Over the past 3 months, my husband and I have been living like students – cramped conditions, minimal furniture, washing up in the bathroom sink, microwave meals for dinner. And bizarrely enough, this has been through choice. You might be wondering why in the world we’ve been enduring this rather “retro” lifestyle (or for those of you who know me well, indeed how we’ve endured this lifestyle at all), but it’s all about a bold dream to dramatically change our home.
Over a year ago, we decided that we needed a little more space, more light, a bigger kitchen and a fresh to new look to our home. With the crazy property prices in London, that meant either moving much further out of London, or making some dramatic changes to our current home. We opted for the latter. We applied for planning permission to extend our home, sought the services of a high end architect, consulted umpteen builders, project managers and design experts and settled on a plan. We agreed a start date, and prepared ourselves for the construction phase. We could have put off such plans, made do with what we have, but we both agreed that this was important enough to spend time, energy and lots of money to do.
Lesson 1: Be clear what your end goal is, don’t procrastinate, instead be bold and take the plunge!
Right at this early stage, we needed to overcome a fair few hurdles – seek necessary permissions, ensure that our neighbours were on-board, overcome our own concerns over the horror stories we’d heard from friends about “cowboy builders” and drill down into our finances to ensure we had budget (and a decent buffer if things didn’t go according to plan.) In many regards, it’s very much like starting a major work project. Up front, we all feel a sense of excitement about achieving our end goal, mixed with nerves over whether we can achieve it. All great leaders know that the better the plan, the more buy in sought, the higher the probability of success.
Lesson 2: It’s easy to give us early on with a bold dream, but if you quit just because it seems impossible, then you’ll never get anywhere!
Once we got started, construction progress happened very quickly. Most of our life was packed up into storage, external and internal walls were knocked down, the old kitchen was ripped out, and our lives were turned upside down. Perhaps we hadn’t realised just how much turmoil this project would be – and the knock-on effect over our energy levels, social lives and ability to do the normal day to day stuff (cooking, washing clothes, heating our home.) With two cats to consider as well, we had to think on our feet, get creative and make a mini-home in the front of the house just so that we could keep on functioning during the project. There was no going back, and we adopted a “Dunkirk spirit” (or the Finnish equivalent, “sisu” for my Finnish husband!) Instead we’ve needed to manage our own expectations, support each other and find a way of coping during this difficult period of change.
Lesson 3: Very few major projects run exactly how you expect, so don’t be de-railed if chaos kicks in, find a way to manage through the change, and think flexibly!
We’re now in the final phase of the project – we have a new kitchen installed, new flooring laid, a new extension built, new lighting fitted, and everywhere is in the process of being completely re-decorated throughout the whole home. It’s now that we can start to see what our “new” home will look like, and it feels really exciting. But we’ve had enough of builders, decorators, dust, mess, disruption and chaos. It’s almost tempting to crack the whip with the contractors to get this whole thing done ASAP. Instead, I follow steer from my ever-wise husband, “let’s get this done right – properly, to a high standard, the best quality.” And of course, he’s right – this will be our “new” home for years to come. It would be awful to have skipped a stage, cut corners and have “almost our dream”. We all have deadlines (our project has fortunately only overrun by a couple of weeks), but sometimes, that is the nature of a major project and staying focused on what you set out to do should be front and centre all the way to the end.
Lesson 4: See a project all the way through to the end, stick to the plan and don’t compromise to get something out the door that is not what you committed to!
There’s many other lessons to factor in when you are driving major projects, change and transformation – in particular ability to be flexible, keep up the communication and celebrate your milestone achievements, but the top of the list for me is the 4 lessons shared. The best inventors, the most creative scientists and the boldest business leaders all had a dream and a plan to bring the dream to life, so take a leaf out of their (and my) book and get started today!