You need to read less and think more!

This blog is about getting stoked and getting worthwhile things done. There is a sea of useless information bombarding you, and this is a desert island where you beach your boat and build a hut. There are also some clever little construction tricks to be presented.



Monday, October 24, 2016

A story from my trip to the deadliest valley in North America:

It was about 5:30PM on an October day in the Mexican desert. We had been grinding a slab of concrete flat all day (imagine what a 10,000sf slab placed with volunteer labor looks like). We were nearly out of propane for our grinding machines, so Steve, the guy who has coordinated this whole thing brought me into the dusty little town of Guadalupe to get more.

Steve’s got the same Northern accent I do (I grew up in Minnesota; he’s from Michigan or Pennsylvania or something) so the conversation is fun and easy as we bounce down the gravel roads in his truck. Most of the small talk leads to tear-jerking stories as he has been serving this area for around 30 years and he has seen a lot of terrible things. 

The little town looks like a war zone - it is a bit surreal. I felt no fear, but some wispy sadness that it all looked so beat down. On our way to the gas station, Steve seems to know everyone on the street. One man gets called over to the truck and gets in the back seat. I speak almost no Spanish and this guy apparently speaks no English as Steve tells me his story when he gets in the truck like he is not even there.

In 2011, there was a sea change with the cartels. Violence swept through the area unlike anything anyone there had seen. This guy in the back seat was beaten with bats and left for dead, and somehow survived. He can barely walk, his brain is damaged, his one arm is useless and the other hand is not exactly strong, but he is clearly a sweet, happy, loving human being. And though he is not a physically strong man, he carries himself like someone that would not take a hand-out easily. Steve pays him to work on the orphanage (Casa De Los Gemas) as he can afford to, and the man earns his food by sweeping, sanding, and picking up.  

When the violence really came 5 years ago, the teams of volunteers to help build this place was decimated. Of course the number of orphans exploded, and the regular economy was taken from bad to worse. Following Jesus and yet being afraid to go do His work somewhere because of drug-trade violence seems ridiculous to me, but I understand I am less risk-averse than most. 

So here is the solution to finish this place: give them money to pay locals to build it rather than having it built by amateurs “working on vacation”. This gives the local economy a badly needed injection, while GETTING IT DONE. 

If you want to go to the desert and work, Steven will take your help: he’s been putting Gringos to work down there for decades. But If you are scared or busy or just want to help in the most efficient way possible, send $8 or $80 or $800,000 or whatever you know you should send today. Please. There are 100s of kids that need to come home to this place. IT HAS BEEN A JOB-SITE FOR 20 YEARS NOW, AND NEEDS TO BECOME AN ORPHANAGE. 


This trip to the gas station is one of dozens of stories from this past week. I will be working first thing every morning until I figure out how to most powerfully share the urgency in bullet points for a gofundme.com page. You apparently get it right now, though. please go to www.tapestriesoflife.com to learn more or contribute now. You have been blessed to be a blessing. These kids need your help. Please step up. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Visionary in search of integrators.

That word, "visionary", sounds better than it is. I don't think I'm better than anyone because I have a big dream. If anything, I know it sometimes pulls my life out of balance. It pulls me out of bed at 2AM. It makes me flog myself inside when I don't deliver. I want some help. Here is what we are all about again:

Why we exist (mission): 
Statement:
Because we were transformed by Christ, we now make artful things of “low-end” materials. We then teach others, and overcome local poverty with great jobs where artisans efficiently create durable, timelessly beautiful floors, countertops, etc. 

Expanded manifesto:
Better Jobs | Better Homes | Better World.
  • We need value to live (food, shelter, clothes cost money).
    • We can get value by extracting it or creating it.
    • Creating value makes our souls sing at some level. 
    • The more direct this process of creating value is, the happier we are at our core.
    • Making pretty things with ones hands is as direct as possible.
    • Therefore, doing (or facilitating) this work is the best job possible. 
    • A bird stands secure not because of faith in the branch, but faith in her ability to fly.
    • People need homes - homes need floors.
    • We can make the cheapest floors possible.
    • If we build this right, we can make the most resilient business imaginable. 
    • Come what may, our people eat well.
  • Flooring = element7concrete or future-garbage (tile goes out of style; wood goes bad if it gets wet, carpeting gets straight up nasty). 
  • People are shaped by their physical environments.
    • The way we improve that may positively affect them for years or decades.
    • Our model is to put physical roots in communities, (vs. competitors working out of their garages - ready to quit and move on at any time).
    • Our people become venerated over time because each year they leave dozens of homes better
  • Financial space for generosity: creating floors can be done by 2-5 companies or 1
    • The flooring manufacture, importer, wholesaler, retailer, installer, and their ancillary sales companies are replaced by us.
    • This vertical integration could create enough margin to afford to be generous in payment. 
Where we are headed (vision):
100 hyper-streamlined locations giving patrons the experience of commissioning a great independent artisan with unrivaled back-end support.
  • All customer relation management, pricing, planning, and scheduling is data-driven and supremely honed.
  • Purchasing and material management are Wal-Mart good. 
  • Everything that can be automated has been, every human interaction is more mindful because the human is insulated from the tedium.
  • The patrons’ experience when they commission an artisan is maximized by a deep understanding of psychology and a rich experience of making 1000s of raving fans. 
  • The sales and sales management process has been intentionally innovated, quantified and orchestrated for decades to produce raving fans like no other service business. 
Our values and how we live them:
  1. Stay safe. 
    1. PPE checklist - everyone on every truck has everything they need to protect themselves every day. 
    2. Best-practice wet polishing+slurry containment (nobody else does this!)
  2. Make Raving Fans.
    1. Note this is higher than creating value; if given the choice between making a fan and not spending more than the contract amount, we will make a fan every time. HOWEVER, IT’S HARD FOR PEOPLE TO STAY FANS OF LOSING TEAMS.
    2. This is fun to do
  3. Create Value.
    1. Every position, every day, the person filling it contributes more than they take out.
    2. This is good for the organization as well as for our souls.
  4. Uplift. 
    1. Leave everything and everyone better than we found them.
    2. Only speak when it may help somebody.
  5. Go Pro / Have fun.
    1. This is admittedly paradoxical: we know championship athletes play best when having fun, and that we have the most fun when we have been the least indulgent with ourselves.
    2. This is fun, creative work, but we do it professionally, so we grind when we have to.
    3. We give 100% rain or shine.
    4. We hold ourselves as a company to a Fortune 500 standard. 

Competitive advantages:
  • We are built for this: God made us to do this work.
  • Deep interest in material science, design, psychology, sales, and marketing.
  • Dual love for the front-line work and the deeper things behind it.
  • Systems mindset: we understand that there is a process to everything we do. 
  • Local market domination: plenty of test-cases to see what works without having to spend lots of energy on new leads, etc. 
Steps to get there:
  • Implement/customize CRM and “cosmic computer solution” brining all IT together in a cohesive system.
  • Continue to hone material management system; integrate with the rest of the IT system.
  • Capture/share/orchestrate all 7 team’s best-practices company wide in the field.
  • Finish revisions to element7concrete.com to automate selection/qualification process.
  • Track labor times / aggregate the data for better estimating, planning, and scalability.
  • Create scoreboard of tracked labor times and customer feedback with the following components:
Challenges:

  • Visionary with no integrator (Cory could use help organizing and executing).
  • Historically low margins. (May be a function of growth). 
  • Grew 20-50% every year without good systems; there is a lot of “in-the-business” work to do each week. (Hard for the best thinkers/communicators on the team to carve out time to work on-the-business).
  • Building custom IT systems and implementing them is A LOT OF WORK.
  • We want to do something that 99.99% of all business fail to do, despite their best efforts. 
If you are (or know) a good communicator with an aptitude for techology and growth, and want to be on a growing + inspired team, please email your info to Cory@element7concrete.com

Thanks again for reading. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

What the 4th graders taught me.

Last Wednesday, I was honored to be a part of Career Day at Highland Lakes Elementary.  I was there to talk about the path of "Maker" and maybe "Entrepreneur". Dr. Allen started the day with a remarkable speech about work vs. jobs vs. careers, and as I groped toward something that might stick when I spoke to I arrived at 2 points:

I found myself quoting Bertrand Russell:

Thinking Is the Hardest Work There Is, which Is the Probable Reason Why So Few Engage In It.


I then found myself begging the kids to do this work. Explaining how I feel like the luckiest guy on Earth because I wake up stoked to do what I want instead of what I feel I have to. I painted the alternative vividly: Forced to act happy and slog along because of the cost of life.

The other thing that surfaced was this:

You can out-work anybody. Nobody can out-work you if you decide so.


 It's up to you in the best way possible. You get to be as great as you care to be. This is such a gift!
Try thinking - start today!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Good patterns may be counterintuitive.

This is a process shot of a car showcase room I did back in 2006. The design was overlapping circles with colors evocative of pavement and countryside layered over the 12 parking spots cut into the floor. I varied the finish from in the spots to out and distressed the stain a bit along the lines. The point is, I think it worked better with the two very disparate patterns layered than any one pattern could. 



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why we won’t order concrete in 2016:

Framers and trim carpenters both work wood.
There are great framers, but we are the concrete equivalent of trim guys.
Builders need both; one is not better than the other. 
We tried “framing” half a dozen times, and we couldn’t do it fast enough, and only got it to our own standards once (because we are like trim carpenters). 
So, from now on, when a placement job comes along (a lot do) we would like to refer them to someone built for that. 
If a staining, polishing, countertop, or overlay job comes along it is referred it to us, we will pay 4% for it.
We will continue to make any slab look good. We know how hard that other job is and just want people super-happy in the end.