Higher praise for an individual or company we seldom hear in the home building community--whether it's for a tradesman, a manufacturer, a builder, a Fortune 100 home building enterprise executive, or a company--is this phrase: "They do what they say they're going to do."
That it should be so--that being able to trust another man or woman's word, or a company's promise should be so remarkable--is scary. That being trustworthy is a rarity in this or any other business community--which is the case--is the source of dismay. Logic would suggest that being untrustworthy would be the rare exception in day to day business, but reality defies logic. Trust is actually the scarcer resource, and thus, can be invaluable, both culturally and economically.
Still, although it is rare to find trust in the wide world, in many, many cases, individuals, teams, and organizations in the residential development and home building ecosystem--builders, developers, manufacturers, lenders, subcontractors, consultants, even planning and zoning board officials prove they're trustworthy day after day, up-cycle and down-cycle, come hell or high water. They do as they say they're going to do.
This might seem to be one of the most obvious, absurdly simple principles any of us in business can recognize and embrace and embed into the fiber of one's company culture. But if that were the case, you would not see Stephen M.R. Covey writing about it--along with Campbell Soup Company ceo Douglas Conant--as if it were one of the hidden grails of business success. In a Harvard Business Review piece, "The Connection Between Employee Trust and Financial Performance," they write:
"In our joint experience, we’ve learned that trust is the one thing that changes everything. It’s not a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Without it, every part of your organization can fall, literally, into disrepair. With trust, all things are possible – most importantly: continuous improvement and sustainable, measurable, tangible results in the marketplace."
As Covey and Conant explain, trust's effect as an economic driver of value in profit-making organizations comes clear in the form of added speed and subtracted cost. Now, speed, as we know from the terms and disciplines our friend Fletcher L. Groves III speaks about as it applies in home building, is actually velocity. In home building construction operations and management, velocity is profitable, right-the-first-time, directed, and quality-yielding speed.
Covey and Conant, encouragingly, note that trust-building is learnable provided it's given priority as a strategic bedrock element. If leaders "declare intent, demonstrate respect, and deliver results," trust will come. As they write:
"Doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, in the way that you said you would."
That's rare, elegant, profound, and yes, obvious.
In fact, it's the most powerful promise a home building organization can market--not only to employees, associates, and partners, but to home buyer customers as well.
Here, Newland Communities chief marketing officer Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki points out, as we have been doing in this space, that home builders and residential developers are at least part of the solution when it comes to galvanizing the next leg of recovery for housing. Slavik-Tsuyuki writes:
Growth won't come from more people willing to pay more for what we sell. It will come from expanding our product and business offerings within this bounded, constrained market a.k.a. from creating new demand, not following previously predictable economic trends and projecting aggressive growth rates.
Our job is to rethink and reshape markets constrained by the cycle of slower economic growth reduces consumer spending - weaker consumer spending reduces economic growth.
How? Slavik-Tsuyuki offers three strong suggestions that can help people lock in on the "so what factor" that propels one business vs. another.
What we'd suggest is that, just as customer-centricity has become a unifying business imperative, trust-rebuilding has become another. The decade past held out a faux American Dream and build a false global financial basis around handing out homeownership like it was so many lollipops at the barbershop. Trust was stomped on and smothered and drowned and shot and burned.
There's still work to do to restore it. It starts simply. Do what you say you're going to do.