Scott Hamilton Harris: “Good is the enemy of great!”

Follow your Instincts — We all have them, we all use them, and sometimes we listen to them more in our personal life than our work life. Follow your instincts. If you find that you have to spend too much time convincing yourself or others you’re on the right path, that’s a good sign that you may […]

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Follow your Instincts — We all have them, we all use them, and sometimes we listen to them more in our personal life than our work life. Follow your instincts. If you find that you have to spend too much time convincing yourself or others you’re on the right path, that’s a good sign that you may not be following your instincts. Just follow them and it’s guaranteed paved road to success

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Hamilton Harris.

Scott is a master builder. Looked upon as the “go-to” expert for all things re building and beyond, Scott’s been interviewed by a wide variety of talk and news shows. From building “green” or conventional to “fire-proofing” your home, to spiritual/metaphysical to scientific to luxurious lifestyle and empowerment.

His path to where he is now with a multimillion dollar company and aligning himself with premier AIA architect William Hefner (Studio William Hefner), is quite an inspirational success story…overcoming obstacles, holding to his vision. Scott has not only redefined what a home should be, but his vision has reached millions, stretching what we thought was the norm for simple construction. Scott’s vision, creativity and mission reach farther than mere construction.

Unlike other building contractors, Scott has a fresh, inspirational, unique perspective and knowledge about life, building (residential/commercial) and how it all really affects our lives…what we can do to be proactive in making changes to improve the quality of our lives…mentally, emotionally, spiritually. He brings you to a new level of awareness, which is not only an eye-opener, but entertaining as well. He applies his expertise and insight to every jaw-dropping, creme de la creme, multi-million dollar property including LEED Platinum certified home of noted actor-environmentalist, Ed Begley Jr. Scott is a favorite among a long list of billionaires and celebrities (e.g., Paul Allen, Taio Cruz, actors Kevin James and Kevin Costner, John Paul DeJoria, London’s Savoy Hotel, LA’s AOC restaurant, San Francisco’s Saint Francis Hotel, restaurants for Gordon Ramsay and Michel Mina.

An articulate, unique writer and photographer, Scott is a continuing contributor for select publications including GLADYS and Builder & Developer national magazines. He’s been interviewed and covered just about any topic from: DIYs to trends in building homes, remodeling, empowerment, sustainability, celebrities, home improvement, lifestyle, celebrity homes, architecture, metaphysics, interior design, health, repurposing, recycling, deconstruction, new technology, “green” ecology, building, design, cooking (yes cooking)…and building as an art form.

GLADYS Magazine listed Scott as one of their top 100 favorite influencers in their fall 10th Anniversary issue along with “A” listers such as Oprah, Gordon Ramsey, Martha Stewart, and Madonna!

Scott also has a strong presence in other media platforms. Malibu’s Choice Award for Green Construction 2017 Recipient, his unique approach to building has landed him guest and featured appearances in numerous, highly respected media outlets such as Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family Show, Lifestyle Magazine TV, Studio 11 Fox News, Spectrum News, Hal Eisner’s “In Depth,” “What The Hal?” CBS, TV, KTLA, HGTV, Adam Carolla Show, Evox Television, and national magazines such as Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Luxe, House Beautiful, Interior Design, Builder & Developer, Los Angeles Times, Metropolitan Home, Oprah, Going Organic, Traditional Home, Cliche, Milieu, Focus, Gladys and many more.

At the age of 5, Scott spent his childhood inventing contraptions and experimenting on how to perfect a home. He was consumed with a fascination about the way things work and dreamed of becoming a builder. When Scott was 15 years old, after following his calling and wining numerous awards for his work, his teacher selected him for an experimental curriculum to immerse him in the world of architecture, construction and design.

Following his passion at the age of 20, he earned his general contractor’s license and launched his business building his client’s home by day and designing them by night. Although his services were quickly sought after, he felt that a better understanding of design could elevate the final product. Scott temporarily put his clients on hold after he was hand-selected to study and work with one of the world’s most influential designers, Barbara Barry. He focused for over five years learning the best-kept trade secrets of design, harmonies and mathematical proportions. He continued to gain even more valuable experience and further evolve his design insights while working at the prestigious Studio Hefner.

After weaving 24 years of construction, architecture and interior design experience, as COO, Scott Harris co-founded Building Construction Group in 2005 with stellar AIA architect, William Hefner. The firm is based on placing the client’s needs first and bringing a welcomed, well-rounded, luxury five-star product & service experience that has been sought out by many of Los Angeles’ elite. This unique philosophy has quickly turned this company into one of the most respected construction firms in Los Angeles. Scott is deemed one the foremost building (general) contractors and the industry’s noted “triple threat” (design, architecture and building) “go-to” experts for residential and commercial properties specializing in environmental (“green”), new technology, renovation, deconstruction, reconstruction, restoration and building as an art form.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

We start on this planet with a journey. For some, we hear the calling early, pick up the phone call as a child and are given the answer as to what our mission is. For others, it takes some taste testing to discover it. And for many, we know it, but we don’t listen to that voice inside.

I recall my earliest memories were this internal beating force to create something from nothing. To perfect what others have already perfected. To dream something that others have yet to dream of. I started at age five by deconstructing garage sale appliances and making my own Frankenstein devices. As I did, I realized that what called to me with such clarity was H O M E. I knew that a home was a place that is designed to house not only our body and family, but also our life and our soul. If we could improve on it, we stand a chance to improve on our lives in every way imaginable. And, so my journey began.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

When you’re on a journey that started before your first year of kindergarten, it makes one take pause and hit the rewind button on this important question. I recall as a child not being a great athlete, and while I pretended to enjoy it, because I thought we were supposed to, I recalled being more interested in construction, but I couldn’t find a way to immerse myself into to this field enough to satisfy my hunger. I recall going with my dad to the building stores, taking in the smell of the fresh lumber, but it wasn’t enough. And then, I realized that if I feigned illness on Saturdays, my family would leave me to be at home while they went to church. Ah huh!!! Just after watching Bob Villa on “This Old House” I could take a 12-minute walk to the nearest construction site that I knew was closed on Saturdays!

My new Reebok shoes were perfect for scaling the chain-link fence and once in, I would simply sit on the other side, smell the lumber, look and touch every bolt, take in every captured moment and commit it to memory. That night, I would put myself to sleep by recounting everything I saw and visualize not only doing it, but ways to restructure it.

And wow…. the next week, I think I was feeling I was coming down with another case of “building fever” and somehow, I found myself back at the local neighborhood project where I found whole new wonderment of changes. I thought to myself, if I can do this every day without having to find an excuse, I would be in heaven. I now do it every day, with purpose and they even PAY me to keep coming back. I think I may be the happiest kid on my block!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

At the age of 18, my contractor’s license arrived in the mail and I thought I was ready to build!! Come on, I’ve seen it happen so many times as I watched all the local projects get stitched together on weekend snapshots. This should be easy! I started building my first new homes, but as I look back, I truly didn’t know what I was doing yet at that age. I bought my first work boots, picked up fresh set of the finest tools sold to me by a great salesperson and even got a cool leather work belt to hang my shiny hammer from! Everyone has one, so I must need one too right! But, I quickly realized that all the tools in the world don’t speak to me loudly enough to make a home erect itself. First lesson was, I learned quickly I needed to hire teams to help at that age.

With all the confidence in the world to fuel me, I started hiring teams. I wasn’t sure how to read the plans, but I knew how to read well. After all, I followed many completed project instructions, so I should be able to figure this out! What I didn’t know at that age was “What comes first.” I recalled after all my Saturday site visits that we play in the dirt and make it flat; carve in places to pour the concrete and start putting the wood up. From there, I realized I was lost, but my confidence made up for not knowing, or at least I thought it did!

I called in the electrician first and wow, wires were strung everywhere through my new framing. I can do this I said!! Then I called the HVAC team and was proud as they ran the large ducts to condition the home. I even called in the team to wire up speakers and TV’s to make it extra special. But wait…what’s missing… ahh yes.. I need plumbing.

Ok, now call the plumber! It was a sad day when the plumber said, “You do know that we are supposed to come in first?” What, why? “Stop complaining,” I thought, as I kept speaking. Then, he expertly explained that he needed to come in first because the HVAC team ran large ducts covering up where he was going to run his copper work. He said the electrician put in wire next to the places he was going to use his torch and he would melt them. He said the large speakers I installed blocked the only path for his drainage lines.

That was an expensive, yet priceless lesson I received early on in life. I learned not only who to call first, but most importantly, that confidence can never take the place of experience.

Now, 35 years into this exercise after winning numerous awards and accolades for my work, restoring the most historical homes, including the Playboy mansion, achieving LEED Platinum status for the home we built for actor-environmentalist, Ed Begley Jr., receiving Malibu’s Choice Award for Green Construction 2017, building one of the most well respected construction firms in Southern California, and being named as one of the 100 most influential people of the decade… I realize that the moment you feel that you believe you know everything and bathe in your accomplishments, is the moment you start losing all that you’ve worked so hard to gain.

Every day I wake up, I recall this lesson, I trade in my confidence I feel I gained yesterday for what I learned today, so I can take a new humbled lesson to my pillow that night.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?

As someone who worked for many employers before becoming one, I realized the ideal way to retain talent is to nurture your team’s unique and individual attributes. As an employee, I recall feeling that if only my employer spent less time directing me as to what to do, and spent more time seeing what I can do best, I would have better served them and myself. When I felt that they were more interested in hearing their own voice and I was just there to help them do their “job” so they could look good, my thoughts ventured into the wrong type of journey and ironically, I stopped doing my job well which they enjoyed reminding me of. I learned their technique didn’t work for anyone involved.

As an employer, I believe everyone is gifted with a special talent, and it’s the job of an employer and a good leader to find it. Also, I believe you have to find your team’s weaknesses and bolster it while pushing the boundaries of their strengths to new levels. I can attest that this is a better recipe for success.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

By keeping open communication channels, as well as your team knowing their positions and rolls is the beginning of connecting and synchronizing your team to their full potential. The next steps are, allow the team to have a voice and not feel encumbered by their rolls already assigned. Most importantly, the final component is, a positive, caring orchestrator to filter through all the information and cue everyone at the right moments. When done well, you create a harmonious and professional symphony.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team.” (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

  1. Build the Right Team! — Most people say, “It’s so hard to find good people.” In our firm, we say, “Build it [the company] and they will come,” Try this and you’ll find you start attracting the strongest hitters who, are excited to join your team! The team is the engine that drives its success, but you have to build the vehicle first to house the masterpiece engine, or join the masses in saying “It’s so hard to find good people…”
  2. Create Realistic and Achievable Goals. — Understand the difference between “wants” and “needs,” when referring to goals. We all want to be successful and achieve the highest caliber of achievements. But, we need to understand that if you set your companies goals too high, you set up your team for disappointments. First, focus on what the company’s immediate needs are. And then, expand them 10%, which sets up your team with the feeling of future accomplishment through achievable goals. Not counting the exponential effects of compounding, try this 10 times and you will find you’ve improved upon your team and company well beyond the 100% marker.
  3. Follow your Instincts — We all have them, we all use them, and sometimes we listen to them more in our personal life than our work life. Follow your instincts. If you find that you have to spend too much time convincing yourself or others you’re on the right path, that’s a good sign that you may not be following your instincts. Just follow them and it’s guaranteed paved road to success
  4. Delegate Tasks — A key thing to be aware of in business is at the point that you’ve mastered your trade or task, it’s time to drop the ego and pass the torch to the most suitable team member waiting to grow. Not only does it free you up to move forward to take on larger challenges, but if you continue to teach your team this great technique, you’ll find yourself on the same path as some of the most respected and iconic business leaders of our time!
  5. Keep Communication Channels Open — The words that usually don’t start or end well in business is “Well..I thought…” Create an atmosphere in which you encourage your teams to check in regularly and redundantly and to check in regularly and redundantly and you may find that you have less late nights at the office and more time celebrating with your team, theirs and the company’s success!

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

To be the greatest of leaders, you have to be the strongest of followers. As a leader, what we are essentially doing is, listing to the needs of our team, our customers and our clients. The best leaders are following and listening to the needs of others and the irony is, if you follow well enough, you may earn the coveted, title of the Greatest of Leaders!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Simply put, ask WHY?” Then solve your riddle.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Good is the enemy of great!” This is my short, daily mantra. We all have days where “good” sits on your shoulder and says to great on the other shoulder, “we can go home now. We did a good job.” But, great always outranks good, even though they are life -long enemies, so make sure you don’t forgot which side always wins. So many things in life are good but never great in a large part, because it’s too easy to settle. So, ask yourself if you want to be on the side the settled or the side that triumphed!

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