Leadership

How Builders Always Manage To Do What's Easier Said Than Done

At the trailhead of a fresh barrage of business challenges, leaders dig deep for character, competence, cash reserves, and resiliency for the staying power to be there for customers when markets inevitably improve.

Leadership

How Builders Always Manage To Do What's Easier Said Than Done

At the trailhead of a fresh barrage of business challenges, leaders dig deep for character, competence, cash reserves, and resiliency for the staying power to be there for customers when markets inevitably improve.

November 1st, 2022
How Builders Always Manage To Do What's Easier Said Than Done
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For a business made up of about 5,000 U.S. firms that together develop, build, and sell nine of every 10 ground-up single-family homes– one of whose foundational capital/operational model assumptions puts short-term debt up for long-term returns – the stretch of conditions from here to just around the next corner of visibility is stacking up as an "easier-said-than-done" time period.

Headwinds orbit both buyer qualification and buyer psychology, as a cost-of-living, cost of borrowing, and a host of economic questions marks cloud households' near-term futures.

Job No. 1 is staying power. Just like in the domain of households, the staying power of some businesses contrasts sharply with that of the staying power of others. Broadly, all homebuilding firms need to do the following.

  • Bring backlog sales across the finish line
  • Continue to start, sell, complete, and settle homes to stay compliant with loan covenants and shareholder expectations
  • Bring down expenses vs. new selling price points to reset profitable operations

And it's easier said than done for all firms, large, medium, and small. What's different is that neither the "easier" part nor the "difficulty" level are equal for all players. Beyond the broad strokes, fewer firms draw off greater capital largesse while the great majority of companies in the space face hugely more adverse prospects.

What's more, a galling ride-along with this "easier-said-than-done" reality is that what's easier said tends to be said over and and over and over again, everywhere at an incessant, screeching high volume. Which makes what needs to be done harder and harder. In effect, an inverse relationship happens between those who're doing the "easier said" part and the what needs to be "done" part.

Still, we looked up the origin of  "easier said than done" – one of the better idioms in any language – and damned if trying to find the root of the phrase didn't turn out to be easier said than done.

Mainstream references on where the term first emerged suggest the following:

This common expression was first seen in print in the Terentius Afer’s 1483 book, Vulgaria Terentii, and was worded in the language of the day as: “It is easyer to saye than to do.”

The difficulty crops up if you're curious enough about this reference to look up this fellow Terentius Afer and his 1483 book, Vugaria Terentii. Then you realize that the witty guy the quote comes from lived, died, wrote, and spoke long before the year 1483. Fact is, the book in question is a manuscript of collected texts – translated into 15th Century English – whose original author Publius Terentius Afer, a.k.a. Terence, c. 195/185 – c. 159? BC, came to Rome as an enslaved African, and who rose to fame as a playwright who'd go on to influence William Shakespeare in language, comedic situations, and storylines.

Terence would more likely have written or said something along the lines of ....

facilius est dictu quam factu'

Here now, we'll come back to relevance, but first with a superb use of the phrase in context.

My friend Brent has a related theory about marriage: It only works when both people want to help their spouse while expecting nothing in return. If you both do that, you’re both pleasantly surprised.
Both of those are easier said than done.

Now here's the tie-back to homebuilding leaders' challenge, which is to secure the staying power of their firms by equipping themselves and their team members for adversity. Right now, this means – despite many many high hopes of a Fed pivot – not wanting what one doesn't have, and instead celebrate and cherish who and what one does have.

Review this gutcheck on your firm's staying power, and make it part of your heads-down budget, strategic and operational plan, with immediate action items:

LHH and Ferrazzi Greenlight have identified four critical characteristics of resilient teams: candor, resourcefulness, compassion, and humility.

  • Candor: Is your team able to have open, honest dialogue and feedback with each other? Resilient teams are able to speak truth to each other in order to collectively identify and solve for the challenges they face.
  • Resourcefulness: When faced with challenges or problems, can your team pull together to build creative and effective solutions? Resilient teams rebound from setbacks and welcome new challenges. They devote their energy to solutions and remain focused on outcomes regardless of external conditions.
  • Compassion and Empathy: Do your team members truly care for each other and share both success and failure? Resilient teams consist of individuals who deeply and genuinely care about each other. Resilience is often expressed in deep commitment to “co-elevating” the team rather than seeking individual recognition or success.
  • Humility: Can your team ask for and accept help from other team members? Resilient teams are willing to admit when a problem has become intractable and ask for help, either from someone else on the team or someone else in the organization. They do not hide their struggles but lean into the group responsibility for facing challenges and finding solutions.

A parting thought that hopefully begins to help homebuilding leaders find closer matchups between what's said and what's done. It comes from The Atlantic, where Derek Thompson writes about "What Moneyball-for-Everything Has Done to American Culture." Thompson writes:

The religion scholar James P. Carse wrote that there are two kinds of games in life: finite and infinite. A finite game is played to win; there are clear victors and losers. An infinite game is played to keep playing; the goal is to maximize winning across all participants."

Homebuilding, housing, housing leaders – in their personalities, character, influence, and impact – prove again and again to succeed at making their livelihood, their practices, and their purpose an infinite game, one that is played to keep playing.

This too may be easier said than done, but plenty of evidence out there tells us to be confident it will be done.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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