OK, The World Is Ending; Thank God For That

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith

POSTED ON NOVEMBER 12, 2011

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Everything is changing: Globalization and technology have finally enveloped us, and everyone’s traditional business model is seriously threatened. Resist the change and you’re probably toast. Embrace it, and you may be toast anyway. So why is this such a great time to be in the building business in Canada? Five reasons:

  1. The Builders Get To Lead Now: A generation ago, General Contractors rarely even met their clients. The architects administered the contract entirely, and everyone competed solely on price. Now, clients aren’t just asking the Builders to lead, they are demanding it. We (both Generals and Subs) are in control now - for better or worse. My 86 year old father would have sold his soul for such an upside down situation.
  2. It Ain’t Just About Price: I used to joke that when contractors wanted to be innovative, we would cut our margins. Now we get to compete on brains, creativity, guts, energy (and price). This is way more interesting, and potentially way more lucrative.
  3. Anyone Can Play: Everything is fragmenting, no-one has control, everyone is looking for an edge, and it’s a ‘design/build world - which means there are niches galore. ‘Business by relationships’ is for dinosaurs. Who has the best idea, even for the smallest element? The ‘reserved spots’ are disappearing. Agility wins.
  4. IT Really Does Change Everything: The whole “Earth Is Flat’ thing is about to change every part of our business – building methods and materials, office productivity, client service. And (in the world’s most conservative business) you don’t need to own it, you just need to be an early adopter. As a result, everyone can compete with everyone else, because everyone has the same opportunities (and threats). Is that cool or what?
  5. The World Loves Canada: OK, the British, the Spaniards, the Germans and the Americans are coming here. But as Canadians, we can take our ideas and enterprise almost anywhere in the world and expect to be welcomed. Canada has a world beating reputation for competence, integrity, reliability, and openness. We just have to get on a plane and go.

Construction - traditionally a repetitive, unchanging, non-innovative industry where firms competed by cutting profit margins – is being turned on its head. There will be confusion, opportunities, winner and losers. Everyone is profoundly threatened, but there are also opportunities everywhere, and no-one has a ‘built in’ advantage anymore. What a great time to be involved, and what a ton of money there is to be made.