It’s all about love, says Martyn Evans

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I took part in an industry podcast this week. The first question from the host was: “What are the misconceptions about the property industry and what do we need to do about it?” I’m not often lost for words, but this one gave me pause. Only momentarily, until I realised what I wanted to say was that there were not many misconceptions at all.

Those who complain about the property industry and its negative impact on our communities and places might have a point.

What we should be asking ourselves is not what we can say to explain ourselves better, but what we can do to be better.

I’ve been reading a lot about purpose in the last few weeks. I’ve referred to it on these pages before but it’s an endlessly fascinating subject that drives how I want to think about the work that we all do in our built environment industry. In his book Do Purpose the entrepreneur David Hieatt says that the sweet spot for any company is the centre of a Venn diagram where the three principles of love, skill and the zeitgeist intersect.

Understanding the zeitgeist is something that most of us can claim to be able to do in our various sectors. You could say that often, particularly in my end of the industry, we have a bit of a tin ear and don’t listen enough to what people want. If we did that too much, though, we’d be out of business, so it can’t be too bad. On the skills front, our industry – from architects to engineers, salespeople and landscapers – has some of the most talented people in industry today. Where I think we might be lacking is the third and most crucial element: the love bit.

What Hieatt explains is that if you don’t truly love what you do, ally that love to a skill and link it to a need identified from an understanding of the zeitgeist, then you’ll fail to be exceptional. And right now, in these uncertain times, exceptional is what we all need to be. Do you ask yourself regularly if you love what you do? I don’t mean do you love your job? I mean do you love what you do? They are two different things.

Loving what you do is about caring deeply about the process your job entails and the people for whom you’re doing it. What do you come to work to do every day? Are you there to make a living or to make a change? The good answer is both.

Hieatt says that the love we should all find for what we do needs to be a cold passion. Hot passion is attractive and fulfilling but is always short term. Cold passion, in terms of business, is a long-term state that allies both brain and heart – involving them both in the decisions you make, removing emotion and creating a discipline.

When you decide to love what you do, anything is possible because the motivation changes. No longer are you making decisions based simply on cost, or your own aesthetic taste. You are making decisions based on the impact that the outcomes will have on the people for whom you’re working. Your customers.

When times are difficult you need fans, not customers. Dull companies who do the barest minimum to deliver a job have nothing to call on when the market gets tough. Only price. And we know where that goes. Great companies’ fans stick with them in bad times. Love is all you need.

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