Category Archives: Life

Corporate vs. Local

How Finding Balance is Crucial to Home Builder Success


For the local branches of corporate regional and national builders, a large part of their success relies on finding the right balance of control and autonomy. But there is a distinguishable line between having needed autonomy, and going “rogue” and losing ties to the corporate strength. The importance and true value of both the corporate influence and the local influence are undeniable, but the balance between the two is the most crucial component: it’s what most builders struggle with. Actively trying to achieve the perfect balance will make your business more competitive, and it will gear you in the right direction for long-term success both for your corporate entity and your local one.

The corporate/local relationship is not unlike a parent/child relationship – similar to how parents provide rules, structure, and guidance for their children, corporate provides structure and a set of systems that have been tried and true for their success as a whole: standards, training, rules and guidelines, and expertise that only comes with many years of industry experience. Corporate must identify the people, processes, and technology for its little local branch. They’ve already created the mission statement, the branding and logos — they’ve built the foundation on which the local builder must build upon (pun intended). Without the standards and systems, local branches would be orphans, starting from scratch and having to do a trial-and-error for everything until finally getting it right – ultimately wasting precious time and resources.

But what about the other side of the coin? Should corporate be synonymous with “cookie cutter”? Or have a “my way or the highway” attitude? I would suggest not. Too many structures and constricting systems can be so anti-productive that they end up suffocating the voices and ambitions of those at the individual level who actually know what they are doing and want to make a change for the better, fulfilling corporate’s original intent using local knowledge and resources.

Product is simply not the same in each state, let alone city. History, climate, style, market, and economy all have huge implications in the marketplace, and especially in homebuilding. Being able to choose land based on local knowledge and market trends is an invaluable resource that corporate often discredits. But the national corporate builder is not omnipresent enough to actually know everything about each individual local market. That’s the beauty of having a local branch where you can really “have feet on the street” and get the scoop that the locals only know – the local expertise based on a national model – when done right it has the ability to create a lot of local success and corporate a lot more money. Local vendors and local expertise that are aligned with corporate brand standards, values, and policies will always yield the best results.

There is a tension between the overarching corporate objectives and the local autonomy of a branch. But instead of feeding the tension and making a situation (that is here to stay) MORE unproductive, proactively creating systems to maintain a balance instead of a strain will yield the best results for the local and for the corporate. We’ve seen the two extremes: the rogues that can’t color within the lines, and the dependents that can’t seem to the leave the nest. And although each Corporate vs. Local situation is unique, the bottom line is that being aware of this need for balance and of a good relationship between corporate and local is, at the very least, a first step in the right direction.

 

“Welcome to warp zone!” How Playing Nintendo in My Parents Basement Poised Me for the Consumer World.

You remember that feeling, that rush that overtook your small frame when you first opened that shiny Nintendo cardboard box for the first time.  Sure, your friends may have let you play with theirs, you may have even considered yourself a skilled “gamer” (though it would be years before anyone would classify themselves as such) but this was your Nintendo consul, your chance at video game glory.

In my case, my victories were to be shared with my younger brother.  As it turned out, the majority of my defeats would also be his doing.  Regardless of this fact, nothing (NOTHING) could take away the feeling that I was part of something bigger, something that was in my control (at age 8 there really isn’t much that lays within your control) and somehow this was my destiny realized.

Granted, I wasn’t really a little Italian fellow battling through mysterious worlds to save my princess, nor would I have responded to the name Zelda in real life, but after a few days hunkered over the hand-me-down TV in the basement a few things had become very clear:

  • Mushrooms will always shrink you
  • The dog will perpetually steal your ducks (or worse, laugh at you when you miss)
  • The donkey is not your friend
  • Different scenes call for different ambiance: Mario Brothers Dungeon Music

 

It had also become clear that blowing on the game cartridge was the secret that solved all skipping, hiccups, and    worst of all, the dreaded blinking red light of death….

 

 

I am happy, and somewhat disappointed, to say that I no longer play video games.  However, a few lessons have stuck with me years later when it comes to my consumer experience based on those afternoons in the basement:

  • Products that allow you to fix something yourself will always find favor with me (just imagine trying to blow on your iPad if it breaks.)
  • The emotional attachment that comes when I am given control is still addicting.
  • I, like nearly all American consumers these days, will always expect the next version to be better, shinier, and more user friendly than the previous version (compare Super Mario Bros. to Mario Cart which came out only a few years later.)

These lessons are not specific to the video game industry, all segments of consumer culture (including home builders) ought to be aware this is what your customers have come to expect.  Put the tools and products in place that will give your consumers that “fresh out of the package,” “I am going to rule the world and be cooler than all of my friends” feeling.  At this point, the princess whose face is merely a pixilated compilation of tan boxes just isn’t worth saving anymore.

 

The Housing Recovery: 5 Lessons We Learned

August means school is back in session, and it’s got us at Contrado thinking about what we’ve learned since the downturn. Although it was a time of struggle for everyone in the home-building industry, there was a silver lining — learning a whole lot about survival. Apart from learning how to embrace efficiency the downturn taught us how to adapt and how to use the proper tools that were key to our survival. We’ve compiled a list of the lessons we learned (with an inspirational flair) to help guide your post-downturn learning strategy, even if you aren’t going back to school this year!

 

1.  To Be an Industry Leader We Must Always Keep Learning and Improving.

Start with honing in on your company’s successes and failures, and educating yourself on current products/services in the industry that could make you the leader of the pack. Investing in the right product or service, like Virtual Option Sales, could be the difference between selling a home or not — putting you either ahead of or behind your competition.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” JFK.

2.  Don’t Ignore the Signs.

Be aware of market conditions and USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. It’s hard to accept losses and to embrace a dark cloud — but always look for the silver lining. With learning comes a bit of vulnerability, but don’t let that stop you! There is room in every mind (and company) to learn something new that you will thank yourself for later.
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

3.  Use Survival of the Fittest to Your Advantage.

Take a tip from Darwin and recognize that if you cannot adapt and evolve to what is currently happening in the home-building industry, your company could eventually become extinct — but in this economy it could happen in the blink of an eye! Learning how to adapt, evolve, and change to be more successful is an ongoing, never-ending process that will lead you beyond survival, and hopefully to the top of the food chain.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Socrates

4.  Learning Something New Will Benefit you Professionally and Personally.

It goes without saying that learning a new skill will widen your horizons, and learning in any situation is almost always personally rewarding. Happier employees, happier company.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi

5.  Take a Risk.

A calculated risk, that is. It might be the last thing on your mind when you are in panic-mode, but taking risks is a big part of survival. Simply reacting to your surroundings won’t get you very far in most cases. Getting to the top will require a balance of defense and offense.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Picasso

So now is the perfect time to ask yourself: WHAT DO I WANT TO LEARN?

Most likely you have always had something that you wanted to learn – after all, curiosity is human nature! If you are drawing a blank, a few common ideas and skills that would also potentially benefit your career are learning how to:

o   Speak a new language (whether it be Spanish, Sign Language, or HTML code!)
o   Network within your industry
o   “Let go” of things and embrace positivity
o   Integrate your business operations to increase efficiency
o   Strengthen your leadership skills
o   Create a research study to discover what your ideal customer really wants
o   Find a creative new hobby
o   Stay current on market trends
o   Tell jokes
o   Explore technology (especially if it will enhance your business!)  

We at Contrado have taken it upon ourselves to learn and embrace efficiency – which for us has included learning the cutting-edge technologies in the home-building industry today, Call us to hear more about what got us through the downturn!

 

Jump-Starting 2014

Why You Should Use the School Year to Get a Head-Start on Next Year’s “Business Resolutions”

We all know the feeling – the double-edged sword that the end of the year brings. On one hand you have a sense of hope for the new year to come; on the other hand you’re probably feeling a little guilty or anxious about all of this year’s resolutions that never came to fruition. Wouldn’t it be great to avoid those negative feelings entirely?

Some write out long lists of things they want to change or improve — both personally and professionally — others have a few simple things they know they want to work on but haven’t gotten around to. Regardless of strategy, New Year’s Resolutions are a pretty common part of starting off the New Year, and sometimes without realizing we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Starting on those resolutions now, at the beginning of another type of year – the academic year – will benefit you in a few ways.

Start the Lists Now. You will also most likely have several lists – to-do lists, checklists – for the new school year: New books to purchase, new professors to meet with, old friends to catch up with, new classes to sign up for. Why not start the business-equivalent checklists now? New learning/training materials to purchase for your staff, new schedules and meeting plans to create, new strategy or brainstorming sessions, meeting new business partners, and listing new customers or clients you would like to meet. Regardless of what your business goals are, try forecasting what you will want to change in January, and start now. You will definitely thank yourself come 2014.

Get Prepared Now. Sometimes the more prepared you are, the more likely you are to succeed. Think of it as training before football season starts – you can start training once the season starts, but you will be a disadvantage compared to your teammates that spent their summers at football camp.  Just like getting your body in shape for the upcoming sports season, you are getting your business healthy and prepared before the beginning of the New Year.

Benefits of Starting Today:

  • You will have a head start in the game – not only with your fellow resolutionists (aka competitors), but also with yourself.
  • You won’t be as overwhelmed with all the “newness” buzz that the New Year brings.
  • You will probably feel much more encouraged to continue on with your resolutions after a few months of determination and progress.
  • You will have more room in your life for personal resolutions come 2014!

The bottom line is preparation, and the more thorough preparation you have accomplished by December, the more likely you will be efficient and actually complete your goals next year.

Good luck!

 

Fly Fishing & Selling Homes

Plans

First There’s Strategy -

When you first think about building a new community, what are some of the thoughts that come to mind? Customer? Area? Product? When an angler begins a trip to his or her favorite fishing destination, they need to think along the same lines of strategy. In fact these are some of the key areas of concern before they even drop that first line into the water:

  • Type of fish
  • Geographic Area
  • Time of Year
  • Rig Presentation

Isn’t this similar to what an executive team thinks about too when planning a new community? Who’s going to be my customer? What area? Type of product offering?

Fly Fishing

Choosing The Flies – Product Selection

When choosing trout flies, the relative importance of fly characteristics in your selection, in order, should be: size, shape, color, and action (for stripped flies). In saltwater, action is often more important than exact size and shape. Don’t you need to make sure that your home offering selections are enticing to the target demographic too? If technology is a key feature for a Gen X buyer, then one must make sure that there’s key technological features available in the community.

Fly Fishing Cast

Presentation – Creating The Right Sales Environment

Trust me on this one, you can be casting into a certain section of water and not even get one bite if you don’t have the right presentation. Two thirds of the time, trout are biting on submersible midges and nymphs. The other times, they are striking a dry fly on the surface that represents an insect that’s hatching that time of year.

If you don’t have the right type of web site presentation using up to date technology such as Interactive Floor Plans, then chances are the prospect will pass you on for better presentations. Not only is presentation important, but a builder will need engaging content to attract potential home owners. (see 2012 Home Buyer Conversion Report)

Interactive Floor Plans

These are but a few direct correlations of fly fishing and selling homes. I trust that we can all learn new ways to go to market by observing other endeavors of life…………………

Happy Fishing!!!

Interactive Floor Plans

Keep your cool

It’s summer in Arizona and it is hot. This should come as no surprise to any of us, yet we all find ourselves saying, “it seems to get hotter earlier every year.”  So what to do if you are one of the many folks who have transplanted themselves to the Grand Canyon State in order to enjoy year long access to great mountain biking, trail  running, and all things outdoors?  You adjust!  

 

Unlike winters in New England, if you play your cards right you can still get your exercise fix in the great outdoors (it is not easy to out-run a snow plow, nor is it recommended.)  A few adjustments to your usual routine and you will be up and running in no time.

Early mornings are best. Sleeping in can be wonderful, and everyone has an inner teenager that considers it nearly every morning.  However, if you want to feel the wind rippling through your hair (opposed to the frosty breath of the air conditioner) rise early to beat the sun’s rays and avoid running on asphalt that has been marinating in the heat all day.  Also, wear light colored clothes that are loose and leave the black yoga pants at home, even if they do make you look good.

Begin your routine more slowly than you would in winter months and listen to your body for signs of heat exhaustion.  Dedication to the cause is admirable, but a lean body will do you no good if you have pushed it too far.  Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, nausea, fatigue (not the kind you experience when running on the treadmill and your favorite show has ended, this is the real deal), cramps, and chills.  Yes, chills.

Heat stroke occurs at 105 degrees and can cause damage to internal organs such as the kidneys liver, and heart.  Symptoms include those noted above and can also cause people to behave erratically, slur, and act confused (beyond asking  the question, “Why am I exercising outside in the summer again?”)

Hydrate before, during, and after your work out.

When in doubt, exercise inside. Here you will experience better air quality, plenty of people watching, and you can climb safely back into those yoga pants you love!

 

Declare Independence from Tradition!

Embracing 21st Century Technology in our 20th Century Industry
(Or, why we do things differently at Contrado)

Thomas Jefferson once said that he liked “the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” He knew what they needed: independence from traditional political, economic, and religious oppression. By writing the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, he was expressing the convictions that were in the hearts of the American people – the need for change.

1.  Understand that People Are Afraid of Change. When was the last time you changed the course that you were on? “Change” is a broad word that we can apply to many different things… a birth, a loss, a move, a new opinion, a new job. But ultimately it is a departure from tradition – which leads to a new way of doing things. For example, the change our nation went through during the 1700’s, despite being fought by many, led to a whole new world of possibilities and fresh starts. Regardless, change usually freaks us out. Whether it’s Good Change or Bad Change, we as humans are naturally afraid of the unknown. We fear failure. We feel doubtful about the possible outcomes. But we have to remember we always have options, and we can always CHANGE the outcomes. You don’t have to settle. “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” – Dalai Lama

2.  Understand the Technology. If we think of change as a software upgrade, what software are you in need of, right now? Do you need better online engagement with prospects, for example? Do you need to build more homes with limited resources? Do you need better software to help you meet your customer’s exact needs? If you don’t know, evaluate what isn’t working. Then inform yourself!  You can start by asking the question, what are the best tools out there for what I need right now? If you go beyond word-of-mouth and previous methods into the world of uncovering the new, you will find services, systems, software, companies, and tools that you have never even heard of (like Contrado’s new HTML5 Interactive Floor Plan system!). What are today’s game-changers? Incorporating iPad technology into their homes? Making it easier for you to do your job? Building homes in half the time? You will be surprised at how much newness is flooding the industry.

3.  Understand that nothing will change unless you Try Something New. Times they are a-changin’! We are living in an exciting time where technology seems to be accelerating at the speed of light, and we will be left in the dark if we don’t try to keep up. In other words: have you ever heard someone say that the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results’? Trying new things can be scary folks, but how can you improve without even a little bit of change? Traditional tactics in the Revolutionary War ultimately failed the British; the revolutionaries were outnumbered, so they developed guerilla warfare to outmaneuver their red-coated opponents. They were forced to innovate the way they battled – thinking differently, operating more efficiently, using what they had and just going with it – which led them to victory.

You have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  So if after all of this you don’t do it for you, do it for our Founding Fathers!

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