By all accounts, remodeling is a creative profession. Designing spaces, incorporating texture, color, and movement in a room. Combining the functional with the fashionable. Problem-solving to convert an unused, misused, or useless area into a homeowner’s ideal space. Even the business side can encompass creative endeavors, such as looking for ways to save money, broaden marketing, or boost customer satisfaction.
What an awesome job remodelers have!
But as with anything, day-to-day tasks can be repetitive, monotonous, and lose their creative luster. There are only so many configurations one can squeeze into a half bath, for instance, and regardless of the geometry, a kitchen work triangle is still just a triangle.
In light of this, 2010 Remodeling Leadership Conference presenter Jeff Tobe, primary colorer at his company Coloring Outside The Lines, inspired attendees to find ways to reignite the creativity that first led them to this industry. Here are a few pearls of wisdom from his presentation.
Define Yourself as Creative. “The first step in becoming a creative person is to tell yourself that you’re one of the most creative people you know,” Tobe says. “People associate creativity with the fine arts, but it’s really about being able to look at situations differently.”
Embrace Change. According to a Southern Methodist University study Tobe cited in his presentation, a major change takes place in business every three years. When the data was broken down further, it revealed that changes take place in the remodeling and construction industry at a much quicker pace: every 7 months. “That means something you’re comfortable with today will change before this meeting next year,” Tobe noted. By thinking creatively, remodelers will be better able to adapt to inevitable changes in their businesses.
The 21-Day Rule. It’s easy enough to say you’re prepared for change, but it’s quite another to actually make a change. This is especially true for professionals who have been in business for a long time. By a show of hands, about a third of remodelers attending RMLC have been in business for 25 years or longer.
To get in the right mindset for change, Tobe noted the generally accepted principle that it takes the average person 21 days to make, break, or change a habit. “Try something uncomfortable for 21 days and you’ll start to get comfortable with it,” he says. “You can’t run your business by looking in the rearview mirror the whole time. The way things have been done before will not be the way you’ll have to do them in the future.” In short, Tobe says business owners’ new mottos should be “if it ain’t broke, break it.” By creating uncomfortable situations and working in them for a period of time, they’ll become the new normal.
Reset Your Perspective. In his own business, Tobe says he tired of hearing his office staff start sentences with the phrase, “I have a problem…” concerning everything from vendors to office bathroom facilities. Over time, he trained them to say instead, “I have a challenge.” “’I have a challenge with the toilet,’ is a lot better to hear than, ‘I have a problem with the toilet,’” Tobe joked, “but in reality, from every challenge comes an opportunity. By simply using the word ‘challenge’ the staff was able to start thinking more creatively about possible solutions.” By seeing opportunities where others only see limitations, Tobe says remodelers can differentiate themselves from competitors.
Always Remember to ASK. Finding opportunity in challenges means first identifying the challenges in a job. When working with both external and internal clients (homeowners and employees, respectively), remodelers should ask “what if?” questions frequently, and then hold their tongues as they listen to the responses. “Asking ‘what if?’ changes the environment you’re working in, and changes the way you think about a situation,” Tobe says. “Stopping and listening will opening up a dialogue that can yield a lot of possibilities for potential solutions to whatever challenges your clients are facing.”
Moreover, Tobe says “ASK” can be defined as an “Alternative Solution Kick.” There is rarely only one right way to solve a problem, he says, so asking questions and engaging in dialogue can kick-start alternative solutions that will work for everyone. Remodelers that consistently look for the second right answer will exercise their creative risk-taking muscles and ultimately build stronger businesses.