Positive Deviation: Now Might Be a Great Time to Pivot

authors Shawn McCadden | October 14, 2020

Over my years in remodeling, I’ve observed a small handful of remodelers who really know how to manage during challenging times. They not only strive, they thrive. These are people known as positive deviants.

They do things very differently than their peers. They discover and put in place much better solutions to business problems than their peers. The key to success for positive deviants is that when the chips are down, they strive to change their operations and their businesses’ behaviors.

Already in the current pandemic, I’m seeing several positive deviants in the industry. They’re adjusting to and taking advantage of the pandemic and related challenges to improve their businesses to differentiate and to ultimately increase profits.

Remember, however, that positive deviants achieve a higher level of success not just because they think differently, but also because they have the courage and the will to take the risks and to act and behave differently. Here are just a few of the ways some company owners have made positive pivots during these unprecedented times.

No. 1: Gather Up the Best Employees

Two factors—the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the ongoing deficit of young people entering the skilled trades—have definitely created labor challenges for our industry. It is very tough to find, hire and retain both field and office staff. Positive deviants are attracting the best people by doing it differently.

For example, some are doubling down on their marketing efforts to fill open jobs. They are creating strategic and measurable marketing campaigns to entice their ideal candidates. Because they seek a specific and strategic professional profile—one that exactly matches each different job description they seek to fill—their very focused marketing speaks to the right candidates and proactively pushes away the wrong ones.

Let’s remember, the right candidate is likely not to be seeking an employment change. The marketing message then must help them imagine the possibilities of what could be different and better.

Positive deviants also interview candidates differently. They show them their business plans for growth. They review the job description completely with an education plan. They demonstrate a willingness to invest in people in order to advance the roles and future compensation of the candidate. They provide measurable ways both the candidate as well as the business can accurately track the pace of improvement and overall success at achieving the stated desired outcomes.

This way it becomes obvious when a candidate deserves advancement and better compensation or should be replaced. Yes, positive deviants are not afraid to replace, and replace quickly, an employee as soon as evidence of a bad fit surfaces.

No. 2: Redefine Target Customers

Rather than just go out and run any lead for new business, I have noticed that positive deviants today have specifically chosen the thin and strategic slice of the market they are willing to work with. They also know exactly the kind of work they are willing to offer these target clients.

Considering that work is in plentiful supply, but that staffing production makes keeping up with producing a high volume of work challenging, some remodelers are purposely holding back their volume and dramatically increasing their gross margins. This helps them adjust and take advantage of the same challenges dogging others. Because they have the funds to pay A-players, they stress the skills and experience of their team in their marketing and sales processes.

In addition to limiting volume, at least for now, they are also simultaneously limiting the quantity of work they are willing to have under contract at any given time. This way, they often end up being the only qualified remodeling business in their market available to start and complete a project quickly.

The thin slice of the market they have chosen to serve, therefore, only includes customers seeking a remodeler who will provide a great experience. At the same time, these customers are willing to pay a premium for great service and fast delivery.

By being the only one in the marketplace who can offer these differences, they can also command much higher prices. An additional benefit for these deviants is that due to having better employees, and at the same time doing less work, they are at far lower risk as they do business every day in a very risking industry.

Stay Where You Are or Pivot?

If you are waiting for the old normal to come back, and at the same time have been consistently challenged to make the profit you and your business both deserve, you have a choice. You can decide to hang there, or you can decide to pivot. Don’t worry about having to be a positive deviant. Instead, invest your time and energy in seeking out what the positive deviants are doing and why.

Then, decide which changes in attitudes and behavior you and your business will, or must, make to pivot towards a new and much greater level of success. I’ve found the readers of Qualified Remodeler are typically the ones looking for new, different and better ways of doing things.

The good news for you, however, is that about 70 percent of remodelers out there will keep doing what they are doing simply because they have always done it that way. They are not likely to pivot; therefore, they are already, or will quickly become, what I refer to as “commodity contractors,” offering few differences than their competition. They are the ones who sell on price. QR

Shawn McCadden is a speaker, business trainer, columnist and award-winning remodeler with more than 35 years of experience. He can be reached at shawnmccadden.com.

Voice your opinion!

This site requires you to login or register to post a comment.