Looking ahead Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

When Greg Rogers traded in his days of drywalling and fieldwork for heading his own business, he knew little about running a company.

As founder and CEO of contracting company Pacific Building Group, the last 25 years have been a learning experience based on trial and error — and a lot of drive. That experience has led to his understanding of what a CEO must do to survive and also how to lead a successful company.

The keys lie in awareness, flexibility and diversification, Rogers says.

“I think you have to be very aware of your environment, and probably as much as anything else, especially in these times, flexibility — the ability to quickly identify and adjust to industry and economic changes,” says Rogers, whose company posted 2007 revenue of $70 million and anticipates about $100 million for 2008.

Smart Business spoke with Rogers about how to tap in to ways that will allow you and your company to grow in any environment.

Study your environment to gauge the future.
You have to look at your industry and industry trends and what’s going on around you. As you see the economy slide, there are some things you just know are going to happen.

You have to relate all of the things in your environment; I’m talking both your economic environment as well as your business environment. Looking around, following up with trade journals, following up by keeping yourself informed, whether it be through economic forecasts and forums as to what’s going on in your own industry, to think out ahead of how that’s going to affect you and how it’s going to affect your business.

As far as being aware of your environment, again, it’s how is your environment going to impact your business as you continue to grow. If, for instance, building new buildings is going to slow down, one of the things I have to look at is, if it’s going to slow down, how are we going to meet that challenge? Are we going to look for other kinds of products to do? Are we going to look for other kinds of services to provide?

We have to be very proactive about it. If we wait till it happens, it’s kind of too late.

Remain flexible.
Don’t get locked into a box. It goes to people that only provide one service and do things one way.

The problem becomes, in many cases, you create obsolescence. Or when markets change and your environment changes, if you’re rigid and you’re not willing to look for new opportunities or new ways to do things, you get left in the dust.

When I talk about flexibility, I mean that in a number of senses. You need to be flexible and open to new ideas that are brought to you by people that work for you. These may be people in any position in your company, from your top management people to your lowest people. You have to be flexible enough to be able to accept suggestions that may have merit.

On the other hand, you have to be flexible enough to understand that your company may change and the products and services that you provide may have to change to fit the environment you’re in.

For instance, if you’re a wheel-maker and all you make is wheels and people quit buying cars, you probably need to be flexible enough to find a different use for wheels if the only people you’re selling it to are carmakers.

If you don’t have that type of flexibility, you set yourself up for failure.

You strive as a business manager and an owner always to grow and to expand and to do things bigger and better. Sometimes based on the environment you’re around, you have to be flexible enough to always understand that’s not always possible.

Find ways to diversify.
You grow a company by trying to diversify your market, so when one market is not performing as you hope, other markets might be. That helps you maintain and grow your market share.

One way we’ve found is through underserved niche markets. We try to look for areas that other people aren’t doing or they’re not doing it well. That may be emerging trends, things that haven’t been done before or things as they start to come up.

If you look at what the world is doing, it helps you to identify business opportunities that are going to grow and are going to continue to be there for a period of time that may not even exist at a great rate right now, but you know they’re going to happen. We look at technology trends; we look at economic trends and what’s going on in our region.

We don’t always know if it’s right for our company. There is risk involved.

Once we can see what an opportunity is going to be, we try to analyze that opportunity. We have to ask ourselves, is this an area that we have the expertise for, we can hire the expertise for or we can develop the expertise for?

By going through an analysis of those items and try to decide whether it’s an area we should pursue or shouldn’t pursue.

HOW TO REACH: Pacific Building Group, (858) 552-0600 or www.pacificbuildinggroup.com