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Benchmarking is a technique in which a company measures its performance against that of best in class companies, determines how those companies achieved their performance levels and uses the information to improve its own performance. Subjects that can be benchmarked include strategies, operations and processes. (ASQ) There are two forms of benchmarking: Performance: analysis of relative business performance through key performance metrics. Process/Functional: analysis of key processes and functions. The process for benchmarking is:
Imagine you are in a cement box quickly filling up with water. The box is sealed on all sides, yet you still find a way out and survive. How? I will get back to that one. This week we have a plan that works to solve the riddles presented by today’s buyers. Let’s take a closer look:
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit a group of homes that were featured in Chicago’s first GreenBuilt Home Tour. Sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council-Illinois Chapter, the tour included 16 sites that are third-party certified, including the area’s first Passive House, DOE Challenge Homes, LEED-certified homes, and National Green Building Standard-certified homes.
Remodeling and custom home building are similar in that both are ‘high touch’ relationships. Not to say that production home building is not high touch; but there is a gap. People who build one-of-a-kind custom houses expect a lot of your time when they commission you to design and/or build their next home. Nobody wants to feel like they are ‘owned’ for any period of time, but if you were somehow able to crawl into the mindset of most clients, they feel like they ‘own’ a good portion of your time during the building process.
On August 8-11, the Timber Framers Guild (TFG) will hold its 2013 National Conference at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt. The event has been going on since1985 and promises something for everyone — even the kids.
I had the distinct pleasure of attending the first Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) ever held in San Diego. Previously, it had been staged in San Francisco for more than 50 years. I was not sure what to expect this year, but the combination of a new venue and an improving market certainly netted a positive result.
  Dwell magazine recently featured a Pittsburgh home made of recycled glass and steel that stands apart in a neighborhood filled with opulent mansions and brick cottages. The owner purchased (sight unseen) a 140-year-old farmhouse on the site, but decided to tear it down after discovering it was riddled with dry rot and mold.
Where else can a former Marine, college football player, sheepherder, alligator hunter, and professional chef come together and share a commonality? The answer, of course, is Professional Remodeler’s 40 Under 40 program. 
What do you do if a previous best-selling plan hits the skids? Dump it, pitch it, give it the old heave-ho? Possibly, but many builders are using another strategy. All throughout the country builders are taking a fresh look at their existing plans and re-imagining their existing Turnberrys and Devonshires as a vehicle to greatly increase sales and profits. 
In the June issue of Professional Builder, I discussed the American Classic Series by Dallas-based Darling Homes. Unfortunately there was no room for photos of the homes, so I’ve included a shot of the Lantana model here.
Gary Zajicek is my guest blogger. With 35 years experience in the industry from carpenter to VP of Construction and Customer Relations, he has achieved the National Housing Quality Award Gold, AVID Best in Customer Experience Award, Energy Value Housing Award, PB Builder of the Year and many others and as someone who understands how to leverage Quality Management I have always valued his insights.
I recently re-read Moby Dick and have to say that I was stunned by how vivid and modern it seemed. I felt transported to the streets of New Bedford, Mass., in the 1820s and to the decks of the whaling vessel Pequod. The clarity of the writing and its vibrancy are among the many reasons why Moby Dick is considered one of the Great American Novels, and Herman Melville, a giant among great writers.  
There’s a 1920 California bungalow for sale in Los Angeles that is tiny (480 square feet) and expensive ($449,000) … and yet, very appealing. The reason for the high price tag is the home’s location in Los Feliz, a hot spot for younger celebrities and regular schmoes who want to rub shoulders with said celebrities. Los Feliz is also close to downtown L.A. and features a bustling district of restaurants, bars and boutiques.
An article that was published in The Atlantic a couple of weeks ago got me thinking about McMansions, which were ubiquitous during the housing bubble. Big and bland, the McMansion became synonymous with middle-class excess, argues author Jordan Weissmann. After the housing-market crash, people came to their senses and home sizes shrank somewhat.
It’s been seven months since Hurricane Sandy slammed the Mid-Atlantic and New England shorelines. Sadly, for most Americans, the storm has become a distant memory. As for the victims, many are fighting insurance companies for fair compensation for the damage sustained, which has curtailed rebuilding efforts.
I recently read an article written by Bill Lurz, a former colleague at Professional Builder. Bill is now editor-in-chief of AvidBuilder.com. If you’re acquainted with Bill or have read his articles, you know how deep his knowledge of this industry runs.

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