Many years ago, while talking over marketing and general business strategy with Joaquin Erazo, our head of marketing at Case Design/Remodeling, he said we needed to “be in the wave.” His metaphor really struck a chord with me at the time, and I think it’s especially important in business today.

For anyone who has spent any time at the ocean or at a big lake, it’s easy to visualize the rhythm of the waves rolling in. And if you have ever surfed or watched someone surfing or riding the waves, you know the importance of catching the right wave at the right time. Make your move too soon, and you will never benefit from the wave’s power; let a great wave pass you by, and you may wait a long time before another one like it comes along.

Tough Decisions

This concept isn’t difficult to understand, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful when applied to business decisions. In the challenging times we face today, it is especially important to “be in the wave.”

After several years of being pushed and pulled by economic volatility and uncertainty, our confidence in our ability to make sound business decisions is shot. But we are faced with dozens of important decisions every day. Should we try a new marketing strategy? Can we afford to hire a new salesperson when leads are scarce? Is it smart to invest now in a technology that will position us better for the future?

Our success depends on the choices we make. If we are too aggressive and overly confident, the wave may crash on us, causing real harm. On the other hand, if we let pass a wave that could have been positive and profitable to the health of our business, we may fall short of our goals. Either way, if we miss the wave, we endanger our success.

Being in the wave means being crystal clear about what the mission of the business is and who is essential to realizing that mission. Being in the wave means balancing gut feeling with respect for the facts. Being in the wave means being willing to pull the trigger when the right opportunity arises and realizing that nothing happens until then. Being in the wave means knowing the team will rally behind your decisions and will make it happen.

Catch a Wave

Recognizing the wave when it appears is half the battle; the other half is being in position to take advantage of the opportunity. Here are some ideas that will make it easier for you to be in the wave.

Focus on what you are good at. You are more likely to succeed doing what you know. Of course it’s important to keep extending yourself, but operating in new territory should be done carefully and in small, incremental steps.

Listen. Listen to the market, to your clients, and to your team. There are many mixed messages out there. You will make better decisions when you listen to others and process what you hear. And don’t forget to listen to your own instincts, too.

Achieve balance. More than ever it’s important to balance fact with opinion, real data with wishful thinking, rational analysis with gut feeling.

Get buy-in from your team. Today more than ever, business is a team sport and requires input from all quarters. But when you finally make a decision, you need your team to support you. The better you listen and communicate, the less time you will need to spend justifying your decisions.

Think synergistically. Sometimes catching the best wave is not what makes you successful, it’s what you do with the wave you’re riding that makes the difference. Involve diverse perspectives and some magic may appear.

We all need to find ways to better understand what to do and when to do it. If the wave metaphor doesn’t work for you, find a metaphor that feels more appropriate and work with that.

Mark Robert Halper Photography

—Mark Richardson is co-chairman of The Case Institute of Remodeling, which provides business educational tools and events for the remodeling industry., 301.229.4600.