Archive for February, 2012

A life to be built, a lifetime to be spent.

Posted February 28, 2012 By Fletcher Groves

Only in Florida could you contemplate an outdoor wedding, at night, for late February.

The rows of chairs overlooking the lake on the clubhouse terrace, now filled with friends and family; the lights in the clubhouse reflecting on the lake, the only other light provided by candles in carriage lanterns; a cool early evening, stars obscured in the partial cloud cover, the onset of darkness still progressing.

It was elegant, in the pure sense of the word. Simple. Serene. Relaxed. Unpretentious.

It was a total reflection of our youngest daughter Lauren’s spirit and style.

The preparation leading up to this wedding should have produced enough pressure to make it anything but a simple and relaxed affair. The preparation for our oldest daughter Henley’s wedding, less than two years before, had seemed thoroughly-intense and intensely-thorough, but the circumstances in which Henley’s planning occurred paled in comparison with what her sister was trying to accomplish.

Lauren’s idea was to finish her doctoral program (with its succession of out-of-town internships), pass her tests, obtain her certifications and licenses, move to a new city, find a job, and – oh, in her spare time – get married.

All in the course of three months.

But, she had been remarkably calm and purposeful through all of the wedding preparation. She had been frugal, resourceful, focused, decisive. She had sought input, direction, and opinion, but had stayed responsible and independent. For someone who had never had to pull anything together, she had managed to pull everything together.

Although I have the sense that Nathan would have gladly deferred to Lauren on the wedding details, particularly if it promoted the criteria of sooner-rather-than-later, she did get his input and buy-in. So, their wedding became a reflection of both of them, and a reflection of their relationship.

Their decision to transform an engagement party to announce a destination wedding into the wedding and the reception, itself, was fun, surprising, and unpredictable. It was a reflection of their shared spirit and style, but also their resolve.

The setting was beautiful. The service was reverent, and rich with meaning and promise. The music was simple, and personal. In fact, that was it – everything about this wedding was very personal. There had been tears of laughter, tears of sentiment, and tears of complete joy. The reception fit the occasion. The Faze Band was Linsane – unheralded and exceptional.

Except for the small matter of not having Nathan’s wedding ring when it was called for, Henley had been a flawless Maid of Honor, and her husband Todd had been a tireless helper. Devany had been the model of composure, beauty, and grace.

Jack and Joy were the graciously accepting and supportive in-laws. Brother-and-Best-Man Matthew had managed to keep track of Lauren’s wedding ring. At some point in the future, Nathan’s sister Jamie will be the answer to the question, “Do you know which famous recording artist sang at our wedding?”.

Nathan and Lauren understand and are appreciative for everything that their marriage represents. Two families joined together. Life-long friendships, honored. Teammates, friends, and extended members of both families who had traveled thousands of miles, just to be there. A cloud of witnesses that stand – and will continue to stand, collectively and individually – with them, by them, and for them, for the rest of their lives.

There was a pang of absence for those who had gone before – the ones they always loved, still missed, and will never forgot, but whom they will one day joyfully see again.

Their marriage is the promise, challenge, and adventure of a life to be built, and a lifetime to be spent, together. Permanently. Inseparably. There will be an initial reality check, no doubt.

In the years to come, there will be good times and bad times. There will be easy times and hard times. There will be gains and losses. There will be joy and sorrow. There will be laughter and tears. There will be planning; there will be spontaneous-ness. There will be children. There will be careers and career changes. There will be memories. There will be legacies. Priorities and focus will change.

There will be times when they know each other’s thoughts; there will be times when they are convinced that the other does not have the capacity for any thoughts. There will be mistakes. There will be grace. There will be forgiveness offered, and forgiveness accepted.

And, through it all, there will be love, honor, and respect.

At some point during the evening, Lauren looked at me and said, “Pretty cool.”

“Utterly”, I replied.


"There are only two choices."

Posted February 6, 2012 By Fletcher Groves

(excerpted from The Pipeline)

The intrepid, results-based consultant re-capped the erasable marker and set it down. “Right now – let me ask a different question: What were your choices for dealing with the issue of capacity utilization? Before the current downturn in the housing market, what would your alternatives have been for getting throughput up to the designed level?”

“Based on what I’ve learned from this discussion, I would say we probably had two options”, said the VP of Construction. “We could have added production capacity; technically, that shouldn’t really count as an option for increasing utilization, because it alters the design capacity of the pipe.

“The other option would have been to better utilize the production capacity we already had.”

“Exactly”, she said. “There are only two choices. You can either add capacity or become more productive. It is a decision that cuts to the core of how you view size and growth. What size is RB Builders?”

“$50 million”, answered the VP of Sales. “That was our Revenue for 2007.”

“And, that is how most homebuilders would answer that question”, she said. “The answer to the question of size is usually about the amount of annual Revenue, or the annual number of closings. However, the most relevant measure of the size of a homebuilding company is the amount – and the value – of the work-in-process that it carries.

“Size is about capacity, not output.

“As we have already seen, there is a direct correlation between work-in-process and production capacity, which we prefer to define as the rate of throughput (or output), that can be generated with a planned, finite, controlled level of work-in-process. There is an equally strong and direct correlation between work-in-process, cycle time, and velocity (or Inventory Turn). Finally, work-in-process is one of the ways a production system will protect itself – buffer itself – from variation and uncertainty.”

“You mentioned growth along with size”, the CFO reminded her.

“Yes, I did”, she said. “If size is defined as capacity, rather than Revenue or closings, what is the implication for growth? How, then, should RB Builders grow?” Seeing the blank stares all around the room, she continued. “The answer is, based on that definition, RB Builders should not want to grow.

“By that definition, even when faced with acceptable justification, RB Builders should see growth as a last resort. RB Builders doesn’t want to add production capacity, it wants to increase its productivity, by increasing the utilization of the production capacity it already owns. Adding production capacity – getting bigger – is a “more-for-more” proposition”, she continued. “It’s the easy road. Anyone can do it. Anyone can resort to adding production capacity, anyone can resort to spending more money.

“True, sustainable competitive separation comes from doing what your competition will not – or cannot – do. Like finding ways to become more productive.

“Beyond the competitive aspect, there are other problems that come from simply being big”, she said. “Big homebuilding companies tend to be slow, clumsy homebuilding companies, unable to respond quickly to changing circumstances, incapable of exploiting opportunities in the marketplace.

“And – there is risk,” she added. “Adding production capacity means additional work-in-process and additional resources. Risk increases exponentially with an increase in core size – with higher WIP and Operating Expense. Once you increase production capacity, it becomes much harder to fully utilize it. There are fewer options. It is very difficult to downsize your way out of excess production capacity.

“Size forces you into positions you shouldn’t be in; size forces you down roads where you shouldn’t go.”