Problem solving- Mid way through my career as a developer I wondered why colleges don’t require that you take a course in problem solving. Kind of like why in high school where they don’t teach you about money and balancing a checkbook. Having said that I am sure that courses similar to this are probably offered in some form. But offering a BS in “Problem Solving” would be a step in the right direction.
Why take a course in problem solving? When people look at builders and developers, they have somewhat different opinions of your make up but probably think along similar lines. I have been asked many times how I got into the business of building homes and developing land. The truth is since my early days I always built things- go karts, tree houses, models, play houses, soap box derby cars and furniture. As a kid I played in the Ohio dirt in the summers with miniature earth moving toys using my creativity as a youngster.
Then I became a pilot plus I was good at math and navigation. All technical stuff that lends very well to physically being a builder/developer. But the truth is, I don’t work in the field much, just inspections and walk throughs (which I enjoy). The real success in my job comes from constant everyday problem solving done from my desk, phone and meetings. At first, I did not like constantly having to throw myself into a situation to solve a problem so we could move the job along. But if I wanted that CO (certificate of occupancy) that was the only way I was going to get it. Eventually it became second nature and the longer I was in the business the better I became at problem solving.
After all what is a Builder/Developer? What really does a good builder do:
1. Talent assembler or broker of labor. We don’t do the work we direct it by assembling the best team of subs we can find. In essence we are a job broker. We hire the talent for a fee.
2. Extreme organizers. Once we have the team and their quotes for doing the work, we need to choreograph the job. First, we prepare the foundation, then we pour the slab, and so on.
3. We polish the stone. Once everyone (subcontractors) has come and finished their jobs in the proper sequence under our directions, it’s time to walk the homes, do our checklist for punch out and prepare to sell this newly constructed commodity to its rightful owner. Sounds easy right?
NOT so fast buster. In my career I have done this thousands of times, but the glue that binds all these steps in an orderly functioning fashion is problem solving at every level. Early in my career I solved problems by gut instinct and relying on human nature. There is no book called “Problem Solving in Real Estate for Dummies” to reference. Over years of trial and error and repeating problems over and over then adapting better methods each time you “get it.” At that moment you realize that you are basically a Job broker with extremely good problem-solving capabilities. That’s not only goes for a good builder/developer this applies to most successful business people as well. PROBLEM SOLVED.
Stephen Gravett has been a real estate developer for over 45 years and was most recently CEO of Kennedy Homes for the past 11 years and is still CEO of Kennedy Development Partners (KDP) and full time Director of Operations for 5 Star Developers. He is also a state licensed broker and since 1980 a State licensed General Contractor Unlimited. He flew B-52’s in the US Air Force during the Vietnam war