Candor at Work


I was reminded recently of the benefit of candor. I was having a conversation where a customer was telling me about some issues in the quality of our service that we needed to address but also affirming their commitment to us long term. Candor rightly applied allows for accelerated growth because the truth is laid out in the open–imperfection and all–and steps can be taken to improve. With this in mind, ignorance is not bliss, because ignorance of imperfection will only generate more of the same, leading to stagnation and mediocrity. In this sense, Ray Dalio’s adage that, “Pain + Reflection = Progress” holds true. Pain, hardship, turmoil; if reflected upon and learned from, will result in growth. Patrick Henry said it this way:
“Looking forward into life and those prospects which seem to be commensurate with your talents, native and acquired, you may justly esteem those incidents fortunate which compel an exertion of mental power, maturity of which is rarely seen growing out of an uninterrupted tranquility.  Adversity toughens manhood, and the characteristic of the good or the great man, is not that he has been exempted from the evils of life, but that he has surmounted them.”
While I don’t enjoy being criticized, the truth is, no one is perfect. Criticism is rarely inaccurate because we all fail. So, while I may not enjoy the truth about myself, I should be grateful that I’m sitting across from someone who is willing to help me grow because that is what truth-telling does if we have the humility to hear it. 
We at Gould Design Inc. are constantly pushing to improve. Because of this, we welcome these conversations with our customers. We want to be better, more accurate, more reliable, and contribute more to our customer’s success.
Tim Hoke
General Manager – Gould Design, Inc.
To begin the account setup process click HERE
To explore becoming a contractor designer with us click HERE

Can “Do Less, Then Obsess” Make You More Productive?


Last week I wrote about Value-Based Work as one of  7 “Work smarter” practices described in the book, Great at Work by Morton T. Hansen. These practices are divided into two categories, four practices for the individual, and three practices when collaborating.

Another practice for the individual he calls “Do less, then obsess”. This practice takes direct aim at the idea of simply working longer hours in order to achieve greater productivity. Finding in his studies that by increasing hours your run into the law of diminishing returns. Like squeezing an orange: as you first start to squeeze you gain a lot of “juice”, as you get to the last of the juice you have to squeeze much harder in order to gain a mere fraction of what you obtained previously, and with a lot more effort. He points to studies that show that once you exceed 50 hours, you are entering into the “squeezing hard” stage with limited results.

He also points to two interrelated traps; 1) taking on more and more responsibilities and thereby becoming spread too thin, 2) the interrelationships are complex and require a serious expenditure of energy to manage them, leading to time wasting and poor execution.

Do Less: The First Part of the Key

So, how does “Do less, then Obsess” prevent these pitfalls and lead to greater productivity? He suggests three things, 1) Wield Occam’s razor, 2) tie yourself to the mast (remove distractions), 3) Say “no” to your boss. From Hanson’s studies, 38% of people are distracted by too broad a focus (#1). 21% of people with distractions (#2), and 24% by bosses who constantly add new tasks while expecting it all done in the same timeline (#3).

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s razor is a method made famous by William of Occam (c. 1287–1347). The method is one that demands simplicity and it can be used beyond science. In problem solving we might ask, “What is the simplest solution that satisfies all the factors?” In science, simpler theories are better because they are more easily tested then complex theories. In combat, the simple plan is preferred over the complex.

Hanson uses the method by asking, “How many tasks can I remove, given what I must do to excel?” The idea is to leave yourself with as few tasks as you can, and only as many as you must. Note, the intent is not born out of laziness but out of a desire to excel. Being busy does not mean you are effective or efficient. Unfortunately, many people look only to how busy they are as proof that they are effective.

Tie Yourself to the Mast

This would make more sense if you had read the book. This is a reference to Odysseus from Homer’s Odessey who before entering the waters of the Sirens, instructed the sailors to tie him to the mast and to ignore his pleading to be released. By doing this he delivered himself from the Siren’s call.

Hanson suggests that you identify those areas of temptation, areas where you are easily distracted, and you tie yourself off to avoid those areas. Whether it is using a program like, “Cold Turkey” (or something similar) to turn off social media or YouTube. Or, if it is people in your office, find ways to signal that you need to focus. Whatever distracts you will need to be prevented before you are tempted.

Say “No” to Your Boss

This one sounds scary and disrespectful. But it doesn’t have to be (and care should be taken with one’s boss here, don’t be an ass). As you wield Occam’s razor to simplify your task list, you will find that other people, often your boss, are constantly trying to add to your task list in an undisciplined manner.

Explain to your boss that you are endeavoring to excel at the tasks already assigned to you. One technique would be to show your boss what you are working on, that you are applying yourself 100% to that task, and that to add to it would mean that you will not be able to complete that task on time or in the qualitative manner that is required. Two tasks with comparative complexity and deadlines cannot be performed equally as well. A fair question would be, “If I take on this new task, are you OK with my current task being delivered late or with poor quality?” Or, “How would you prioritize these tasks? Is this new task more important?” Both those questions are valid. It may be too, that you have prioritized a task that doesn’t fit with the broader scheme of the company and this is an opportunity for your boss to explain that to you.

All too often, however, many tasks are dumped on us by bosses who don’t fully think through the effect that that will have on their employees and those employees don’t say “No”.

Obsess: The Second Part of the Key

Hanson further argues, that merely prioritizing does not then make you more effective. Prioritizing and obsessing over those tasks with focus and energy is what will push one’s performance from average to excellent. Because you have used the razor, removed distractions, and said “No” to additional tasks you are now free to use the full resources at your disposal while avoiding the two pitfalls of lots of tasks and the complex interrelationship between them.

What do you think? Will implementing these methods increase your performance at work? Let us know in the comments!

Tim Hoke – General Manager

Gould Design Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Value Based Work


In the book, Great at Work by Morton T. Hansen, he concludes that 7 “Work smarter” practices will enhance both an individual and company’s performance. These are divided into two categories, four practices for the individual, and three practices when collaborating. One of those practices, “Redesign Your Work”, focuses on asking “why” questions of current activities and “what if” questions about new and innovative activities. At the heart of this redesign is “value”.

Productivity measured only in terms of output is flawed because it doesn’t ask if the output creates value for others and too often focuses on internal metrics of success, e.g. I hit my output goals, but my customer does not meet their own. Hansen suggests another formula with “value” being the hinge factor, so if value is not being created it doesn’t matter how effective or efficient you are at your tasks, you have failed to create value for others.

The question, “Am I creating value for others in my work?” should be at the forefront of our minds. If we produce goals and tasks first (or others create these for us) we’ll miss out on the answer to this question. If I ask questions like, “How can I create value for others in my work?”, it will create a metric for analyzing current practices and creating new ones. Goals and tasks will flow down from “creating value”.

Here are some questions to ask to determine what is of value to others:

  • Where are the pain points, that if solved, will make the lives of others better?
  • Are any of my current activities creating those pain points?

Hansen describes 5 steps for re-designing work:

  • Less fluff: eliminates existing activities of little value
  • More right stuff: increase existing activities of high value
  • More “Gee, whiz”: create new activities of high value
  • Five star rating: improve quality of existing stuff
  • Faster, cheaper: do existing activities more efficiently

At Gould Design, Inc. we are committed to looking at each customer’s needs and evaluating whether we are creating value for them. We treat the success of our customers as we would our own. If we “profit” but our customer fails, we have failed.

What about you? Do you look at creating value for others in your work? Tell us how in the comments!

Tim Hoke

General Manager – Gould Design, Inc.

 

To begin the account setup process click HERE

 

To explore becoming a designer click HERE

Running and Truss Design


I’ve been running for years and often think about the correlation between running and effective truss design. One aspect is “pace”.

Pace

If you’ve ever run any distance for time, you will become aware of how your choices more than your ability, will affect your final time. In a ten-mile run, for instance, if your goal was to run that distance in 80 minutes, you’ll need to run at an 8 minute per mile pace. If you run at a 10 minute per mile pace for 7 miles you’ll find yourself at 70 minutes into your run with 3 miles left to go. Three miles that you need to do in only 10 minutes. We irrationally try to kick it into high gear to make up for lost time, but the distance we must travel in the time we have left is just physically impossible. This brings us to an important principle: lost time cannot be recovered.

Choices

When giving the run an honest assessment, we can determine several points of failure that stem from our choices.

  • We didn’t start the run with the correct pace.
  • We didn’t measure our pace.

Choosing the correct pace is fundamental. You set a goal, then you break that goal into smaller sections. Once you do this, you must execute and run at that pace. If you don’t follow your plan, you may set your pace too fast or too slow, typically leading to the same result: not achieving your goal.

Measuring your pace during the run is also essential, it lets you know if you are lagging and need to increase your pace for the next mile or two, or if you are on track. Not measuring, as in the example above, can lead to being very far behind with no awareness until it is too late.

What About Truss Design?

Truss design, like all work, has similarities to running. While you can design some jobs with a “sprint”, many jobs require multiple days to complete.

For truss designers, many feel like they are too busy to assess upcoming jobs and make a plan while they are in the middle of the one they are on. This is understandable, but there are some important factors that may be missed.

  • An estimated time of completion (ETC) cannot be established.
  • Your ETC may differ from your design manager’s.
  • You may not have the skills need to complete the job and need to inform your design manager.
  • Missing information is not addressed.

If that job is to be completed on time it must be reviewed so that an estimated time of completion (ETC) can be established. If you open the plans on say, day 6, only to realize that it is a three-day project, you are behind schedule before you even start.

If your ETC doesn’t match that of your design manager, you need to discuss this with him or her before too much time elapses. The last thing a manager needs is to be informed that you can’t get the job done on schedule when it’s too late to assign the job to someone else. This can have a significant impact on your design manager and your fellow designers.

You also may not have the requisite skill to do the job. You may need additional help or the job needs to be reassigned to someone who has the ability to perform the job. The sooner your design manager knows this, the better.

Missing information is an important aspect of “pace”. Don’t use requests for information to “buy time”, but rather, be proactive about requests for information (RFI) so that answers can be provided in a timely manner before the job is due. Sending an RFI out the day before the customer is expecting the job is one way to tell them that you can’t manage your time. It also forces everyone else involved in the project to work at a frenzy to get the info you need, whereas the same email 6 days prior would have fit smoothly into their schedule.

Finishing Well

The goal of running the race isn’t just to “finish” but to finish well. When it comes to truss design, finishing well means that you can be satisfied with your performance, and those around you have the confidence that you are a key player who manages time well.

Tim Hoke
General Manager – Gould Design, Inc.
To begin the account setup process click HERE
To explore becoming a contractor designer with us click HERE

Experienced Designers Wanted


If you have ever wanted to start your own business and work from home, GDI presents a unique opportunity to do just that. Before starting the conversation, read through this article to get a sense of what GDI, INC looks for in those we partner with and how to assess yourself to see if you would be a good fit.

GDI, INC is looking for designers who are self-starters, and eager to operate their own business. We have the clients, agreements, and the workflow. You control your schedule, pace, etc. While many are dissuaded by the lack of a “steady” paycheck or a fixed hourly rate, I would present this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. As a contractor, your earning potential will be directly related to your performance.

One thing before I continue. Fundamentally, GDI, INC is about being in business with integrity. We don’t cut corners. We don’t knowingly do things wrong and submit it anyway. We respond to mistakes with humility, make restitution, and learn from them. We are in business so, yes, we are about making money, but not to the exclusion of our integrity. GDI, INC is a company operated by folks of integrity and so we expect integrity of people that we partner with.

If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, follow the link at the end of this article.

So, let’s face it, this is the age of the entrepreneur. We are going to look at the essential characteristics to help you succeed and reach your goals:

  • Humility
  • Effectiveness and Efficiency
  • Discipline
  • Ownership
  • Communication

Humility

Want to succeed at any vocation? Be humble. This goes hand in hand with all the other traits and forms a kind of feedback loop that allows you to gauge where you are, honestly, and where course correction needs to occur.

Humility is a frame of mind which governs how we conduct ourselves, how we respond to criticism, and how we criticize others. It allows us to see our own weakness and then take steps towards growth.

How do you improve humility? One way is to become a beginner at something, where you rely on others to teach you, and where you place yourself in a position to receive criticism. Humility is always hungry to learn.

Some ideas:

  • Volunteer with a charity
  • Take music lessons
  • Take a martial arts class
  • Ask your kids to teach you something (huge for them and you!)

Humility and humor share the same root. Being able to laugh at yourself is the key to humility. Don’t be so serious that you can’t see the humor in your foibles. See them, laugh at them, and move on!

Effective and Efficient

These two are so interconnected that I will discuss them together. Tim Ferriss has a useful definition that I’ve adopted. Being effective is doing the right things, being efficient is doing those things right.

To succeed at remote truss design, we need to determine the right things to do, then we need to determine the most efficient ways to accomplish them. Doing the wrong things efficiently does not provide value. It’s still doing the wrong things.

This kind of approach is essential as a freelancer because you aren’t paid by the hour, but rather on a job by job basis. A job that I bill out at $200.00 will be that regardless if I spent 2 or 20 hours doing it. Succeeding at remote design then is directly related to being as effective and efficient as possible.

Whenever I hear someone complaining about not having enough time I wonder if they really don’t have enough time, or if they are doing the wrong things with their time. If time is a currency, then what you spend it on is more important than how much you have.

How can you become more effective?

  • Make a list of your top priorities
  • Make a list of things that you do in a day/week/month/year. Determine if those things are aligned with your priorities.
  • Ruthlessly deal with the non-priority things that you find yourself doing. Schedule them out of your time, or schedule them in where they don’t interfere with your work (e.g. check social media at lunchtime or at the end of the day, don’t allow that to enter into your designated work-time).

How can you become more efficient?

  • Stay up on developments in your field and the tools you use. Keep educating yourself.
  • Find ways to reduce “clicks” of the mouse, or taps on the keyboard. E.g. shortcuts to eliminate using the ribbon and drop down menus.
  • Automate as much as you can. E.g. set up a labeling scheme so that you have very minimal manual labeling to do.
  • Is there a menu default that doesn’t match up with what you need 90% of the time? Look into settings to change the defaults. Now you only change it for the 10% of the outlier situations.
  • Give yourself time limits and goals for completing a job. This can add a sense of urgency and focus on the task at hand. E.g. aim to have a job done by 3 pm so you can spend time with your kids when they get home from school.
  • Don’t switch tools too frequently. Often times we hunt around for the next best tool when in reality, the one we have is good enough. We just need to have the discipline to stick with it… speaking of which:

Discipline

Like we talked about, freelancing is the dream. You have leeway in setting your schedule, the frequency of work, what work you accept, etc. But, is it the freedom that everyone craves?

Not without discipline. Without discipline, being a freelancer will be torturous. Deadlines won’t be met, money will be tight, everyone at your house will hate you because you are stressed out.

Discipline is that inner voice, yours (I hope!), telling you what to do and then obeying it.

How do you improve your discipline?

  • Start the day with a simple goal and follow through with it. E.g. set your alarm and get up when it goes off!
  • Make your bed. Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired) and Jordan B. Peterson have spoken about the benefit of this. In a nutshell, discipline starts in the smallest areas of our lives under our control. Too often we stress about the things not in our control. Your bed? Under your control.
  • Continue through the day with goals that you set ahead of yourself and execute.
  • Decision fatigue will give way to discipline. Discipline in one area begets discipline in other areas. I find if I get up and run, the choices I make the rest of the day follow in a disciplined and focused direction. It still takes effort, but I’m proceeding down a groove, rather than creating a new one.
  • Don’t put it off! Take little steps now!

Ownership

Is it possible to “own” something that you don’t truly own? Absolutely. When you take on the mindset of treating a company or a job as if your own interests are at stake you will enter into an ownership mindset.

Personally, I have been both an employee and an employer. I know what it is like on both sides and so whatever “hat” I happen to be wearing the “flip side” has informed how I operate.

Whether as an owner, employee, or freelancer it is important to view the success or failure of your employer or clients as your own. Taking ownership means owning the failures and owning the solutions to the problems that you encounter and not putting them off on others.

What does this mindset look like? Here are some examples:

  • Bill your client as if you were paying the bill. That changes things, doesn’t it? Adding in padding that shouldn’t be there only hurts your client and could even end your work relationship. Think about how you would respond to an invoice that was higher than expected.
  • Treat omissions as opportunities. When you realize that you missed something in your work, don’t ignore or hide it. Take it to your client. Say, “Hey, I did this work and in reviewing it later I see I missed X, Y, Z. What can I do to make this right?” They may not be happy, but this would at least give them the opportunity to correct the issues. Ultimately, I think they would respect you more and it would increase rather than detract from your credibility.
  • If a project fails don’t blame others. Blame yourself and learn from your mistakes. If someone under you fails, don’t blame them, blame yourself for not giving them the direction they need. Then take it upon yourself to train them up to avoid those mistakes in the future.
  • Ownership is all-encompassing. It is saying “the buck stops here” even if your title doesn’t say “CEO” or “President”. That doesn’t mean you park in the CEO’s parking spot. If you do, you didn’t get that advice from me!

Let me answer one objection. It would run along the lines of, “But, if I take ownership of mine and other people’s mistakes, I’m going to be sacked” or “I’m going to lose clients!”

If you lose your job because you took responsibility, then the company wasn’t worth working for and you are better off. No. What happens when people take responsibility for mistakes and who work to grow and learn from them all the while creating solutions? They are given more responsibility. What is responsibility? You guessed it: “Ownership”.

Take ownership of your education as well. Read, learn, grow. For more on “Ownership” check out the book Extreme Ownership by Jock Willink and Leif Babin.

Communication

We have had many good blog articles on communication that you can find here and here and here that I will refer you to for review if you want to go into greater depth on this topic. Here are the basics.

It is important to remember that our communication is with people, not robots. People have thoughts, feelings, stresses, and tensions in their life… all of which affect their communication.

Working remotely requires the right balance of communication, but it is better to err on too much to start, and dial it down, rather than not enough.

Here are some ways to improve communication:

  • Determine how to communicate on a person by person basis. What method (phone, email, texting, or another messaging tool) and what style (personal, formal, chatty, to the point, etc.).
  • Follow up vital information provided over the phone with an email summarizing that information. Get your client to confirm.
  • Ask questions. If you think they will make you look stupid, just think about how stupid you will look if you provide a product that is wrong… all because you didn’t ask. Ask questions!

Remember that communication is relational. It is more than just gathering information.

Summary

We hope this gets you thinking about what it will take to succeed at remote truss design or whatever it is you have set as a goal. What thoughts do you have on what it takes to succeed? Let us know in the comments below!

To begin the onboarding process, complete this form. Note, it will require 1-3 hours to complete.

Tim Hoke – General Manager

Gould Design, INC

Why Do We Charge a Setup Fee?


It is not unusual for the initial contact with a prospective client to be going well until I mention that we charge a $2,500.00 setup fee. I typically find the conversation turns cold or the prospect asks how we can justify the fee. The question is certainly valid and I’ll take a stab at answering it here.

Sales

Recouping some of the cost of sales is one factor. It is common for our salesman to spend 5-10 hours speaking and corresponding with a prospective client prior to any agreement being in place.  The setup fee helps us recoup that effort.

Setup Time

While truss companies are—in general—similar, they are not the same. A significant amount of time is spent creating, revising, and finalizing the Design Criteria used by GDI’s design team as well as put together other related documentation, phone calls and correspondence with the component manufacturer, running test jobs, checking and verifying settings with the client, etc. There could be 10-20 hours in setup time.

Training Time

Our designers work with multiple customers who each have their own unique Design Criteria and processes. It is very important to train them on all new accounts and training takes time. Training could take 10-20 hours depending on how many designers and how unique or difficult the client’s Design Criteria is.

Asking for Buy-In Creates a Filter

Yes, we are looking for buy-in from our clients. It is not uncommon to put all the effort into getting a client setup, designers trained for the account, and then sit idly waiting for them to send work… which never comes. What was the problem? The problem was that the prospective client wasn’t looking for a partnership, they were looking for an insurance policy… somewhere they could send work in an emergency. We are not an emergency service. However, for established clients who have an established and consistent workflow, we will be there for them when they have those emergencies!

We’ve learned over time that if we want to attract the ideal client, then we need to see who is willing to buy into the idea as well as our service. The setup fee helps deter clients we don’t want, which helps us focus on the clients we do!

Vetting Goes Both Ways

It is common for the customer to have a process for vetting everyone who works for them, including offsite design services like ours, what isn’t always understood, is that we have a vetting process as well. Not every sale is equal. Some businesses cost more to work with than others. Our goal is to find out who we can deliver exceptional design services to, be considered partners in that businesses growth, and have a mutually beneficial relationship.

A Small Price

Any prudent manager will count the cost before investing thousands of dollars. The potential upside for component manufacturers in using an offsite design service like ours is can’t be ignored; a multiplying of their design capacity without the cost of hiring a recruiter, candidate vetting by senior management, training, payroll costs, and insurance!

Considered this way, I think component manufacturers will see it is a small price to pay for an experienced partner in fulfilling their truss design needs! Follow the link below if you want to look at starting an account with GDI!

Tim Hoke

General Manager – Gould Design, Inc.

 

If interested in starting an account with us go HERE

If you would like to apply for a contractor design position go HERE

Client Partnership


Here at GDI, INC we not only act as an offsite design team for our clients, but we are actively partnering with our clients to grow their business. I would like to write a few words on the difference.

Partnership Defined

A partnership is two or more people or groups of people that join in a common effort. Their goals, efforts, and interests are aligned.

Henry Cloud in his book Integrity discusses how work, negotiations, relationships all work better when we trust one another.

Cloud describes three stances of “trust”. The first is paranoia, someone who is surrounded by others who can’t let down his guard. Someone is going to stab them in the back, they are sure of it.

The second is the quid pro quo approach. If you are good to me, I’ll be good to you. If you perform for me, I’ll perform for you. However, if you don’t perform, I will stop performing. If you are not good to me, I will not be good to you. This seems “fair”. However, the relationship is on thin ice. It may survive a few falls, but too many, and both parties are out of there. There is also a level of antagonism acting as an undercurrent to the relationship.

The third is what Cloud describes as “true trust”. True trust means that my goodness, kindness, and performance are not tied in anyway to your goodness, kindness, or performance. Regardless of how I am treated I will still act towards you in the same way. This doesn’t mean we tolerate caustic and harmful situations and allow them to continue. But, while addressing the harmful actions or lack of performance of the other party, I will continue to work towards their best interests even if they are not currently working towards mine.

Feedback

The importance of true and honest feedback between us and our clients is imperative to a successful partnership. Though we are for our clients, we at times make mistakes. We at times do not perform to the standards that they want. What will happen? Some clients are in the first stance of paranoia, their fears have proved true, and they sever the relationship.

Other clients fall into the second stance. They may be more patient, but they basically tell us to stop making mistakes and that is it.

Our best clients are those that are for us, who are proactive with feedback, who help us understand our mistakes, and help us perform better. These are the clients that are reaping the benefits of a prolonged relationship of true trust. Where both we and they know that we are working towards the others best interest.

What about you? Do you see the approach of “true trust” benefiting you in your business and relationships? Let us know in the comments below.

Tim Hoke

Design Manager / Sales – Gould Design, Inc.

 

If interested in starting an account with us go HERE

 

If you would like to apply for a contractor design position go HERE

Book Review: RE-WORK


I’ve been reading Jason Fried’s writings for over a year now. He is the Co-founder and CEO of Basecamp. Not only has he written best selling books, he is also a prolific writer and speaker (Signals vs. Noise, Medium, Inc., TED talks, etc.). I’ve listened to David Heinemeier Hansson interviewed by Tim Ferriss. He is the Co-founder and CTO of Basecamp, creator of Ruby-on-Rails.

After reading reviews about their book “Re-work” I finally decided that I needed to dig into this book myself.

Re-work

Let’s get one question out of the way: what does a couple of tech guys have to say to those of us in the building industry? The answer is a lot. While the tools and techniques used in tech may be different, what is not different are the people we work with and the business practices employed to do our work. What they have to say about business applies just as well to the foodservice industry, manufacturing, and yes, to the building industry.

RE-WORK: Breakdown

Re-work is broken down into twelve sections with short parts that are no more than two pages each.

The beauty of this is that I could read as little or as much in a day as I wanted and be able to “finish” with a part. If I wanted to chew on a particular part I just re-read it throughout the day.

The overall tone of the book is like one of the Old Testament prophets who would stand up and challenge the norms, common practices, and status quo of their culture. Jason and David challenge many norms in business. Here are a few:

  • Why 50-60-70 hour work weeks?
  • Say “No”.
  • Meetings are toxic.
  • Don’t avoid decisions. Make small decisions. Adjust. Small decisions keep the momentum going.
  • Interruptions kill productivity (which is part of why we “need” 50-60-70 hour work weeks).
  • Focus your efforts on what won’t change, don’t chase fads.
  • Don’t be all things to all people. Let customers outgrow you.
  • Don’t be a hero.
  • Sleep.
  • Do it yourself first.
  • Hire when it Hurts.
  • Hire managers of One.
  • Own your bad news (no apologies like, “I’m sorry you were offended”).
  • You don’t create culture.
  • ASAP is poison.

I did not walk away after reading this book wondering what the authors meant. It is right there and it challenges how I view business. Go get the book, I promise you won’t regret it!

RE-WORK: Application

What’s the point? The authors challenge the prevailing notions about business and offer alternatives. They incite us to ask “Why” about our practices and ideas. The value of the book is what we do with it after reading it. Keep asking why. Keep challenging the norms of your business.

Some examples:

Our customers want us to offer service “X”. Do we do it? Will this detract or enhance our bread and butter services? Will it stretch our manpower beyond capacity?

A customer asks for a project that we know we don’t have the capacity for. Do we say yes? If we say “Yes”, what will the effect be? Since we don’t have the capacity it will require overtime, all-nighters, etc. What is produced will not be of the highest quality, and because we don’t really have time for it, it will probably be submitted after the date the customer requested. When seen this way, saying “No” becomes not only more appealing but essential for survival. The customer, though they don’t like to hear “No” will at least respect the fact that you only want to deliver a quality product, on-time, rather than try to be a hero and produce a mediocre product late.

Consistently working over-time, a common temptation for me, skews the “numbers”. I may feel like I get a lot done, but if I’m not looking at the quality of those hours, I may not be as productive as I think. How many of the hours “worked” are really filled with distractions, interruptions, poor prioritization, etc.?

Working over-time feeds the ego. It is my way of telling myself I’m indispensable and the hero. What it might mean, however, is that I’m lazy. I’m too lazy to figure out which tasks are important and which are not. I’m afraid to say no and not be the “hero”. Placing limitations on my time forces me to prioritize what I do next and maybe as important, what I don’t do at all.

Do we value those we work with? Or are they just a means to an end? This is an important question as the effects will be far-reaching, touching decisions about hiring, remuneration, time off, capacity, expectations (explicit and implied)… everything!

Conclusion

We got a lot out of this book and will be applying its lessons for many years to come. We hope you learned enough about it to make a choice as to whether to get your own copy. We should note that we are not receiving a kickback for writing this post. We truly hope you find this useful!

Tim Hoke
Design Manager / Sales – Gould Design, Inc.

To start the account setup process go HERE

To apply for a design position go HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resource Advantage


Last April I had the privilege to attend a Virginia Tech continuing education course titled “Introduction to Structural Design of Wood Buildings per the 2015 NDS” (I wrote about it briefly here). The course instructors included Frank Woeste P.E. Ph.D., John “Buddy” Showalter P.E., and Joe Loferski Ph.D. This year there is another course titled “Structural Design Topics in Wood Construction”. I encourage those involved in the design and construction of wood structures to consider attending.

RESOURCES

One thing that was impressed upon me last year is the availability of resources—often times at no cost to those in the industry. Consider the International Building Codes with free public access.

Another resource that has become invaluable to me is the American Wood Council. They provide a significant amount of publications, calculators/software, position papers, online courses, prior webinars available to listen to again, and new webinars that even offer Continuing Education credits.

STAGNATION

Stagnation occurs when we stop growing. When I think of stagnation, I think of a pond that receives very little fresh water and has no real outlet. Let’s just say that it is not an idyllic place to swim on your summer vacation. Stagnation occurs when there is nothing new entering and nothing being poured out.

As people we are the same way. We will die inside if we are not learning and then applying what we have learned in our daily lives.

ARE YOU GROWING?

For anyone, continuing education should be the pursuit of every individual who desires to grow as a person and in their profession—and this not merely imposed on them from outside influences but directed from a desire within to get better at who they are and what they do—each and every day.

STAY IN YOUR FIELD OF EXPERTISE?

While I’m obviously encouraging continuing education within your field of expertise, I would also encourage broader avocational study and practices. If you typically read non-fiction and technical papers, try reading some literature and poetry starting with once a week. If you sit at a desk for 10 hours a day, try standing up for part of that time. Maybe break up the day with a walk outside… and do yourself a favor and leave your phone behind.

What we are finding is that these forays into areas outside of our expertise or natural inclination tend to refresh and invigorate us. When we do return to our work our capacity for creative problem solving, for planning, for reading, etc. are all enhanced.

NOTE

It is important to say that GDI, INC isn’t receiving any kind of kickback from ICC or the AWC or Virginia Tech for the mentions in today’s article. We bring it to your attention because of their value for you. We’ve been longtime proponents of “Pay It Forward”.

Tim Hoke

Design Manager / Sales

Gould Design Inc.

Designers Wanted


If you have ever wanted to start your own business and work from home, GDI presents a unique opportunity to do just that. Below, I have co-opted a blog post I wrote last year to provide a sense of what GDI, INC looks for in those we partner with and how to assess yourself to see if you would be a good fit.

GDI, INC is looking for designers who are self-starters, and eager to operate their own business. We have the clients, agreements, and the workflow. You control your schedule, pace, etc. While many are dissuaded by the lack of a “steady” paycheck or a fixed hourly rate, I would present this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. As a contractor, your earning potential will be directly related to your performance.

One thing before I continue. Fundamentally, GDI, INC is about being in business with integrity. We don’t cut corners. We don’t knowingly do things wrong and then send it in regardless. We respond to mistakes with humility, make restitution, and learn from them. We are in business so, yes, we are about making money, but not to the exclusion of our integrity. GDI, INC is a company operated by folks of integrity and so we expect integrity of people that we partner with.

If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, follow the link at the end of this article.

So, let’s face it, this is the age of the entrepreneur. If you are considering a move to remote truss design work start with this article before making the move.  We are going to look at the essential characteristics to help you succeed and reach your goals:

  • Humility
  • Effectiveness and Efficiency
  • Discipline
  • Ownership
  • Communication

success

Humility

Want to succeed at any vocation? Be humble. This goes hand in hand with all the other traits and forms a kind of feedback loop that allows you to gauge where you are, honestly, and where course correction needs to occur.

Humility is a frame of mind which governs how we conduct ourselves, how we respond to criticism, and how we criticize others. It allows us to see our own weakness and then take steps towards growth.

How do you improve humility? One way is to become a beginner at something, where you rely on others to teach you, and where you place yourself in a position to receive criticism. Humility is always hungry to learn.

Some ideas:

  • Volunteer with a charity
  • Take music lessons
  • Take a martial arts class
  • Ask your kids to teach you something (huge for them and you!)

Humility and humor share the same root. Being able to laugh at yourself is the key to humility. Don’t be so serious that you can’t see the humor in your foibles. See them, laugh at them, and move on!

Effective and Efficient

These two are so interconnected that I will discuss them together. Tim Ferriss has a useful definition that I’ve adopted. Being effective is doing the right things, being efficient is doing those things right.

To succeed at remote truss design, we need to determine the right things to do, then we need to determine the most efficient ways to accomplish them. Doing the wrong things efficiently does not provide value. It’s still doing the wrong things.

This kind of approach is essential as a freelancer because you aren’t paid by the hour, but rather on a job by job basis. A job that I bill out at $200.00 will be that regardless if I spent 2 or 20 hours doing it. Succeeding at remote design then is directly related to being as effective and efficient as possible.

Whenever I hear someone complaining about not having enough time I wonder if they really don’t have enough time, or if they are doing the wrong things with their time. If time is a currency, then what you spend it on is more important than how much you have.

How can you become more effective?

  • Make a list of your top priorities
  • Make a list of things that you do in a day/week/month/year. Determine if those things are aligned with your priorities.
  • Ruthlessly deal with the non-priority things that you find yourself doing. Schedule them out of your time, or schedule them in where they don’t interfere with your work (e.g. check social media at lunchtime or at the end of the day, don’t allow that to enter into your work-time).

How can you become more efficient?

  • Stay up on developments in your field and the tools you use. Keep educating yourself.
  • Find ways to reduce “clicks” of the mouse, or taps on the keyboard. E.g. shortcuts to eliminate using the ribbon and drop down menus.
  • Automate as much as you can. E.g. set up a labeling scheme so that you have very minimal manual labeling to do.
  • Is there a menu default that doesn’t match up with what you need 90% of the time? Look into settings to change the defaults. Now you only change it for the 10% of the outlier situations.
  • Give yourself time limits and goals for completing a job. This can add a sense of urgency and focus on the task at hand. E.g. aim to have a job done by 3 pm so you can spend time with your kids when they get home from school.
  • Don’t switch tools too frequently. Often times we hunt around for the next best tool when in reality, the one we have is good enough. We just need to have the discipline to stick with it… speaking of which:

 

Discipline

Like we talked about, freelancing is the dream. You have leeway in setting your schedule, the frequency of work, what work you accept, etc. But, is it the freedom that everyone craves?

Not without discipline. Without discipline, being a freelancer will be torturous. Deadlines won’t be met, money will be tight, everyone at your house will hate you because you are stressed out.

Discipline is that inner voice, yours (I hope!), telling you what to do and then obeying it.

How do you improve your discipline?

  • Start the day with a simple goal and follow through with it. E.g. set your alarm and get up when it goes off!
  • Continue through the day with goals that you set ahead of yourself and execute.
  • Decision fatigue will give way to discipline. Discipline in one area begets discipline in other areas.
  • Don’t put it off! Take little steps now!

Ownership

Is it possible to “own” something that you don’t truly own? Absolutely. When you take on the mindset of treating a company or a job as if your own interests are at stake you will enter into an ownership mindset.

Personally, I have been both an employee and an employer. I know what it is like on both sides and so whatever “hat” I happen to be wearing the “flip side” has informed how I operate.

Whether as an owner, employee, or freelancer it is important to view the success or failure of your employer or clients as your own. Taking ownership means owning the failures and owning the solutions to the problems that you encounter and not putting them off on others.

What does this mindset look like? Here are some examples:

  • Bill your client as if you were paying the bill. That changes things, doesn’t it? Adding in padding that shouldn’t be there only hurts your client and could even end your work relationship. Think about how you would respond to an invoice that was higher than expected.
  • Treat omissions as opportunities. When you realize that you missed something in your work, don’t ignore or hide it. Take it to your client. Say, “Hey, I did this work and in reviewing it later I see I missed X, Y, Z. What can I do to make this right?” They may not be happy, but this would at least give them the opportunity to correct the issues. Ultimately, I think they would respect you more and it would increase rather than detract from your credibility.
  • If a project fails don’t blame others. Blame yourself and learn from your mistakes. If someone under you fails, don’t blame them, blame yourself for not giving them the direction they need. Then take it upon yourself to train them up to avoid those mistakes in the future.
  • Ownership is all-encompassing. It is saying “the buck stops here” even if your title doesn’t say “CEO” or “President”. That doesn’t mean you park in the CEO’s parking spot. If you do, you didn’t get that advice from me!

Let me answer one objection. It would run along the lines of, “But, if I take ownership of mine and other people’s mistakes, I’m going to be sacked” or “I’m going to lose clients!”

If you lose your job because you took responsibility, then the company wasn’t worth working for and you are better off. No. What happens when people take responsibility for mistakes and who work to grow and learn from them all the while creating solutions? They are given more responsibility. What is responsibility? You guessed it: “Ownership”.

Take ownership of your education as well. Read, learn, grow. For more on “Ownership” check out the book Extreme Ownership by Jock Willink and Leif Babin.

Communication

We have had many good blog articles on communication that you can find here and here and here that I will refer you to for review if you want to go into greater depth on this topic. Here are the basics.

It is important to remember that our communication is with people, not robots. People have thoughts, feelings, stresses, and tensions in their life… all of which affect their communication.

Working remotely requires the right balance of communication, but it is better to err on too much to start, and dial it down, rather than not enough.

Here are some ways to improve communication:

  • Determine how to communicate on a person by person basis. What method (phone, email, texting, or another messaging tool) and what style (personal, formal, chatty, to the point, etc.).
  • Follow up vital information provided over the phone with an email summarizing that information. Get your client to confirm.
  • Ask questions. If you think they will make you look stupid, just think about how stupid you will look if you provide a product that is wrong… all because you didn’t ask. Ask questions!

Remember that communication is more about building relationships than just gathering information.

Summary

We hope this gets you thinking about what it will take to succeed at remote truss design or whatever it is you have set as a goal. What thoughts do you have on what it takes to succeed? Let us know in the comments below!

To start the candidate onboarding process, go here to fill out the form. Note, it will take from 1-3 hours to complete.

Note that candidate onboarding will not begin until after the Christmas holidays.

Tim Hoke – Design Manager / Sales

Gould Design, INC

What Can I Contribute?


In his book The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker writes that the effective executive focuses on contribution:

“The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward toward goals. He asks: ‘What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?’ His stress is on responsibility.” Pg. 52

A little later he writes:

“The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, ‘top management.’ He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.” Pg. 53

The characteristic that we see in these people is that they look up from their own narrow perspective and they look out to obtain a broader understanding of the goals of the whole. This will involve not only understanding their own business but understanding the real needs of their clients. Once they obtain this perspective, they think through their own giftings and strengths and ask themselves, “What can I contribute that will enhance the performance of the whole?”

I tend towards putting more time into something in order to increase my contribution. But, that is not what Peter Drucker is talking about. Putting in more time is like addition. 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 = 100. Something is getting accomplished, but it takes a lot of input to obtain the result. But if we change the equation to 10 x 10 = 100…

I find it helpful to impose a limitation on myself such as, “If I only had three hours to work today, what would I do that would bring about the greatest contribution to the business and it’s clients?” This kind of question forces me to think through the goals of the business and how best to accomplish them. It also helps to strip away the “waste” from my day. Then, after answering the question, I have to go and do it. But, the forethought has to be present in order to ensure that those things I am engaged in are going to be impactful contributions.

As you start your week, ask yourself “What can I contribute”. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Tim Hoke

Design Manager / Sales

Thanksgiving


As I write this, the day “Thanksgiving” has already passed, but that was deliberate on my part. Our holidays can act as a “brake” to our hectic lives, but if we are not careful, we can get pulled into the frenzy that all the busyness of the season can push on us.

Thanksgiving is not merely a day or an event but a state of being; we should wake up every day in the state of “giving thanks” because we have woken up to a new day in this life including all of its challenges and all of its fullness and wonder.

The state of “thanksgiving” that we are talking about helps to provide balance in our lives. I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my job. I’m thankful for friends. I’m thankful for health and vigor. I’m thankful for the possessions that I’ve accumulated and enjoy. Anyone of these things can become corrupted if we pursue them inordinately.

One way I find to encourage an attitude of thanksgiving is in considering death. It is common for those on their deathbeds to start thinking about all those things that they wish they had done differently. If I keep this in my mind that should help me make better decisions in the present.

The number one regret people on their deathbed have is that they wish they had spent more time with loved ones. But, there are frequently other regrets as well. The question we should ask ourselves is this, “How can I structure my day today, to bring about the results I desire tomorrow?” Or, “What hard decision can I make now, that will positively affect my life in the future?” It may be making better decisions, re-structuring your day to spend more time with family, changing jobs, repairing a broken relationship, etc.

Furthermore, what do I already have now that I should be thankful for and enjoy more? I have a family that I can invest myself in. I can make the decision to not work overtime all the time and turn off the laptop at five and read to my kids, play with them, let them help me on some household project. At the end of the day what I will remember at the end of my life, and what they will remember through the course of theirs, is the relationship we had, the time we spent together… and that is just one example.

Do the work. Do good work. But, don’t forget to be thankful for all those things in life that we sometimes see as obstacles to the “end” and are actually the end in themselves. Be thankful!