life as a renovator (versus a builder)


In business there is a significant difference between having the skill to actually build something … and having the skill to fix something.

Me? I guess I have always seen myself as a fixer. Or a renovator. I have always been pretty good <at least … very comfortable> stepping in to manage a business where maybe the business has become stagnant (the organization itself, sales, ideas, whatever). Maybe stepping in when someone well thought of, who has been in a position for a long period of time has left. It is most typically a place and time where shaking the etch-a-sketch was needed (although it may not be liked/appreciated by all at the moment).

Some guy named Pareto (an Italian sociologist) suggested there are two types of people.

The Speculator and the Rentier.

The Speculator is constantly preoccupied with the possibilities of new combinations. Rentiers are more conservers of the routine … he also calls them Stockholders.

While I am not sure I agree life is as simple as he suggests, I do agree different people think different ways … and inevitably they have different skill sets <despite the fact many business people would like to think they are good at everything>.

Me? It is absolutely, clearly, in my DNA to be “constantly preoccupied with possibilities of new combinations.” Now. That can make me a pain in the ass to work with.

I vividly remember the time a mentor, and a manager I loved working for, once said to me “sometimes you are a pain in the ass, but I am glad you are my pain in the ass.”

And in liking this ‘new combinations’ concept that means the more pieces available the better I am. By pieces I mean perceptions, attitudes, strengths, weaknesses, things they may have even forgotten they were good at or had years ago and just need to be brought off the shelf and used again.

By the way … I have written something called “thoughtful reimaging” that captures what I believe about that process.

Anyway. I enjoy taking existing pieces and rearranging them. But to be a good <effective> Renovator I guess I have to be good, or at least comfortable, at making choices.

If you have a hundred pieces you cannot use them all.

New combinations means sifting through everything that is there … prioritizing and analyzing … and it will mean using some old and some new and discarding some being used in the present. Maybe what people have liked (or what has worked for me) is that I don’t like to throw everything out (mostly because I tend to believe there are people a lot smarter than me, and one or two of them had probably thought about this situation before I came along) and I don’t really like – or think about – putting my own thumbprints on something.

In the end I just like to reshape thing a little so that maybe people think it’s bigger and better <or more efficient and effective> than it really is … but implementing it is pretty easy to do because it’s just not that new.

<note: communicating this is an entirely different post … because I believe so many people want to use buzzword bullshit to imply greater/bigger/magical/NEW … that thinking simplistically & pragmatically like this gets stalled in cynicism and lack of understanding>

I had a business associate tell me once after I told him all of this that there should be no reason why I shouldn’t be good at building because the thought process underpinnings were exactly the same. I agreed theoretically … but noted this was more about mindset. I would suck as an entrepreneur. I just don’t have the head for it. And I guess I just can’t cross that mental block that would make it possible for me create something from scratch.

As I wrap this thought up I think about the ‘pain in the ass’ comment.

This isn’t like home building renovation. This is about business. So being a Renovator sometimes means having a little lack of subtlety in your approach so that people understand that the renovation has to be discernible to make a difference. Not whole scale (as noted earlier I do like to take some old and some new) but discernible in order to make a difference. One foot in the past, or present and one foot in the future. It takes a lot of pragmatism … but also a good dose of futurism <which some people call potential or hope>.

So. If you visit my LinkedIn site you will see a past client says:

“If you don’t want to be “nudged” into new ideas and creative solutions – don’t ever call Bruce McTague. If, however, you want to look at things through a different telescope and find 3-dimensional ideas you’ve never considered, call Bruce now. Not tomorrow. He’ll make you uncomfortable, but I firmly believe that if the idea doesn’t make you uneasy, it’s not a big idea. Easy to work with, but always stretching your mind, Bruce is a true business Partner. You’ll grow working with Bruce.”

I guess we renovators (if we don’t want to be order takers) have to be a little contrarian at times. And we are not “nudgers.”

And I don’t mean to be … and probably never will be.

But I do love putting new combinations of things together. I do love taking something existing and breathing new life into it. I do love taking something that maybe is standing still and getting it to run again. And maybe that is what being a renovator is all about … pushing organizations and products to get the momentum going again.

Maybe it would have been more fun to call us “etch a sketchers’ instead but I will stick with being a Renovater <and owning an etch a sketch>.

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Written by Bruce