Elevate Coaches James Roche, Joy Chudacoff, and I select and interview one Elevate Premier member who is making great strides with the program.
Some successes are large, some small, but it’s all about taking steps forward and making progress.
Today, you’ll meet Elevate Premier member Kevin Harris, owner of Kevin Harris Architect, LLC (www.KevinHarrisArchitect.com). He was our spotlight on our December 2012 call.
Enjoy our quick interview with Kevin below, and be sure to take notes. There are several golden nuggets you can apply to YOUR business right away!
James: Hello, Kevin. How are you tonight?
Kevin: Very good. Thank you.
James: Thank you for coming on and sharing your amazing results. Let’s dive right into it! Explain a little bit about what
you do so everyone has context. And then, I want you to focus on the biggest best practices that you’ve started to really develop this year in your business.
Kevin: Certainly. I am a custom residential architect. I design custom homes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and in Virginia, and I’ve been practicing for 30 years.
As far as what happened with me and my story… my wife is an attorney. She preferred to help run my office while she practiced law. She heard about Ali’s SHINE [event] and asked me to go to it so she could become a better manager of the office. I went with her and brought with me much work to do in the hotel room—but went ahead and attended the first opening session with Ali.
I looked at my wife after it and I said, “This is pretty good. Okay, this is really good,” and the more seminars and lessons, witnesses or testimonials we heard, the more convinced I was. This was the business education that I’ve never received.
It was really good stuff. If I had to summarize the biggest takeaway that I received from that, [it] was the notion of [applying] the strategies [to] run a successful virtual organization, to my bricks-and-mortar office.
To run an online business, you have to assemble an effective team and you have to have a very well-defined process so that you can actually get work done and your team can get stuff done without you coaching them every single step of the way.
I was [running] a bricks-and-mortar office, and [at the time], I was a professor, so the model of how I ran the office was: I would go from desk to desk and people would ask questions. Instead of student to student from employee to employee.
I’d been doing this for 30 years and had been successful, however it was taking its toll. It was wearing me out and it was wearing the staff out. They knew that our projects were getting awards, they were delighted to work with them—but [the projects] were just killing them, and I didn’t know WHAT was killing them.
James: Well, you and them are very creative people as well, so by default knew how to create the systems to support the team, right?
Kevin: Right and the misnomer that I had was that if I had a process that I followed consistently, my misnomer was that it would stunt my creativity and that was so, so wrong.
I came back from SHINE and learned that I needed to first define my systems; second, define my—what Ali calls—my avatar of an ideal client, and then work from there.
The biggest picture was what is my purpose? My purpose isn’t just to create drawings and get the next project and do my drawings. That’s not my big purpose. My big purpose is much, much further in the horizon, and it’s to create a better world essentially and to give people houses that they live in forever.
I worked on being able to define that and articulate it to both my clients as well as my staff. My staff bought into it 100%. As soon as I started implementing the strategies of systemizing the office and the process, my staff was relieved.
They were like, “Oh, this is great!” because they know when they are ahead of schedule, they know when they are doing a really good job. Everything becomes measurable versus a good design or a bad design.
The difference between good and better is hard to decide. Watching TV shows and saying, “Yeah, Project Runway. How can you tell which dress is better?” One is better than the other perhaps, but it’s all subjective.
Being creative, you’re in a subjective world but you really crave the solidity or measurability of systems and that was just huge, huge for me.
James: I hear a couple of things there Kevin. One is that when you had a reason WHY for your company; it’s a bigger reason than just building homes but there was a deeper message there of creating a home for somebody that they would be with forever, and that it is an expression of who they are.
That then becomes a solid true North Star for you, for the employees, for the company. There is an energy behind [and then] clients who come, they feel it, they sense that, even though it doesn’t even have to be articulated. They can feel that.
Your North Star is so important to have beyond just the surface deliverable of building or designing.
And then secondly, because you put structure/borders around things so, you created systems. Now there are procedures to follow, there is the “Kevin Harris way” within your company, and the employees are buying into it and they like it. They don’t have to wonder, “What’s the next step?”, or, “How should I do this?”. There is always guidance now.
You really implemented Google apps quite a bit: Google docs and Google Drive to organize a lot of this—and I think Basecamp HQ, right?
Kevin: Yes. Basecamp has been a tremendous tool to communicate with clients, as well as inside my office on projects. One of the big lessons I walked away with is we don’t use email to communicate within the office on projects. Use something that records everything together and that is one of the things we use Basecamp for.
As far as defining my bigger purpose… as soon as I defined it, in my next new client interview I mentioned it and my client lit up and he said, “This is what we are hoping for. We noticed on your website that all your projects were different and that’s what led us to you,” and we could confirm their [impressions]. It was a win-win.
James: Yeah, totally. We talk so much Kevin in our Premier groups about you because you’re drawing on actually good old-fashioned tradition but it’s customized to each individual person, and that actually is a bit radical in the architecture world these days. They are so caught up in modernism and post-modernism and they don’t have that aesthetic like your work has.
Kevin: I agree and I am beginning to get a national reputation for that. I was interviewed two weeks ago by the Wall Street Journal and yesterday by Forbes magazine on what I thought residential trends were going to be for 2013.
Everything is building and if I couldn’t articulate what I did and what my big vision was, my big purpose, I wouldn’t be able to do those thing. That opens up a whole lot of opportunities that are going to lead to more opportunities.
It’s all fantastic and I’m very, very pleased with the Elevate program, SHINE and Premier. I’m actually a big advocate for them.
James: That’s great. Joy, do you want to comment? I’ve been hogging the stage here.
Joy: Everything you said was just so thought-provoking, Kevin.
For me, I hope what our audience heard was really how setting up systems in your office was a real eye-opener for you and that it didn’t stunt your creativity. That it actually made you more successful. I just loved that you said that.
Kevin: It’s true though. I’m realizing it in my own office.
James: That’s wonderful. Thank you, Kevin. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing that. It’s very valuable. I love working with you too in our Premier group, it’s a joy as well.
Kevin: Thank you.