Matters is the official e-newsletter of the National
Housing Quality (NHQ) Program. Monthly issues keep readers
up to date on quality-related news, resources for the home building
industry, and the achievements of NHQ Certified Builders, Trades,
Can You Really Thrive in a Slow Market?
Frank Alexander, NHQ Programs Director
Last month, Quality Matters addressed the need for building professionals to adopt change in order to adapt and survive the changing times. While some will find themselves struggling to unearth what areas are in need of change to thrive in the current slow market, I believe that there are at least five effective lessons that can be applied from adopting a documented quality management system (QMS) that could begin making a difference in your business today.
STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
First, differentiate yourself from your competition. There are many ways of doing this, but in the current market, methods that focus on price, quality, and value stand out most to buyers. If you have a QMS in place for your company, especially one that is supported by an independent third-party certification like the National Housing Quality (NHQ) certification program, then you already have a marketable benefit that can be used to influence customers and demonstrate your commitment to quality.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Next, don’t confuse things by taking on cumbersome and/or intricate systems to manage your quality. The key here is simplicity and consistency. To be effective, any program must be simple to understand and implement. The home building environment is already overflowing with complex components and requirements – an additional roadblock to success is not needed. Whether you implement a program like NHQ, or simply modify your existing quality management plan, process improvements are as simple as: plan, do, check, act— the basic components of any effective QMS.
LEARN FROM THE PAST
Then, focus on prevention rather than the cure. It’s frustrating to see the same mistakes being made time and again on jobsites. How is it that we rarely have the time to do it right the first time, but we always have time to do it over. There is wisdom in the statement, “it’s always cheaper to do it right the first time!” Develop a process for identifying your top 10 ‘problem areas.’ – the ones that are creating the highest service costs for you; or causing the greatest amount of customer dissatisfaction. NHQ refers to these as ‘Hot Spots.’ Take each, one at a time; drill-down to the root-cause of the problem and develop a new process to eliminate the cause. Work on identifying and resolving one hot spot per month. Think of it – over the course of a year you will have driven 10 of your most frustrating problems out of your operations, increasing productivity and your profit margins as well.
STAY ON TRACK
Decide what is really important to your business – then track it. It has often been said, “what get’s measured, improves; and what gets measured and reported, improves dramatically.” So establish the metrics that make your business successful and develop a method for capturing, analyzing, and reporting that information. Establish the benchmark for each metric that indicates success so you will have a clear understanding of when it has been missed. When needed, be prepared to take swift and immediate corrective action.
PLAN TO SUCCEED
Finally, always have a plan to improve. According to J. D. Power and Associates, if you are doing what you did yesterday – you are going backwards. Because of the power of the Internet among other things, the home construction business has changed forever. Customers are arriving at jobsites armed with more information about how homes are constructed – or should be constructed – than ever before, and often know more than the builder. That must change, and to prevent it, builders must stay one step ahead of the customer – always. A builder should be viewed as an expert and a trusted source of information on the construction of a buyer’s new home. Survey your customers and survey your trade partners to gain an accurate understanding of what their expectations are. Go back to some of the basics you used earlier in your business to improve quality and build relationships with customers. By doing this consistently, you will gain the knowledge necessary to take next steps in the right direction.
Is it possible to thrive in a slow market? Yes, and quality management is a significant way to stand out from the crowd. Evaluate your QMS today and establish a roadmap to get you where you want to go.[return to top]