Roger Pollock

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Help others, but pick your passion.

I have written before about my opinions on the importance of picking charities that align with your business and making contributions to these charities regularly.

Buena Vista Custom Homes has developed the “Buena Vista Profit Partners” program, where we make a monthly donation to each charity based on each closed sale we record during the month.

Today, I would like to touch on passion. There are so many worthwhile organizations that need our help, but I feel that it is very important to pick groups in need that fit a pre-determined criteria you set. The criteria? That’s easy, it should fit what you are passionate about. My criteria and passion has been children and organizations that help those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Although I am passionate about these groups, recently I took my passion to a new level.

Last year we added a new “profit partner”, The Option Institute. An organization that helps parents with autistic children. Although this did meet my previous criteria of an organization that helped children, my passion was taken to a whole new level when we found out that our youngest son was diagnosed with Autism.

This organization has provided so much hope to our family, I have made it a personal mission to help spread the word. This summer I decided to also sponsor a series of four lectures in Eugene, Portland and Seattle featuring Raun Kaufman, the CEO of the Option Institute. In addition, I decided to sponsor 200 families to attend the autism program in Massachusetts. Kaufman’s story is amazing. He was diagnosed as a child with severe autism. His parents founded the program and fast forwarding to today he is a Harvard grad and CEO of the Option Institute and a truly inspiring speaker. Over 2,000 people attended the four seminars and I have been amazed at what has taken place following the lectures.

The autism scholarship families have formed a blog of their own and have been sharing information. Several of the families have done fundraisers of their own to help raise funds for expenses for the trips and to host additional families. Families have shared techniques that they learned and used with their children. Many have arranged ride sharing to and from the airport to the Option Institute as well. Above all, families dealing with autism have made a stronger bond.

And the thank you letters….I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to read the special messages sent by the attendees and scholarship families.

Passion…we all have it. Find yours and do something positive with it.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Fast Growth…Good or bad?

Recently my company, Buena Vista Custom Homes was honored by Inc. Magazine for our rapid growth. Inc is the holy grail of magazines for the American Entrepreneur and touts itself as “The Handbook for the American Entrepreneur. We were certainly thrilled to be selected by Inc., and by the way I would highly recommend that any aspiring entrepreneur subscribe to it, as their claims of being the “handbook” are very accurate.

After reflecting on the honor and the hard work by our team at Buena Vista Custom Homes to achieve this, it made me think of a question I get asked all the time. “Is fast growth a good thing or a negative thing.?”

Well first of all I think any business owner will tell you that that any form of growth is a good thing. This is what we are all in business for, but with growth comes many decisions that may have you questioning why you decided to be a business owner in the first place. Decisions such as cash flow issues, operational issues and providing the same level service that allowed you to grow in the first place. Also, with more business usually comes more personnel, which relates to more personnel issues. So, how do we do it?

My advice is to have a clear vision and written goals for your company. If you do so, you (and your entire staff) will know where you are headed and you can plan as an organization 1) how to get there and 2) what you are going to need to get there and 3) How you are going to operate once you get there. Also don’t be afraid to grow, if you have a solid business idea and the climate is right for your product or service, go for it. I think a mistake that many entrepreneurs make is that they try to manage growth by making determinations of their own how they will grow. Don’t make this mistake. For example, we sell houses and if I have 100 houses for sale and we pre-sell all of them, you better believe that I will find a way to build all 100 and deliver them with the same quality we have given, had we sold one home as well as finishing them on the customers schedule. I hear many entrepreneurs say this year we are going to grow and add one new employee. I think to myself, here is a person who is trying to manage how they grow and saying, “well we are adding one new employee and we should grow because we have this new person and however that relates to sales then great.” A better approach would be to analyze your business needs and potential and then make the correct decision. That correct decision may be to add ten new employees or to cut two that you already have.

Think growth!! Prepare for it, be smart about it and embrace it. I hope to see all of you in upcoming issues of Inc Magazine!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Are You Too Close to Your Coworkers?

What’s the most stressful part of your job? Public speaking? Strict deadlines? The work itself? I might step out on a limb here and wager a guess that it’s none of the above – but instead, office politics.

I’ve noticed that many people tend to get caught up with the social and political aspect of working in their respective industries. While it’s great to network, communicate and relate to your colleagues and coworkers, getting too close can sometimes lead to drama in the workplace and affect your work.

My advice? Keep it professional and high level. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make friends and get to know the people you work with all day every day, but I think it’s important not to get too personal. Believe me, your coworkers don’t really want to know all about how your brother is the spoiled one in the family and that it’s not fair. It’s just too much information and gives people a reason to gossip.

Remember, at the end of the day, these are the people that either report to you or vice versa – so forming respectful and professional relationships is the key to success in the workplace.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Overworked? You Don’t Have to Be.

As a business owner, efficiency is critical. Although there are many perks to being your own boss, one major downside is that the workday never ends. The weight of responsibility can be daunting and the guilt can be crushing if things aren’t running smoothly or your employees end up carrying those responsibilities as well.

It’s only natural that as a business owner, many hours will be devoted to your company, including the sleep lost when you’re up at night worrying. Luckily, there are a few guidelines that you can practice to ensure that life isn’t swallowed up in the chaos.

Meetings – meetings can take up half your day before you even know what hit you when they are unstructured and unorganized, irrelevant and too long.

So how can you make company/staff meetings more effective?

Preparation – never come to a meeting unprepared. Stick to a plan and prioritize topics so that the most important topics are sure to be discussed and announced before time runs out. If the meeting time is up and you haven’t gotten to your low priority topics – include them in a company email (this should already be written out in the meeting notes you’ve prepared).

Segmentation – although it’s great to include everyone and get them up to speed on what all the departments are doing, chances are, they aren’t really going to be that engaged if it doesn’t pertain to them. Wherever possible, segment meetings and include only those that need to know about the topics at hand. In some cases, these people can be the messengers of high level takeaways to those that weren’t in the meeting.

Time Restraints – set a time limit and stick to it. This means that meetings should not even begin late and once that clock hits the hour mark, the meeting is over.

Make Strategic Decisions – business owners often get stuck taking over all tasks that don’t exactly fall into any employee job descriptions. Before you start blindly taking care of anything and everything, think about whether or not it is truly a valuable use of your time.

How can you spend your time more strategically?

Delegation – before you stop and say there is no one else to do the job, really think about it. Too often we are running reports, errands and meetings out of habit. So take the time and figure out if there is anyone better suited for the task at hand and if not, can there be? Can you hire an intern to help with the day to day?

Networking – make sure the time spent networking are with those that truly represent an opportunity for a strategic partnership, new client, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in those golf games, but let’s not forget about the bottom line.

Utilize Down Time – on hold? Write a to do list. Take advantage of the time you are in your car and make important phone calls, if you take the bus to work use the time to catch up on news, phone calls, email, etc.

There’s no need to work past midnight – just remember to work smart, not hard and you’ll have more time for other important life endeavors.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Entrepreneurs – Born or Bred?

A question that has often been the subject of debate for decades, yet still no answers are set in stone. There is this perception that entrepreneurs are go-getting risk takers that don’t take no for an answer and possess an innate ability to thrive in settings that don’t always offer that level of stability and comfort that the regular 9-5 desk job does.

Yet not all entrepreneurs fit this stereotype and do not have to in order to find success. One does not have to be born with the defining characteristics that make up the typical entrepreneur, but it does require pro-active efforts and good old fashioned hard work. It also has to do with an individual’s mindset – a positive outlook can go a long way and if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Check out this fascinating study – Your Personality Can Change (and Probably Should). Starting a business can be a scary endeavor, and supporting friends and family may have their hesitations. In these times it is critical to stick to your guns if you feel it in your gut.

Speaking from personal experience, I had an advantage in that my father already had his foot in the industry door. However not all of it came naturally, I had to become a student and read as much as possible – whether it be about industry news or influential leaders – the past can always hold a key to the future. In the end, entrepreneurship is a combination of abilities that an individual is born with coupled with the drive, determination and passion that it takes to go for it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Make Technology Your Ally

I have been called a dinosaur when it comes to technology. Many business colleagues of mine have expressed frustration that I don’t personally email them. The fact is, I think technology has become a huge aide to doing business. My company, Buena Vista Custom Homes has been quick to add the latest in construction industry software to manage our overall business. We were also the first to launch a state of the art website, winning the award from our trade association (The Home Builders Association of Metro Portland) for the best web site by a builder. And now, I am blogging?

My personal philosophy is this. As an entrepreneur and CEO of a company I look to my job as providing overall direction for my company. I know this, many of my employees personally send hundreds of emails daily. I look at my role as providing the vision for my company and then managing oversight. My work at Buena Vista Custom Homes often requires me to be away from my desk. And when I’m in my office, there always seem to be so many other tasks to address: phone calls to return, plans to review, meetings to attend, etc.

To be totally honest, I appreciate not being tied to my computer. I know colleagues who can slip into a frothy panic if separated from their email for too long. For me, rather than wasting valuable time slogging through all those communications, I rely on my assistant to relay the messages that require my immediate attention.

Plus, given my curious cast of mind, I know I could very easily get myself mired pursuing this or that question. I would challenge that many business owners or high level managers make this very mistake, thus falling into a myriad of details which hamper overall productivity.

Still, there is obviously a great deal more to the Internet than email and the occasional search. So “this dinosaur” is learning, wanting to enjoy the myriad benefits of the Internet without letting it distract me from my goal of building quality, state-of-the-art homes. My advice is embrace technology, but don’t let technology embrace you.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Secret of the American Dream

There is a secret to the American Dream. And it’s not even a complicated thing—in fact, it couldn’t be simpler. My advice is: Do what you love.

Doing what you love is the one non-negotiable requirement of the American Dream. The instant you put your passion first, you turn the tables on conventional thinking and make the journey more important than the destination. And unlike the destination, which exists in the far-off future, the journey can begin today.

By making such a choice, you have also instantly distinguished yourself from the world of people who struggle for the next title or promotion. To succeed, to truly succeed, you have to love what you do first, and love the results second, if you pay much mind to them at all.

Have you ever wondered at the incredible energy of some people? How they achieve what seems like a tireless level of dedication? The secret is when the mission is your own, and not someone else’s, and inspired by real passion, words like “dedication” no longer apply. You work because you’re driven to.

Now, you might say “I don’t know what I love” or “I don’t have a passion.” But you do; we all do. It can be so close sometimes we can’t even see it until we really look. So break down the wall that separates “work” from “pleasure” in your life. See what happens when the two intermingle. Allow yourself to think big. That’s where the American Dream starts.