It’s brought to you courtesy of Peter Gilgan, founder and CEO of Mattamy Homes, the Canadian based and largest privately held homebuilder in North America. As a testament to “doing great,” as of this writing Gilgan is #588 on the Forbes Richest list (#10 in Canada).
Gilgan shared his keys to success in building such a prosperous business and how he’s taken a key company value–building community–and applied it to something greater than his company. Here are his secrets:
1. Go slow to go fast.
Gilgan stressed how important it has been throughout his career to first take the time to do thorough research before making key decisions. That includes “gaming it out” (as he put it) and having a plan B and C. Having first thought things through gives you the confidence to move fast in execution.
A research trip to Los Angeles inspired a crucial innovation for Gilgan. He saw builders combating the sky-high price of land–not by building on narrower lots, but by constructing on wider, shorter lots. The wider footprint allowed Gilgan to build features into homes that improved curb appeal (like garages on the side of the house and long picketed porches on the front) while the shorter lots helped control land expenditures. Gilgan took the time to carefully study the opportunity, then when he was convinced it was correct, he moved fast.
On the other side, Gilgan was at one point saddled with some parcels of land for decades because he was moving fast snatching properties up–prompting a lesson: “Know why you’re buying it.”
I proposed to Gilgan that he probably doesn’t believe in the old “build the plane while flying it” trope, preferring instead to build it in the hangar. He agreed and added, “and I’d take that plane out for a few spins before putting passengers on it.”
So as a business owner be disciplined to not move too quickly when deciding. Take the time to really do due diligence and scenario planning first. This will not only drive better decisions but will allow you to move confidently and quickly as you execute the implications of that decision.
2. Everything at the first available opportunity rather than the last possible moment.
This mindset is a competitive advantage in construction, where delays in “house complete” dates are as common as a Kanye West foible.
Gilgan believes in this “Everything at the first available opportunity…” mantra so strongly that it has trickled deep down into every level of his company. It’s now on a poster in every construction office and is helping to drive customer satisfaction levels.
But it’s a great philosophy you can apply to your own business. If you assume you can put off things until next week, countless things can surface in the interim to spoil your execution.
3. Ups are great, but so are the downs.
This from a man who has seen gut-wrenching downs–he’s in home construction after all.
Such times included 20 percent mortgage interest rates–putting Gilgan out of work. He’s bounced back or weathered every economic downturn by reveling in those times–viewing them as opportunities to lay a foundation for the return of the highs.
Drawing on great fortitude, he kept investing in downswings. He saw the long-term rather than reacting emotionally like many who were bailing on the housing industry. The lows gave Gilgan great focus and clarity, as great a gift as eager buyers in a hot economy.
You can view your own down periods in the same fashion.
4. Eventually, your relationships with employees will become more important than relationships with customers.
If your business is growing, you’ll eventually have to rely on your employees to be the goodwill ambassadors for the business. Gilgan learned this the hard way early in his career. He’d assign responsibility to colleagues for administration, design, construction, or customer care but still be overly involved in all of it. Gilgan admitted he learned “to play editor rather than author.”
Now Gilgan holds regular connects with his 1,700 employees to make sure they feel valued, respected, appreciated and to reconfirm the sense of purpose behind the work that Mattamy does (“the home is a massively emotional part of people’s lives”).
So invest early and often in your employees and culture–as much as you do your customers.
5. You’ll never miss the time, money, or resources you donate.
However you choose to give back the reward that comes back is multiples greater. This simple, powerful thought drives Gilgan to literally build communities and to do so more broadly and philanthropically.
The mogul has donated over $175 million dollars, including the largest ever gift to a Canadian pediatric hospital ($40 million dollars to SickKids).
Gilgan and his family carefully think through how they donate, which creates an even greater sense of “return reward”.
My experience holds true to what Gilgan speaks of (albeit on a prodigiously smaller scale). You’ll never, ever regret giving back to your community in whatever ways you can.
So may as well start now–everyone’s a winner when you do.