Have you watched Channel 4’s Grand Designs? It’s presented by Kevin McCloud, who follows Britain’s most ambitious self-building projects, as intrepid individuals attempt to design and construct the home of their dreams.
If you’re not familiar, and as a reminder for those more avid viewers (aka Mrs N), projects include: the refurbishment of a derelict cowshed and a damp-dark cave, a million-pound amphibious house on the Thames, and making a home out of four large shipping containers welded together to form a giant cross.
The program always starts with an interview with the individual or family sharing their reasons for wanting to start such an ambitious building project. Whether based in The Shetlands or Isle of Wight, everyone’s reasons are always based around: family, lifestyle, creativity, freedom, leaving a legacy, being your own boss or life-threatening experiences/illnesses.
The characteristics of those embarking on such a challenge, referred to by Kevin’s as: “unthinkable”, “unimaginable”, “extraordinary”, are: hard workers, visionaries, think they can do it better than everybody else, will get stuck in to fix a problem, make it up as they go along, can’t delegate effectively, love tight deadlines, change their minds, and like shiny new things.
Is any of this starting to sound familiar to you….?!
From the outset, the producers shoot and build the story in a way that makes for uncomfortable viewing; portraying the subjects as inexperienced, crazy, over-ambitious with more money than sense, or neither money nor sense.
Cue Kevin McCloud shaking his head and camera panning across the sorry looking abandoned site.
To deal with Kevin’s (and our) disbelief, the families elaborate WHY they are taking this on, with a one-year old baby, a full time job, a pregnant wife, no skills, a home that already comfortably accommodates them…Are you mad?!?
We’re then treated to heart-warming inspiring stories which then gets us asking ourselves: Are we the mad ones?
Angelo plans to single-handedly build himself a 21st century cave in a damp, dark abandoned space – a retreat to help him cope with his multiple sclerosis.
After recovering from a brain haemorrhage, Bram wants to build a beautiful family house by the sea.
Marine Captain Jon plans a cutting-edge build adapted for his post-Afghanistan war injuries.
Lucie wants to build the striking, modern house designed by her partner Nat, who passed away.
Tamayo wants to bring a piece of her homeland to Scotland, with a Japanese house complete with roof bath, tatami room and sliding paper walls.
What is apparent throughout the show is how their WHY drives them on through everything that’s thrown at them and how they defy all odds; from horrific weather and late delivery of materials through to neighbour disputes.
As a business owner, your WHY is so important. In times of diversity, tiredness, knock-backs and fi nancial worries, it’s paramount that you re-visit your WHY and remember why you challenged the status quo, stuck your neck on the line and set out on your own.
Back to Mr McCloud.
He’s now trying to get his head around the VISION for the new dream home. Visions of using experimental building techniques or environmentally-friendly materials: “Extraordinary example of thinking outside the box: he’s using bales of straw to insulate his cowshed. And for less than £400!”
Throughout the build, everyone on site is fully aware of the vision and knows what their 100% is. Values are respected. Corners aren’t cut.
Do you have clear missions / visions /values? It doesn’t matter what you call them, what matters is YOU being able to SHARE what it looks like. It’s not something done on a piece of paper – it’s your rally cry for everyone in your business to be inspired and focussed; it’s why your customers will forgive that odd mistake, and why you will attract the right talent.
This brings me nicely to talent. We now know the reason and the vision for the build. And as if it’s not daring enough we’re informed that Rob, a farmer, is doing this by learning everything from the internet. Or Kay, an architect, who knows how it should work but no idea how to practically do it. None of them are remotely fazed.
Each project brings with it its own lessons learned, and they usually revolve around this part of the show. We learn that they have an overwhelming level of Will involved (man vs. nature spending a back-breaking year digging), but not nearly enough Skill. They think they’re saving money but inevitably incur delays, spiralling costs and sapping of energy.
Does this sound familiar? Are you trying to be the Strategist, HR Dept., Administrator, Marketer, Accountant?
I echo Kevin’s wise words: “I admire your energy and will, but a hole built by hand is exactly the same as a hole built by a machine”. And guess what? They eventually cave in, bring in the expert builders and achieve more in 3 months than in the previous 12. And momentum restores the love!
Everything is now aligned; there’s clarity across the board, the right teams, systems and formations are in place. The project’s back on track, completion is close; cue meeting with Kevin in local pub:
“What did you budget for Jon & Becky?”
“The land was £80,000 and we have budgeted a further £100,000.”
“£100,000? That round figure sounds like you’ve plucked it out of the air?”
“18 months into a 9 month build, how much have you spent so far?”
“We’re currently on £187,000 with the kitchen and garden still to do. We’ve had to re-mortgage and borrow, but after that, there’s no money left.”
One of the most important measurable things in your business are your financial results, you have to know your NUMBERS, and don’t assume because you have an accountant this is taken care of. Certainly outsource and please seek expert help, but YOU need to take control.
If Kevin asked you on the spot would you know: your current revenue or turnover, sales figures and margin by product, gross profit margin, average cost to acquire a new client and the three biggest costs in your business?
You can then set up Alarms & Alerts so your business tells you something isn’t working. No nasty surprises before it’s too late.
Kevin gives an exhausting summary of the challenge, the obstacles, the escalating budget, the delays, the blood, sweat and tears. The derelict sorry-looking original site is flashed up before unveiling the new wonder, camera panning to a tense Kevin: “it was one of the most ambitious Grand Designs ever, a million-pound amphibious house on the Thames. Now it’s finished, does it actually float?”
Of course it does. We see breath-taking views from the house, the pride, legacy and realisation of their dream. And Kevin’s final words? “This house was always going to be magnificent.”