I’d rather be lucky.

I have been disturbed for the past few months after receiving a phone call from a very good friend’s wife that she had put her husband into hospice and my distress was only amplified after visiting my friend the next day and seeing him in a terminal condition.  As there was nothing I could do to prevent the outcome, I began to write this blog to vent my anger and frustration.  In the middle of this task I received a phone call that he had passed away.

I first met Joel and his family shortly after moving to Florida thirty-two years ago and our families have been close ever since, in part because we are very similar.  We are the same age, born one month apart, we were both raised in Chicago and married at about the same time, had two sons of close to the same ages and shared similar lifestyles.  Our children grew up together and we socialized frequently over the past few decades.  When their children and ours were grown we became empty nesters together, rejoicing in each other’s children’s weddings and we became regular dinner companions and enjoyed traveling together on several vacations.  

Joel had been in poor health for several years, suffering from a wide variety of ailments, maladies and illnesses.  He probably spent more time in than out of hospitals in the past five years and we often joked that he was the sickest human being we knew that was still alive.  But in the past he always managed to pull through, albeit with an increasing number of surgical scars and missing pieces.

Prior to the past few years Joel had enjoyed what I believe would be considered by most people to be a good life.  He was a good person, honest, caring and giving with a unique sense of humor.  He had a loving and dedicated family which now included two grandchildren, had assembled a very large group of good friends, achieved substantial success in several businesses and reached a modicum of financial comfort but serious illness seemed to plague not only him but also his entire family.

Thinking about this made me remember and appreciate two basic truths in life:

1.     It is essential that we always live in the moment, cherishing each and every second of our lives and making certain that we remember what is really important and act so that there are no regrets;  I wrote about that subject in a prior blog – http://www.residentialmarketingblog.com/2011/10/what%E2%80%99s-really-important/

2.     There is no substitute for good luck. 

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I have a new aphorism or, if you prefer, an apothegm, axiom, dictum, maxim, motto, or precept for life on which I am working to gain universal acceptance.  This maxim is known by the acronym “TFE” which stands for “Time For Excellence”.

TFE is especially appropriate for the homebuilding industry today for this is the year that the markets begin their slow but steady climb back to normality and the industry returns to profitability.  To maximize the opportunities available and to achieve success I believe that we must be excellent in every possible way as there is no reward for anything less.

In homebuilding there are five basic areas in which we can satisfy market demand and create a competitive advantage.  Excellence must be provided in each of these five components.  By allocating resources equally among these five areas we optimize operations and profitability and this is true whether you are a large merchant builder or a small custom builder/remodeler. Continue reading

What we do not see

The homebuilding industry, at least for many of the larger builders, has become far more sophisticated in recent years thanks in part to the almost limitless amount of data that we have available to analyze.  New economic facts including employment data, balance of trade, inflation, CPI movement, consumer sentiment and all kinds of interest rates are published almost daily.  Building permit and construction start reports are updated monthly as are the MLS statistics.  Hard data on population changes is available annually and projections often are published on a more frequent basis.  We are able to see the “macro” housing industry trends if we take the time to look and, if our marketing team is doing their job, we should be receiving updated competitive reports at least quarterly to provide us with a fairly good “micro” view.

Our own internal operational data should be equally accessible.  Determining the actual number of sales we have achieved is easy and, with a little analysis, we can determine which communities, which models and which features are selling best. We tend to receive fairly accurate counts of the traffic that comes into our sales office and, if we have a decent analytics program we can determine the traffic that visits our web site, reads our blogs and visits our Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages.  Validating our marketing efforts in terms of number of sales, traffic generation, cost per sale, media usage, etc. should also be simple.  We can compare our performance to our original pro-formas and make the necessary adjustments that are indicated.

It is my belief that the homebuilding industry is reasonably adept at analyzing at least some of the available quantitative data, when they do it, but generally lacking in understanding and analyzing qualitative data.  Do we really know the reasons why:

–       People who are interested in buying a new home never find us on the web?

–       Visitors locate our community on a search engine or referral site but never visit our web site?

–       Prospects visit our web site but never come out to our homes?

–       Potential customers come out to see us but never register in the sales office or interact with a live salesperson?

–       And most important, why buyers come into the sales office, interact with our sales team and do not buy? Continue reading