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Why Projects Fail
By Donald Eversdyk

In 2005, a company from Dallas, Texas came to Muskego, Wisconsin to build a new retirement community. After 2 years and millions of dollars spent, the project was terminated; the project failed.

Projects all over the world fail but does anyone ever look as to why? While I don’t know why all projects fail, I do know why this retirement community failed. There were five characteristics as to why this project will not be constructed: Research, Planning, Training, Teamwork, and Ego.

Research: Before any project can even begin, research needs to be developed to see if the project is feasible. Is there a market for this type of project? Is this the right location? What is this project going to cost? And what price should we charge the consumer? Researching your competition and learning what they charge their residents and what added benefits are included should also be taken seriously. Any company that believes they have no competitors is already setting themselves up for failure.

The research that was done on this retirement community was both inadequate and incomplete. Research showed that there were only a handful of retirement communities in the surrounding area. But what the research failed to show was that there were over 2000 independent apartments for seniors. They also believed that because they were new to the area, consumers were willing to pay higher prices for “new-ness”. Consumers do not pay higher prices for “new-ness”, they pay for added benefits.

Planning: Planning is HUGE! For the construction of a new retirement community so many details need to be thought through. Every minor detail needs to be thought out and planned for. How many residents will be allowed, what kinds of services and amenities will be provided, what price are consumers willing to pay are just some examples that need to be planned.

Every step in this process needs to be written down. Setting goals and setting a timeframe to reach these goals is so important and vital to a project being successful. Sharing this information with all team members is also important and everyone on the team should be on board before the project takes life.

The planning that was done on this project was more of a “let’s try this for a while and see how it works” kind of mentality. The project originally began with many amenities not added; underground parking, patios, balconies, and even side-by-side condo like apartments. Every consumer interested learned that these items were not going to be available. Six months later, the underground parking was available. Another six months passed by and patios and balconies were added. A year later and amenities were still being added. Consumers did not like it and decided they were going to wait until it was finished, they did not like being strung along.

Training: Whether you are a janitor, cook, salesperson, or any other position, training is vital and extremely important. Teaching and educating your staff not only increases their individual worth, but it creates a positive company atmosphere. When everyone works together in synergy, projects succeed.

Training can consist of a variety of topics; computer programs, sales techniques, telephone skills, public speaking for presentations, and basic customer service.

The training that was given to the staff consisted of a “do-it-yourself” attitude. Managers would come in to the office on a regular basis, but never give any ideas, concepts, or techniques. Most of the time they would come to the office and work on other projects, personal matters, or whatever else they wanted. Instead of bragging about ones accomplishments, pick up the phone and do it again, pass on your knowledge to other team members, and give words of encouragement to your staff.

Teamwork: A Russian submarine captain once said to his crew “Without me, you are nothing, but without you, I am nothing.” Each person on a team is an integral part of success. When one person is down, the other teammates are there to pick him up. Businesses today must be team orientated to be more efficient. Receptionists need to be competent to take messages and transfer calls to salespeople. Salespeople need to be customer driven to produce the sale, and the company must deliver on its promise.

Our team consisted of 4 men and women, but there was definitely no teamwork. Everyone worked at their own pace and before long, stress and tension was felt throughout the office. Staff would come in each morning, get a cup of coffee and go right to work. No “good morning”, no “how was your weekend”, no talking period. They felt if they went about their business, sales would come and the project would succeed. Unfortunately, they were all wrong.

Ego: Everyone has an ego, but how we use our ego is another story. The first rule of thumb for anyone in business is to check your ego at the door. Granted there are some celebrities who have huge egos, but they are successful at what they do and when they make a mistake, they admit to it.  For most of us, we cannot have this attitude when we deal with others in business. We have to present our case and state our reasons and explain why we feel the way we do. For companies, having an ego is the worst. They think they can walk right into an area, set up shop, and be successful. Statements like “this is how we did it at the last location and this is how we will do it here” and “it worked this way 25 years ago, why change” do not work in today’s business world. Change can be scary, but it can also be rewarding and fun.

The company ego we were given on was larger than large. They boasted about how they never had a project fail before, how they always came up with a plan, and how they will get the project done. After all was said and spending millions of dollars, the company finally laid down and said “We failed, the project is terminated”.

Joe DiMaggio once had a 56 game hitting streak. Know why he didn’t have a 57 game hitting streak? Simple, streaks end. But while Joltin’ Joe had this streak, he wasn’t boasting to other teams in the league, he wasn’t bragging to teammates, he simply went about his business. (By the way, after Joe’s streak ended, he started another one that lasted 18 games)

Any project can and will succeed if these five characteristics are met: research your project, plan on a course of action, train your staff properly, work in a team environment, and have everyone check their egos at the door.

Who is Donald J. Eversdyk?

I am a resident of West Bend, Wisconsin and have a diverse background. I have a degree in Engineering and worked in Architecture and Engineering for 10 years before going back to school for a business degree. After I got my second degree, I went into sales and marketing for a variety of firms.

I created this blog to share my business thoughts and ideas with the world, and learn more about people. I enjoy teaching as well as learning so I welcome you to share your thoughts and views with me.

Please come back and share the site with friends. I hope you discover something for yourself that you may grow from and take with you from my perspective.

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