard time being nice to people when things get tough, they might lack experience.
And right away, we see how hiring from within can be so important: you can observe people on good days and bad days. You can really get to know how they handle things. Does their handling of problem show experience or betray a lack of confidence?
Nobody trusts the unengaged doctor who asks very few questions and ends the visit by telling you to take some Advil and give it a week. He’s just not curious enough about the problem to treat the root issue. He just assumes he knows, based on superficial evidence. But just as dangerous as a lack of curiosity is poor judgment about what, exactly, to be curious about.
Einstein once said, “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”
A good problem solver should be more interested in the problem than the actual solution. This might seem strange, but imagine a doctor who is intensely interested in cutting-edge medicines, but doesn’t really care if you have cancer or the flu. On the other hand, if you have a doctor who spends most of his time digging as deep as he can into the root of the problem, then chances are pretty good you will get a simple and specific diagnosis, rather than a list of problems that it might be.
And construction is no different. Curious people identify the root problem and solve THAT problem. And that’s who you want in leadership.
Know It When You See It
When diagnosing a problem, there are a few key questions that you should start with.
Why is it a problem? Seems rather obvious in the abstract, but it is a perfectly good question for a sixteen-year-old girl to ask when she sees that light that looks like a genie bottle flashing on her dashboard. Clearly the dashboard light looks like it might be a problem, but why?
Is it worth solving? Let’s say Sarah, the girl with the flashing lights on her dashboard, googles the problem and learns that she is out of oil. Her next question is, does that matter? Can she just ignore it like she does the rest of the lights? What’s the worst that could happen?
Who is it a problem for? For all Sarah might know, being out of oil might mean that her car will start shooting fireballs out the exhaust pipe, posing as a safety hazard to any bicyclists tailing her too closely, but she will be completely fine.
What makes it a problem? No doubt this answer is the one she will receive in a lecture format from her mechanic when she confesses that she has been driving this way for a month.
So when you see your staff focusing on the right things, rather than things they can’t change, things that are in the past, or the shortcomings of other people, it shows good focus.
But that’s just the start. We need people who can obsess over the problem, getting the technical specs of the problem, understanding why it’s a problem, and whether it’s worth heroic efforts to solve.
These are the decision-makers you want to entrust with a project.
A creative mindset is the ability to divorce the conventional use of a tool from the thing itself. You may have seen something like this before in a spy or detective show; the kind of show where the main character makes a homemade bomb in four minutes by using nothing more than some nail polish remover, baking soda, and peanut butter.
A creative mindset sees items as a composite of individual parts, all of which have many alternative purposes. This may seem abstract, but could be as simple as using a coat hanger to get your keys out of a locked car.
For example, to the untrained eye, a pencil might just look like a writing utensil, but for Jerry it is a little bundle of wood, metal, and graphite. On one rainy afternoon, Jerry gets himself locked outside his house when his lock decides to stick. He searches through his car, looking for anything he can use to help, and stumbles upon a pencil. Knowing that graphite can act as a lubricant, and a pencil is made of graphite, he breaks off the tip, shoves it in the lock, and with a bit of elbow grease, makes it into his house just in time for the game.
A creative mindset is a necessary component of resourcefulness because, on top of having a solid understanding of the problem, a creative mindset is able to solve the problem with common objects, which will most likely make the solution much cheaper.
Know It When You See It
A creative mindset doesn’t need to be as fancy in practice as it sounds on paper. It might be as exciting as duct-taping your exhaust pipe back on. One sign that a person lacks a creative mindset, would be if the only solution they see is the first option that pops up on Google. If their only way of fixing a problem is to order the exact missing part online, they are probably not your best bet.
In fact, if you want to see some really innovative, smart uses of common materials to solve household problems, don’t look for this coming from a Harvard grad, but instead add the word “Redneck” to the beginning of your search. Look up “Redneck pool heater” and you’ll see what I mean.
And watch for people to jump in when there’s a problem and find an alternative use for a tool that they have in their truck to avert disaster on the job site.
And then promote that person.
Build Your Culture of Resourcefulness
Look for employees who are confident in their abilities but not afraid to ask for help, who can reduce problems to their simplest forms, and who can find quick and economical ways to fix those problems.
Every employer wants employees who can work on their own, solve problems, and train others, without their boss having to breathe down their neck throughout the entire process. While you can’t make an employee resourceful if they aren’t up for it, you can look for these traits among potential new hires, but even more by watching existing employees at work day in and day out.
Leaders navigate through the uncertain. Cultivate it in yourself, reward it in others, and watch your company start to attract leaders from without, and grow leaders from within.
Large consulting firms bring experience and a certain level of accountability. But small consultancies offer their own benefit. They can be a great value, since they’re often more niched, have experience in your area, give you deeper connections with their everyday operations, and can give you the flexibility that comes from close proximity to decisionmakers.
Ever wonder why people go with small consulting companies when there are some big ones out there that do a good job? Why does there seem to be such a connection? Sure, you can have a connection with someone at a larger company, and you might even like that larger company.
Their branding makes them seem organized and professional. Their rigid processes speak of order and reliability. They might be very well-run.
And on the other extreme, you have fly-by-night companies that show up when they want to, always make excuses for things they didn’t do right, and you’re just sure they’re paying people under-the-table to keep the business afloat.
But then there’s a layer in-between. A smaller, more-specialized group of companies that gives you as much reliability and professionalism as the larger companies, but garner more loyalty. And the question is: why is that?
How can a small consultancy give you a better value than a larger company?
Here are three ways.
Innovation (or dealing with non-standard problems) requires a little more experience and a different way of thinking.
The great, scalable, large consultancies give you a process to deal with normal issues, manned by people who understand the process, maybe even more than they understand the work itself.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some very smart people at large companies, and we all know some of them. But the system is set up to reward people who check boxes, not who can help you see around corners on a job.
Unfortunately, best practices, by themselves, aren’t enough to innovate. You need the kinds of curious people you’re more likely to find in a small consultancy. People who don’t just know best practices, but also understand how and why those best practices work. After all, if you know the rules, you can function. If you know why the rules are there, you can start to break them intelligently.
Small consultancies attract people with experience because they have to be able to function outside of a process, providing value beyond the checklist. Because the owners of these small companies know that this is why people hire them.
Not every small consultancy is great, but you’re much more likely to find fresh, passionate problem solvers in a small organization than at a huge one.
Large consulting firms have to think about process — doing things the same every time. And that’s important because it brings consistency to the process and saves them money. Unfortunately, those processes — the very ones that make them efficient — often harden into a bureaucratic culture that is polite without being all that helpful. And this goes beyond just the report you receive from them. Rigidity often extends to other departments, like billing, or when you ask for something they normally don’t do.
In smaller, you gain more ready access to knowledge and experience, since you’re often dealing with an accounts-receivable department with just a few people who know who you are and can, therefore, understand how to make exceptions or find ways to help you out in a way that won’t hurt their company. Or even just out of goodwill, because they genuinely value your business. And if you’re asking an engineering question, if it’s not something they handle, they’re usually able to understand the request and willing to help you find someone who can help.
You see, that’s what happens when people care about the people they’re doing business with. And although it’s a professional relationship, a good business relationship brings a desire for each others’ success built-in.
Large companies find it difficult to depart from their processes, as mentioned before. This means that your quote on your work is likely to provide a scope that’s heavily boilerplated. This is efficient, but not very custom. It doesn’t give you exactly what you need. Instead, it gives you what they’re good at giving you.
But when you’re working almost directly with the owners — people who started the company because they love what they do — you find a culture that follows that passion. Small consultancies give you an organization that’s built more on curiosity and a love for the work than on the desire to scale. They’re more energized by solving a new problem and leaving flexibility where it’s needed.
They love the work so much that you’re likely to occasionally find the whole team literally gathering around in the office to talk about a problem or how cool as solution is.
And since the owners are involved, they want to see their company succeed. And that means your success. So they’re much more likely to find a solution that works for you, and they have the decision-making ability to do so because of their authority in the company. In other words, unlike working with your contact at a large company, if the owner of a small company makes a promise and wants to help you, they have a complete team to back you up.
Large consultancies can be very professional, but when you’re working with a smaller company, you can see value that the larger companies just can’t offer. You gain specialization, giving you more understanding and experience applied to your job, connection with the company, and flexibility, all of which give you more support and a personalized interest from the owners to see you succeed and the project to go to completion — not just checking a box — but taking a real interest.
Next time you’re looking for a consultant, and you’re tempted to go with a larger company, get a bid or two from a smaller one and see if you can tell why what we’re saying is true.
Field Verified, Inc. is based in Gilbert, Arizona and was formed by in 2013 with a team of architects, engineers and construction professionals. Our goal was to focus solely on the building envelope field to provide the highest level of value to our clients. We feel that this value is provided through our ability to identify issues early and provide practical solutions. Our in-house testing divisions allows us to maintain the expertise and experience our clients demand in all our services. At Field Verified, our field experience comes from decades spent in both the field inspection of new and existing buildings and as contractors performing the work. We are a leading-edge provider of Building Envelope Consulting & Testing Services.