Saturday, August 9, 2008


Life is what happens when you are making other plans. John Lennon.

I love that quote. Somehow I went from living in southern California working in the crazy business of technology to Michigan, working in higher education. We had no master plan. No calendar of events. Just the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month events that brought us from there to here.

So here we are. Redoing our house. We are in the end stages of renovating many of our dated rooms and we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Monday starts the kitchen. This is no small renovation; rather, this is a complete overhaul - redoing everything from the floors to the doors. It will involve chaos, anarchy and entropy. Everywhere. Sort of like work. The difference is that we have the most amazing contractor. Amazing. Honest. Fabulous work. Incredible product. During renovations of other parts of the house, I learned some amazing lessons. Having not had the experience of redoing a house even, this has been a delightful learning process.

RFP. Or Bid. Or whatever your industry calls it. We met with a couple of contractors and the selected contractors weren't the most expensive. Crazy. CRAZY. When I saw the work in their showroom, I realized how much capacity and skill this team brought to the table, it was an easy call. At work, I can get complacent with our providers and once in a while, it shouldn't and doesn't hurt to see what else is out there ... and how much it is going to cost.

Listen! And let others help. I am about the LEAST creative person I know. So we told everyone we know that we were redoing our kitchen. Even had a kitchen-redoing kind of party. Had tons of friends over to show them our contractor's proposal. Laid out plans and colors, wood and tile. Several friends had fabulous ideas that we have since incorporated -lighting ideas and a recessed door. And our contractors LOVED the idea.

Partnership. Every time our contractors have showed up to start work, we have everything ready to go. Rooms are cleaned out, cabinets emptied, doors and hinges removed, window treatments down and stored. Everything. This is a partnership. I have work to do too, and have to focus on my responsibilities to make things hum.

Get out of the way. Let professionals do their work. This is hard for me. In Strengths, I have high Input, and have to at times, physically restrain myself from jumping in a conversation. Even knowing absolutely NOTHING about construction, I couldn't help myself from offering Input (with high Ideation) to my builder. Bless his heart, he would thank me for my ideas and ignore me. And well he should. I learned to stay out of the way.

Attitude. They all LOVE their jobs. Construction in Michigan is not for the faint of heart. They all show up on time, keep their word, keep us informed, bring a critical eye to each project, finish on time and CRAZY, look for ways to save us money.

Outsource. They don't. All the staff working in our house, work for the company. No vendors, no outsourcing, no calendaring trouble, no schedule juggling. Almost no down time when working on a project. They commit to their employees and their employees commit us. What a concept.

Addressing problems. The test of a good partner is how they handle problems. We had one small problem on the second day of the very first project. The owner was out here the very next day and the problem was fixed by the end of the week. That easy.

This stuff isn't rocket science. Commitment, partnerships, listening, keeping your word, fixing problems, making things right, doing what you say you will - not rocket science. But they make it look so easy. And make us want to work with them - again and again. The question I ask myself on a fairly regular basis is, do people look forward to working with me? How would you answer that question?

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