You're about to go to the biggest trade show in our industry. If you're like me, you'll be blown away and bowled over with top-notch information about the best this, the hottest that, and the newest something-or-other. You'll attend some eye-opening educational sessions by nationally recognized speakers and industry stars. You're going to get pumped up and you're going to zero in on two or three things that you absolutely have to adopt in your business the minute you get home. In other words, you're about to become involved in a bricolage.

What's In Your Refrigerator? “Bricolage” (pronounced bree-koh-LAHZH) is the process of assembling something by using whatever materials happen to be available. The results are unpredictable. A bricolage of leftovers from the fridge, for example, can be a delicious snack or, just as easily, a science project gone horribly wrong. What remains on your plate, so to speak, after the Remodeling Show is equally up for grabs.

You're a hero if you bring back the one idea that can revolutionize your company with no side effects. But watch out. Things can take a turn for the worse if you introduce something that negatively affects a thousand other things in your business down the line. And who could have seen it coming?

The truth is that a bricolage can go either way. But we all can agree that we don't operate in a vacuum, so the bottom line is: Always consider the long-term repercussions of whatever you introduce to your business. That's especially important when you're all fired up after a big trade show.

Does It Compute? For example, that computer software program you learn about may be just the answer you need for reducing paperwork, streamlining jobs, tracking payments, and putting you on the road to easy street. It worked for John Doe's company in his presentation. Surely it can do the same for you, right?

What you didn't know was that Mr. Doe operated the software on better computers than yours. He also budgeted the time and money to train his entire staff on the software, and he made sure the software would work with his payroll system, which you're about to find out you need to change.

Is his solution still your solution? Maybe ... maybe not. This bricolage could backfire if it doesn't complement all of the things about your business that are different from Mr. Doe's business.

What If? Of course, you could also come home with some great ideas and actually think about them before acting on them. Your goal should not just be solving today's problem; you should be finding solutions for the future. Your bricolage is only right when you remember to consider the “what ifs”:

What if my business grows 20% according to my business plan? Will the new idea or system still apply?

What if I like Smith's invoice but I also like Miller's sales sheet? If I incorporate both into my systems, will the language in one document be compatible with language in the other? Will I need to edit my contract and then have all three documents reviewed by legal council? What if I like parts of three different sales systems? Does that mean I can combine those parts and expect to have a complete sales system?

I'm not recommending that you completely avoid a bricolage. Many a company has been improved by assembling parts and pieces from several sources. But I do want to make sure that you consider the big picture, the hypotheticals, and the various directions your business will take. Whether the bricolage is a “tada” moment or an “uh-oh” disappointment is up to you. Now, go enjoy the show!

—Shawn McCadden, CR, CLC, recently sold his Arlington, Mass., employee-managed design/build remodeling business. In his second career, he is director of education for DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide. Send e-mail to