To Make a Lasting Change, Think Like a NASCAR Team

Take the lead from America’s most popular motor sport with three tips to get ahead of issues before they destabilize your construction business.

Wayne Rivers, Co-Founder/President

May 16, 2024

3 Min Read
NASCAR: Feb 21 Daytona 500
Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

I would guess 50% or more of New Year’s resolutions have to do with getting in shape or losing weight. Here’s the cycle: You make a new resolution, go on a diet, exercise more, lose weight and pat yourself on the back. You assume that the changes you've made are permanent, and you move on. Guess what? The weight comes back. You're right back where you started—maybe even tipping the scale further. Generally, the reason diets don't work is because people assume the changes they made are permanent. They're almost always not.  

Contractors do the same thing. They find a problem in their organization or with a particular job. They put the full-court press on it and find a resolution. Then they breathe a sigh of relief, move to the next problem and fail to examine and learn from what happened. Just as many people do with diets, contractors assume the changes were permanent. 

I remember talking to a contractor years ago, and, on the surface, they seemed very successful. They were getting high-profile jobs, and favorable publicity, but when I interviewed the owner and his son, they said they hadn’t made money in three years! Their jobs came in on time and on budget—except those run by a particular project manager. In three consecutive years, this employee lost enough money to suck the profit from the company’s other successful jobs, and yet, he was still employed with considerable autonomy. Leadership had not taken corrective action because they weren't examining mistakes as they happened.  

Related:6 Steps to Setting Up a Construction Company for Success

When you make significant changes, it’s imperative to realize the changes are not everlasting. If you're making a big change in your organization—implementing new estimating or project management software, for example—a senior executive needs to spend about 50% of their time looking after that change to ensure its permanence. That's why so many corporate initiatives fail; leaders resolve to make a change but then fail to invest themselves wholly in making the change permanent. 

So, what’s the solution? We can look to NASCAR for inspiration. When I was recently watching a race, the drivers roared into the pits and got fresh tires, fuel and a clean windshield. They made other small and often preemptive changes based on continuous communication between driver and crew. If they waited for the tires, for example, to get worn, they would sacrifice speed and traction. They sought to get ahead of problems before they manifested.  

When you think about your company, think like a NASCAR team. What small modifications can you make now to get ahead of problems before they become truly disruptive? What can you identify on the horizon six months or a year from now that you’ll need to address, and how can you get ahead of that issue?  

Related:9 Key Traits of Transformational Leaders

Here are three tips to get you started: 

  1. Recognize when you have recurring problems.  

  2. Anticipate the changes and design them carefully. Small changes are easier than big ones, so start small and build your change muscles.  

  3. Protect the changes. At least one senior executive must put time, attention and effort into the changes if they’re going to last. 

About the Author(s)

Wayne Rivers

Co-Founder/President, Performance Construction Advisors

Wayne Rivers is the president of Performance Construction Advisors. PCA's mission is to build better contractors! Wayne can be reached at 877-326-2493, [email protected], or on the web at performanceconstructionadvisors.com.
 

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