Bus or bust

Moving a business forward means balancing every detail

Ron Frederiksen
RSV Construction Services

Owning and managing a growing business has its share of challenges. Over the past 25 years, I have developed a few mental pictures that help me focus and provide an answer to the constantly asked question, "Am I paying attention to the right things?"

After a recent staff meeting, one of my employees shared her own perceptive mental picture of how our company operates, and it made me realize her viewpoint applies to all businesses.

She sees RSV Construction as a large bus, heading down the highway, with me at the wheel. Our clients are on board the bus, sharing their goals and asking questions. Some are riding a long distance because they have large projects. Others who have smaller projects ride for a shorter time.

The RSV bus has four tires. One front tire represents the sales/marketing department; the other front tire is accounting. These departments help steer the RSV bus by identifying business opportunities, tracking the cost of our services and making sure we have the financial resources we need. The rear tires represent project management and field production. The rear tires provide the propulsion – income – to keep us moving forward.

As I drive the RSV bus, I take care to listen to the sound of the tires on the pavement. Is the sales/marketing tire low on air? Perhaps that’s why a certain project isn’t moving forward. The project management tire sounds overloaded, so maybe we need to shift some weight away from that corner of the bus. We will need fuel soon – does accounting have its work done so we can pay our bill? The field production tire has a funny vibration. What’s that all about?

While considering these issues, I keep up a constant conversation with new and existing clients. They are counting on me to take them to their destination – project goals – by the most efficient, or less stress, and the most direct, or least cost, routes. The feedback from the four tires, or departments, also reassures me that we are taking good care of our clients.

As we deliver clients to their destinations and pick up new clients, the direction of the bus – RSV’s priorities – may change. For example, a new client may be in a big hurry to get his project completed and may need to be taken directly to his destination as quickly as possible. No matter what direction sales/marketing and accounting thought the RSV bus was going, I’m soon turning the steering wheel in a new direction, and flooring the accelerator to accommodate our new client’s needs while making sure we continue to take good care of our existing clients.

All along the way, we want to reinforce their trust in RSV. They need to have confidence in us as a com-pany, and confidence that all components of the RSV bus will work together perfectly to get them to their destinations just as we promised.

Too many business owners, especially in the construction industry, pay too little attention to their company’s operation. They’re driving the bus but their communication with clients, let alone employees, is lacking. Instead, their focus is on speed, and they race at full throttle from stop to stop, desperately hoping to pick up enough clients to keep them going.

Once a client is on board their bus, they aren’t really concerned about getting the client to her destination, they just hope the client will stay on the bus long enough to generate a reasonable fare. If the client becomes frustrated and gets off at a random stop, well, at least she was on board for a while.

By not paying attention to how efficiently their bus is operating, these same business owners wear out tires prematurely, ignoring them until they blow out, or leave the company, because they just can’t take the abuse anymore.

What these business owners are missing is the pure joy when the company bus is humming
smoothly down the road, with all tires running cool and vibration free. The clients are comfortable, and enjoy the ride and the experience. They tell other business owners about it, and business soon increases.

After thinking through my employee’s analogy, I had to admit that paying attention to so many details can at times seem overwhelming. However, setting the direction of the RSV bus, seeing the road ahead clearly and making sure all of our clients are satisfied and arrive comfortably at their chosen destinations brings us a great deal of pride and personal pleasure. That successful ride is our greatest reward.

Ron Frederiksen is president of RSV Construction Services, a Vancouver commercial and industrial design-build and remodeling firm. He can be reached at 360-693-8830.

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