Strategic thinking. Data analytics. Critical thinking. Action planning. Positive attitude. These are all buzzwords currently floating around the industry. But, how do these buzzwords translate into revenue generation for a construction company? How can a construction company capitalize on opportunities using these theoretical terms? Academia, keynote speakers, and subject matter experts may be found guilty a time or two of presenting business-changing thought without accompanying the presentation with the methods of how to “act” on these concepts. Let’s take a look at strategic thinking.
WHAT IS STRATEGIC THINKING?
Strategic thinkers know where they are going. They know the direction the company is moving towards. They know what opportunities they want to pursue. These opportunities could be as simple as a contractor offering an additional service, a manufacturer offering another type of roofing product, or an architect looking to enter another industry sector. Strategic thinkers know where they want to go and understand that planning is the mechanism for getting there.
Strategic thinking refers to a mindset of planning for achievement—intention, drive, and motivation. Regardless of what service or product your company offers in the construction industry, we all know that a building won’t stand without the proper engineering, design, material selection, etc. The same is true of your company. Your company won’t achieve long-term, continuous success without proper planning. Strategic thinkers understand the need for planning in order to achieve.
With this focus on direction and planning, strategic thinkers know that sweat and hard work is part of the process. Just as there are specific steps to install an insulated metal panel or to pour a slab of concrete, business leaders within construction companies must tackle the actions step-by-step to achieve business success with new opportunities.
Continuing education is not limited to engineers or architects—business leaders must also understand that there are always ways to improve management and organizational processes. Strategic thinkers rely on continual learning to improve themselves, their teams, and their organizations. There is always another project or another milestone to achieve. This strive to achieve is never-ending in the construction industry. Strategic thinkers learn from past experiences and try to perfect their efforts moving forward.
There you have it. In short, strategic thinking is comprised of direction, planning, action, and learning.
STRATEGIC THINKING FOR CONSTRUCTION
Strategic thinking is an interesting concept as it calls a business leader to always to be focused on the future. This hyper-focus on the future certainly pulls from the experiences from the past and present but calls for a heightened awareness of the direction in which a company is headed. And arguably, without a future focus, the concept would not even exist.
Consider the relevance of this for a construction company. If a company is not planning for future success—future projects, future bids, future revenue generation, future plans—then why is the company in business? Though the ultimate goal is to exceed the needs of your customers, a construction business cannot support customers if the business is not strategically positioned for long-term viability.
This is often a point where leaders within construction companies step back and reflect. If we are so focused on the right now and current project, how are we best influencing our employees, our potential customers, and the future life lived in the projects we are working on? To ensure your business’ longevity in the construction industry, make sure you are working ON your business and not just IN your business. Are you strategically thinking about how to better serve your customers long-term by having a well-run business, or are you just focused on the current project that is running behind schedule and out of scope?
APPLYING STRATEGIC THINKING
For the construction industry leadership team: As an owner or member of the management team, strategic thinking is critical for advancing your business to leverage opportunities within your specific sector. Reflect on these 3 considerations:
- Review the current state of your operations. Analyze your business’ on-time completion, labor costs, and quality concerns. Identify areas within your operations that your business is doing well. Identify areas within your operations that your business is struggling with currently.
» Map a plan for overcoming 3 specific challenges within the next quarter.
- Analyze the business’ sales numbers the past couple of years. Are there ways to improve the bidding processes? Are there products or services you can expand into to increase your margins? How are you generating new business?
» Identify an area within the business development process that needs an over-haul. How will you impact that process over the next 3 months?
- Understand your company’s hiring process. Human resources are critical as you look to expand into new markets, new service offerings, or new product offerings in the construction industry. Who will you hire that has the specific expertise you will need? Or, who internally will you train to gain that insight? If training is the route, keep in mind—it doesn’t happen overnight!
» Look at the calendar and create deadlines for your business so that you are prepared to business growth.
For the construction professional: Even if you are not the owner of a construction company and even if you don’t sit on the management team, strategic thinking is critical for your professional growth.
- Determine your career goals. Consider how you would like to grow your career within the company. What would be your ideal position? Maybe, it’s not the position you have today—and that’s okay.
» Write your career path plan.
- Identify continuing education requirements and certifications that will allow you to reach your career goals. Consider programs from CSI or AGC.
» What actions must you take in the next year to work towards those opportunities?
- Gain perspective. Work with your manager or an industry mentor to gain outside perspective on how to achieve your career goals.
» Do they have recommendations on construction associations, conferences, or local chapters you should consider for growth and networking?
Strategic thinking relies on direction, planning, acting, and learning. Keep these four simple aspects in mind and strategic thinking will not only benefit your work but transcend your personal life as well.
For More Information:
Sarah Skidmore, chief strategist at Skidmore Consulting, brings innovative business development and leadership practices to B2B markets including: construction, medical and pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and consumer products. Guiding executive leaders, she delivers forward-thinking approaches. Sarah serves as a dynamic speaker at universities, globally recognized conferences, and industry events. Visit www.skidmore-consulting.com, email , and connect www.linkedin.com/in/sarahskidmore.
Modern Contractor Solutions, November 2017
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