Building infrastructure while growing

In building and construction, it’s pretty hard to get too far out in front of yourself. You can’t build a roof and then build the walls underneath it. In almost every other industry that’s not the case, generally, you can make the sale and then through will and determination deliver the goods. But what about the 2nd sale, the 10th or the 100th? At some point, you’re exhausted, or you simply can’t produce at the speed, quality or margin you need to. That’s where you need infrastructure, process and, systems (often conveniently referred to as operations) to help to carry the load.

But how do you build all those underpinnings while hustling on the first sales? Counterintuitively we would advise you not to worry about it. Building infrastructure or operations sounds tedious, boring or complex.  Don’t ignore it forever, but don’t worry about it until it becomes a little painful. Wait until you’re starting to stretch and your people are beginning to get tired. Then you hit pause, take a day off to circle up together and talk about what things work for what people and how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Draw it out, diagram the steps from A-Z and ask yourselves six questions.

  1. Where are the handoffs?
  2. Where are errors occurring?
  3. What causes hiccups or delays?
  4. Which steps take the longest?
  5. Which activities are interdependent
  6. Which are isolated?

If you can answer those six questions, you can already probably redraw and reorganize the process. Assign folks to the tasks they’re best suited for, clarify and reduce the handoffs and figure out which activities lead to delays and increased costs. If it took you a day or two to draw everything out give yourself (or the team you’ve assigned) a week or two to think through the new way of doing things and a month to implement the changes. There, you’ve just built the infrastructure to support your next level of expansion.

Our consultants have saved extraordinary amounts of time, productivity and profits just by walking teams through that process. There is an incredibly cathartic effect to drawing out how you deliver, it takes ego out of the equation and lets people think of better ways to do things. It’s interesting and exciting to share triumphs and pitfalls. Every time you do it the process or system of how you work gets better, and without realizing it, you’re “operationalizing best practices.”

Try it, or better yet, call us and we’ll help you through it.

Also published on Medium.