The Pain of Ignoring Change

A while back I was riding my mountain bike on one of the many beautiful trails we have here in Michigan.  I had ridden this trail many times and knew what was around every corner.  My confidence was high and so was my speed.  Because I was so comfortable I let my guard down for a split second and quickly found myself laying in a pile of leaves, and likely some poison ivy.  I realized I had barely clipped a tree with my handlebars.  As I picked myself up and dusted off, I noticed pain in my left forefinger.  I shook it off and kept riding.  Weeks later my finger still hurt.  The pain wasn’t bad; more like an annoyance.  I kept ignoring it.  With my super busy schedule at work I really didn’t have time to go see any doctors, and besides, what would they do?  Nothing looks broken so I assumed it would feel better over time. 

Months later I still had pain in my forefinger on and off.  The pain level never really improved, I just got used to it.  I kept ignoring and pushing through the pain until, finally, I went to a doctor.  A couple of x-rays later I was told that I had fractured a bone at the knuckle closest to my palm.  I kept making it flare up by doing everyday things.  The fix was simple.  The doc gave me a finger immobilizer that I could remove as necessary.  It was a minor inconvenience for a couple of weeks, but in the end, I was able to get rid of the pain completely. 

You’re probably asking yourself how this relates to home building.  To me, that’s simple.  We work in an industry that’s too busy for change.  Builders go through the same pain day in and day out without even knowing it under the guise of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.  For example:

I was working with a production builder in the Mid-West.  We had developed a plan package for their Team consisting of several plans with multiple front elevations and structural options.  Each plan package had over 150 pages.  The Team had been relying on the Field Managers to redline each plan set for the trades, using their red markers to circle things that applied and cross out things that didn’t, and then turning that 150+ page set over to their trades to use for their particular discipline.  We had offered an additional service to this building company which consisted of a small fee and quick turnaround time to produce a lot specific plan set for every build.  They respectfully declined because they felt they could save time and money by doing the same thing they had been doing for years, redlining plans.  “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. 

Months later I get a call from one of the Field Managers.  He’s steaming mad because he ordered a prefabricated custom metal stair rail off the plans. The plans showed 16 Risers but there were only 15 built in the field.  He had already taken the time to check measurements and noted that there wasn’t enough room to fit 16 risers.  The plans must have a mistake. He’ll now have to order another railing to the tune of over $3000 and wait 8 weeks for delivery.  This will push their closing date back considerably.   I got an earful that day.

Of course, I wanted to get to the bottom of this before it happened again.  I asked the Field Manager to send me the set of plans they were working from.  I poured over the 150+ page plan set trying to find the mistake.  Because of all the redlines that were on the plans it took me an entire day to understand what happened.  One of the structural options had widened the main entrance hall just a few inches.  Doing so meant that there wasn’t enough room for 16 risers in the staircase so, for this option, we reduced the riser count to 15.  The option was circled on the plans to be included with this build, but somewhere down the line was a break in the communication.  The framing was correct, but whoever ordered the railing did so off the base plan which showed 16 risers.  I broke the news to the Field Manager.  He apologized for getting upset at me, but not before another Field Manager on a different project ran into the exact same problem.  This time, their buyer was in a time crunch due to having to be re-located for their job.  Ultimately, this buyer backed out of the purchase because they had to push the closing date back nearly 6 weeks due to the mistake.  They ended up buying an available spec home from another builder.  Not only did that push the cost of the mistake far over $3000, but it also left a stain on the builder’s reputation.

Weeks later, I was explaining to the Building Team, again, how our Team could help them avoid these costly mistakes.  Imagine working with a set of plans drawn specifically for the home you’re building and getting that set of plans at a low cost and quick turnaround time.   No more redlining plans, and no more confusion in the field.  With less time spent marking up plans, and less field mistakes and wasted trips, I’d bet you’d not only be more profitable, your trades would be a lot happier.  There was an added bonus.  By using this new technology we’re able to provide the builder with an accurate material list, labor cost, PO Creation, and extensive marketing tools that could help improve their customer’s experience and increase sales.  All of this came at no additional cost in architecture fees.  Imagine what all of this could do to your bottom line. 

Conclusion?  We often keep doing the same things over and over because it works.  We think we know what’s around every corner.  We get comfortable and try to pick up the speed to grow our business; we’re too busy to try a different approach.  Eventually, we let our guard down and end up on our backs, with a fractured finger, in a sea of poison ivy.  Then, we keep pushing through the pain of our fall until we finally realized we need to try something new.  It’s only then that we realize the fix may be simple.  It may cost a little time, effort, and money, but it could be well worth the investment. 

These days, Architects have many more tools at their fingertips than ever before.  Ask your architect how the latest technology can help you grow your business.  If they can’t help you, maybe you need to find a new Architect.

– Eric Tiffin, Production Director