Tuesday, July 26, 2011

'Press Clippins'

My ultimate performance review came in the inter-office mail a couple days after the presentation. Twenty-eight years ago I spent a brief career in corporate America working for a private oil & gas company. George Cunyas, the wise, wily old General Counsel listened politely and patiently to a presentation I was making to the Executive Committee. While the other fourteen participants showered me with accolades upon my completion, George quietly left the room to tend to his other duties.

His assessment of my performance came a couple of days later in the inter-office mail. A glowing review of the work I had done to compile a massive amount of information in a concise, and highly organized manner. It was followed by a life changing post script em, "P.S. May we never believe our own press clippings!" A moniker that I have lived by every day since! So simple...so direct. A gracious reminder that no matter who we are, or how great the things are that we've done, humble pie is best served in response to life's thundering applause!

This was a new brand of Jello for a guy who used to run to the local paper the day after one of his basketball games to see his name in the box score!

But 'never believing in our own press clippings' is the correct attitude!  Our moral compass for absolute truth, the Bible says it this way, "Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it's anything but that. Yeast, too, is a "small thing," but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this "yeast."" (1 Corinthians 5:6 - The Message). If Jesus Christ "...made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant...", should we do any differently?

No one appreciates talent more than I do. But I find it singularly refreshing when I stumble across someone who is immensely talented, has the resume to prove it, but their greatness can only be discovered over an extended period of time. In other words, they don't wear their greatness on their shirtsleeve! 

Believe it or not we all serve an audience of One! Why do we spend so much time trying to impress people who's opinion really doesn't have any eternal significance?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

That "Locked On" Focus!

Great shooters always focus on about a 6" section of the back of the rim, and never take their eyes off of it. Makes perfect sense. If you are trying to shoot a 10" ball through a 20" hoop you focus on where the ball needs to go, not on it's flight.

From the time I started playing basketball in the fourth grade, and all the way through college that lesson served me well. And I got pretty good at it! Life sometimes has a funny way of imitating art and I still find myself "locking on" to projects as if they were the rim.

The BridgeBuilders team: Mike Fechner on the far left, and Velma Mitchell in front center (purple blouse). 
My longtime friend Mike Fechner started a wonderful ministry fifteen years ago to the underprivileged folks of the Bon Ton area of southeast Dallas. Through the years he has loved on the people; shared Christ with them; and worked tirelessly to get as many as possible job training and life skills so that they can better themselves in the community. Through God's leading many lives have been changed, and BridgeBuilders has been wildly successful.

Velma's getting ready to cook!
Velma Mitchell is one of those great stories! She grew up in Bon Ton; raised her kids there; raised her grandkids there; and buried one of her own children who was killed in a drive-by shooting. Life has been tough. Mike and the BridgeBuilders ministry helped Velma through some of the rough spots. Velma, in turn, almost single-handedly has reclaimed her neighborhood! 

Velma Mitchell can really cook! It's no real surprise then that when she started talking about wanting a restaurant to cook and minister to the people of Bon Ton, Mike Fechner and BridgeBuilders stepped up. Sensing the opportunity for stimulating economic development in the neighborhood, BridgeBuilders decided to claim a corner of the turf for Velma's Kitchen! Most of the urban blight is gone. All that's left is a wonderful opportunity for Velma to cook; and love on the people; and share Christ with her neighbors; and work tirelessly to train others to cook and cater. Makes sense!

Mike called me to spearhead the development and construction. I'm "locked on" and focused on helping God pull the pieces together (as if He really needs any help!) to make Velma's Kitchen a reality. We'd like to make it thematic - something like an old gas station that was converted to a really nice restaurant. Funny what you can do when you are focused! Kind of like Mike and BridgeBuilders - and Velma and Bon Ton! We covet your prayers...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Digital Economy

(Editors Note: With the summer months upon us, I have decided to throttle back a bit on writing and posting. With the minor exception of a trilogy that I am working on, most likely I will be posting just once a week. Look for the pace to pick up again in the Fall - I just have too much to say!)

"Maxine" - the Pool Cleaner
Our pool is a mess! You see, "Maxine" our faithful, and tireless Polaris Pool Sweep, died! After several years of service she just gave up the ghost. Not a particularly good time of year to quit, but she just didn't seem to care.

So I needed a replacement. After looking around locally, I did what the younger generation seems to be going to first - I started shopping online. Ebay is a wonderful thing! For a little less than half of retail (with a rebate coupon) I have the new Maxine on her way! During the process it occurred to me that traditional shopping avenues have already given way to the "digital economy."

Instead of building homes based on the availability of goods and services provided only by the local economy, we are beginning to see trends that suggest that some goods incorporated into the projects are being shipped in from distant points. It only makes sense - if a vendor in Las Vegas is willing to sell and ship to you the product of your desire substantially cheaper than the local retailer, why not? 

It's not practical to find standard local commodities like lumber for the framing of your home, on the internet. You need too much lumber, too quickly, to try to buy it online. Not necessarily so for some products like roofing materials and maybe things like brick. Because of the unique variations of some of these items, it is entirely conceivable that you could locate something unusual that you really like in another state, made with cheaper materials and labor, and have it shipped to your jobsite for less money. 

Competitive price shopping the internet works great on many items like appliances, cabinet knobs, etc.! Standard products built by national, and international corporations are shipped all over the country for distribution through retailers. Generally, items that would be subject to wide variations in pricing due to a retailer's interpretation of value or excessive inventory levels are good candidates for finding a bargain.   Yet because of the ease of shopping locally where we know the availability can be immediate, we usually opt for the local source.
Many would argue that not being able to see, touch, and "test drive" a product creates a definite advantage for local retailers. However, if you have seen something locally that you like, often you can jot down a model number and color to see if you can find it cheaper on the internet. Remember, "the product doesn't know where it came from!" To me therein lies the beauty of our digital economy! The potential of online buying keeps local sellers very honest in their pricing.

Hopefully Maxine will arrive fully intact and ready for work. Buying out of Las Vegas could be troublesome if our new pool cleaner shows up missing some parts. But, the reputable seller promises that if there are any problems they will take it back with no questions asked.  Heck, all I want is a clean pool!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stupid Mistakes...

Someone wired $4.15 into one of our accounts and the bank charged us $10 to handle the wire! We actually lost $5.85 on the transaction! Don't you hate stupid mistakes? But everyone makes them. I know of only on Person who lived a perfect life - and He was crucified for living perfectly!
But you know what they say about making mistakes. One of my hero's in life, Coach John Wooden said it this way, "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes!" He's right! But when you do goof up, it's the response to the flub that counts.
No, this is not one of our projects! But we see this kind of thing a lot on remodels!

Two axioms immediately come to mind. Both are foundational for running a good business.
  • "Never cover up a mistake - it will multiply! Good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster!"
  • "Show me the truth and then we can deal with it!"
Bad news is never fun to either receive or deliver. But if bad news is revealed and dealt with immediately, often times good corrections, and good relations can be the final result.
Remember British Petroleum and the Gulf of Mexico? If they had that situation to play over again, don't you think they might have immediately accepted the help of some of those countries that offered their water cleaning and purifying vessels?

I promise that I didn't make the wire transfer mistake outlined above. Not really too sure who did at this point, but I know who gets to clean it up!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Chillin' By The Pool!

It's Summer...it's Dallas...it's HOT!! With the thermometer scheduled to top out somewhere around 100 degrees, I thought I'd better cool you down by highlighting some of the work from my friend, and colleague Scott Moneta of Leisure Living Pools in Frisco. Scott does most of our work for clients - all have been very happy!

But there's a little history along with Scott, and Leisure Living Pools. For years we did business with the king of extravagant pools, Marshall Moore. Marshall's attention to detail coupled with his innate sense of grades, mechanical knowledge, and just plain taste put him in a class with no one else. But he retired! So, now what has been a number of years ago, I called him to see who was the next "Marshall Moore" in Dallas. With no hesitation he said "Scott Moneta!" Once again, Marshall was right!

Scott is second generation pool construction. His father Tom started the business, and built the reputation. But Scott leaves nothing to chance. Always on top of his projects, with that keen eye for detail and construction, I feel as though we have given up little, if anything from the M. M. Moore Construction days.

If you follow my blog you may have seen the picture below in another posting. You guessed it, Leisure Living! Trust me, this stuff isn't easy, but Scott and his team make it look that way by literally taking the construction and scheduling off our plate so that all is finished when our client moves in. With much forethought on design and construction, the work is flawless. In this design a raised spa bubbles over through three scuppers into the larger pool. The coordination required to build an incredible pool in the confines of an enclosed, three sided house structure, can't be done by just anyone!
Scott was kind enough to share several examples of the latest trends in pool construction. Here we highlight the "negative edge" pool that gives the feeling that water is cascading into infinity. Usually accomplished through the use of tile, extreme care must be used to make sure that the waterline is perfectly flat and level so the water "cascades" equally across the negative edge.
The water has to go somewhere so this shot shows the reservoir that collects the water for recycling back up into the larger basin area.
Most everyone enjoys sitting by the pool. Pool decks are made out of all sorts of materials, but stone seems to be the most popular. A well thought out design will incorporate space for a number of people.
A very recent trend is to build the poolside deck out of Ipe (pronounced "e-pay" - probably because the material is really expensive!) which is also know as Brazilian Walnut. Certainly the most dense material I have ever encountered, it is hard to cut, drill through, and actually sinks to the bottom of the pool when thrown in!
More and more of our lives are being spent by the pool. People want spaces where they can get out of the sun, catch a refreshment, and entertain their family and friends. 
Feature structures have also become rather popular. Most often they use water in different, and imaginative ways. 
With both the sound of water, and plantings, water features touch many of our senses. Again, the detailing is superb!
I don't know about you but just seeing these pictures has cooled me down! A special thanks to Scott Moneta and the wonderful folks at Leisure Living Pools for sharing their work!