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Meet Ludwig

One of the first things I became aware of years ago is that when you introduce yourself, or are introduced, as a business development consultant for the construction industry, people will, for the most part, want to know what exactly that means. Even if they are choking on work they still seem to enjoy chatting, looking for any pearl of wisdom that they can tuck away for later.

At first, all of our early contracts were about one thing, increasing select pricing opportunities and revenue. After getting to know some great contractors, architects and subcontractors, building trust, learning more about how each company operates we began to grow beyond just increasing revenues but focusing also on keeping revenues.

Never forget: It is not how much you make, it is how much you keep.

Today there are several formal methodologies for maintaining what is commonly known as ‘best practices’ and I won’t deliver any new, earth shattering techniques here but I would like you to meet Ludwig, a ‘friend’ of mine.

Before I introduce Ludwig, let me share with you how I came to know him. One of my hobbies since my first year in college has been studying philosophy and that is how I came to know Ludwig. (Don’t worry, this is still about business.)

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who supported the premise that there is no such thing as a true disagreement, just a discussion improperly defined. That understanding has proven to be one of the most profound lessons I have learned in business and beyond.

Example: Suppose you and I were to discuss who the greatest golfer of all time was. I argue for Tiger Woods, you argue for Jack Nicklaus. Wittgenstein would tell you that we could argue until the cows came home but until we defined what we meant by ‘the world’s greatest golfer’ we would never come to the same conclusion.

Once we defined that term, we would have no choice to end up agreeing. Hold that thought.

Last week, I took a call from a large, regional subcontractor who signed an agreement with a sub-subcontractor to help with a specific project. As he was describing where ‘things went wrong’ he listed several and one of the main ‘sticking points’ was the lead rep for the company submitted an enormous amount of expenses for reimbursement.

I asked the caller was this part of their agreement to which he replied in the affirmative. I then asked what expenses did he agree to cover and his answer was ‘all related expenses.’ I then asked him to define what he meant by ‘all related expenses.’ He was not able to adequately define that term which was the loose pebble that started the avalanche.

‘Will cover all related expenses’ is about as useful as bid documents saying ‘repair where necessary.’

Process improvement must involve a continuous and ongoing awareness of many things and chief among these would be defining the terms; If is it a scope change, employment agreement, job description or something as simple as what expenses shall be reimbursed.

Part of what excites me about working with new clients is not just how I believe we are able to help them but how much I can learn in the process as well. Each time I do not properly define a term and it costs me, I try to take that new found wisdom to make the next time better. It is much like what Tiger Woods recently said in an interview:

“The greatest thing about tomorrow is, I will be better than I am today. And that’s how I look at my life. I will be better as a golfer, I will be better as a person, I will be better as a father, I will be a better husband, I will be better as a friend. That’s the beauty of tomorrow. There is no such thing as a setback. The lessons I learn today I will apply tomorrow, and I will be better.”

I am unashamedly and unapologetically passionate about business, capitalism and the free-enterprise system. Each day I try to learn something that will make me a better person, husband, father and businessman.

Continue to hone your processes and defining your terms in ways to make things better, which will translate into better revenues, better profits and a better business.

In closing, to keep Ludwig happy…

Bet ▪ ter – adj. 1: more advantageous or effective 2: improved in accuracy or performance

About the Author

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc., An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

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