Being general contractor for my most recent building project has reminded me of some universal principles that apply to building almost anything of lasting value. Whether it be a home, a business, a non-profit organization, or an athletic program, these same things are true:
- Much of what you do will go unnoticed but it is critical to success. There are two stages in a home building project where you take a whole lot of work by the subcontractors and cover it up forever; when you pour the foundation and when you install the wall coverings and insulation. There will come a time when the unseen becomes seen. Someday you will flip the switch and the lights will come on because the wiring is there. (See photos below.)
- The order in which you do things matters. When the concrete gets poured it is too late to install drains or in floor heating coils without racking up enormous amounts of work and cost overruns. To get the right order it’s always wise to have a good blueprint, professional advisers and experienced contractors in place before the project starts.
- There will be days when it feels like nothing is getting done. There are stages of the project where you just have to wait for the next right thing to happen. So wait, because not waiting can bring disaster to the whole project.
- It’s never as easy as you think it will be. Do you ever look at work someone else has done and think, how hard could it be? Unless you have done it yourself, you don’t realize the time, care or thought behind that finished product.
- Mistakes can lead to innovation. Example: the day we poured concreteI realized I had forgotten to form out where we were going to install a zero threshold shower. I shared my mistake with the mason but it was too late. The concrete was poured and setting up. But we thought of a way to make it work. We took a maul and broke up the concrete while it was still green.
These principles are not to discourage anyone from building a home or business. Instead, knowing them will help you go into the process with eyes wide open to the realities. Creating something of value is seldom easy but it is worth it. We are creating a better world for ourselves and those we love and care for.