11 Mar March 11, 2020 – Online Reviews Stuart Crawford and America’s Best Builder Tom Lewis
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Stuart Crawford – CEO and Creative Director of Ulistic – Digital Marketing and SEO Expert
Stuart Crawford is the Founder of Ulistic, a MSP digital marketing agency. Though based in Florida, Ulistic increases awareness and facilitates client acquisition through expert SEO management, digital marketing for managed IT service providers worldwide. Stuart aids companies in their quest for lead generation, PPC, effective email and digital marketing strategies, and comprehensive SEO management across multiple platforms. He specializes in customer conversion, ensuring that the added traffic he brings to the pages of the companies he works with will result in increased profits as well as higher visibility in the space.
What you want to do as a parent is not to prepare the road for
your kid, but to prepare the kid for the road.
Tom Lewis is the Founder, Owner and CEO of T.W. Lewis Company, a Phoenix based home building company known for its quality and outstanding customer service. The company has received numerous industry awards including America’s Best Builder in 1998, the National Housing Quality Gold Award in 2009, and in recognition of the consistent performance, he was the 1st inductee into the National Housing Quality Hall of Fame. In 2000, Tom and his wife, Jan, formed T.W. Lewis Foundation to support higher education, children and families in need, youth education and a variety of other community charities. In 2015, Tom and Jan made a gift to establish the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, and in 2017 made a gift to establish the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development at Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University.
Highlights from Tom’s Interview
I’ve had a very successful career and had worked for four different great companies, including Trammell Crow, before I started my own company. Then I had a 20-year run with my own company called T.W. Lewis, which was a high-end home builder in Phoenix, Arizona. We kind of dominated the high end of the market in Phoenix for close to 10 or 15 years. We stood out because we were unique, and because we focused on quality, not quantity. I was well-prepared to become an entrepreneur when I started my company at age 41. I didn’t start it right out of college, because I wasn’t ready to, for myself. But I ended up making myself an entrepreneur and learning a lot of the lessons that come with not only business but also life. So, I wanted to share my message and what I think were the life lessons, that I learned from my career and from my life, that would benefit young adults who are serious about their careers.
The word Solid Ground really comes from the fact that as a home builder, you build foundations, and the foundations are the most important part of the house because if you mess up the foundation, the house has big problems. And as I say in the book, so it is with life. You’ve got to build a house on a good foundation, and a good foundation has to be built on solid ground; not shifting soil, but solid ground. In my case, what I’m talking about are solid principles of life. These are time tested principles like: personal character, hard work, goal-setting, self-awareness, and helping others. If you avoid those kinds of issues, then you are building your life on quicksand, and it probably won’t work out the way you want it to. The book has three parts to it. The first part is building your foundation, which is what I just alluded to. The second part is really a lot of the nuances that I think it takes to be successful, that you won’t find in any of the popular success books that have been written over the last 20 years. Those are things like: making good decisions, taking risk, keeping your drive alive, finding your talent; which is a very important principle mostly in my book, and then finally just executing on your career, understanding like we all do when we have to make those tough decisions about changing jobs, moving from one job to another job and how difficult that can be, and how carefully we all have to do that, but how important that is, that we continue to grow and continue to learn. So that’s a quick summary.
20 years ago, my wife and I started giving college scholarships to bright, talented, high school students in Arizona. We did this for 16 years, and we gave well over maybe 100 to 200 scholarships. We interviewed these kids individually, and they all started talking about their passion, and I really challenged them on that. That’s one of the real reasons I wrote this book is because that’s one of the many popular myths that is out there. The popular myth is that, “Follow your passion and find your dream, and everything else will work out.” Well, that’s probably one of the biggest myths in the history of the world, and I do not believe that is true. What I think is a better thing to say is find your talent; what you’re naturally good at with little or no effort, and work on that because that is the key to your success. Your passion is something you will find much later in life. 19-year-olds and 25-year-olds are not in a position to find their passion, it’s just too early. When I was a younger man in college, my passion was basketball, except I’m about 5’9.5, don’t have big hands, and can’t dribble with my left hand. So, the fact that I was passionate about basketball was a joke. Had I pursued a career in basketball, I would have been a huge failure. So that’s just bad advice for young people. But what I talk about in my book is finding your talent.
I think that finding your “why” is something to do when you turn about 60. I’m 70 right now, so I’ve lived that cycle. Certainly, when you’re younger, you’re usually not ready for it. You’re in the thick of it and you are paddling as fast as you can, and you’re learning lessons. It’s a waste of time, and I think it actually sets you up for unhappiness and disappointment when you start trying too early to figure out your passion and figure out your why; all those things come later in life. The last five chapters of my book really address what I call life’s greatest achievements, which are: success, purpose, meaning, wisdom, and happiness. And all those things I think make more sense toward the end of your life, if you’ve lived a good life and if you’ve built that life on solid ground.
I never had a mentor. The reason I don’t care for that phrase or that word of “mentor” is, and I could be wrong on this, but the word mentor to me assumes that it’s a teacher who is responsible for me learning. I never had a mentor, I never had anybody that called me aside and said, “Tom, here’s what you need to do to get better, here’s what you need to do to be successful.” What I had was role models: people that I looked at, people that I watched, people that I admired, people that I studied. From them, I tried to see how people that I admired operated, and those people were my role models; some I knew very well, some I didn’t know at all, but they all became the kind of person, the kind of a human being, and the kind of business person that I wanted to become. But it was my responsibility to learn it, it wasn’t anybody else’s. So that’s why when I hear the word mentor or that you need to find a mentor or somebody to teach you, that’s not true. You need to take responsibility for your own learning, and that’s why I call those people role models.
There’s a quote by Helen Keller that I have in the book that I like, it says “Security is a myth. It does not exist in nature.” So, if you think you’re not taking any risks, you’re kidding yourself. Because every day you get up, get in your car or walk out to get the paper, you’re taking a risk; lightning might strike, somebody might shoot you, you never know. So, life is full of risk, you cannot avoid the risk; you have to embrace the risk. People that take no risk get no rewards, because “no risk it, no biscuit.” You have to take the chances if you want the rewards. There is no safe way to be successful. So, you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The way you do that is, and I first began to learn it in graduate business school, where you talk about making decisions under uncertainty. Life is uncertain, so you have to prepare yourself for things that might happen that you don’t predict. How do you do that? You have plan B’s, you try to limit your risk whenever you can, you don’t make bad decisions, you take calculated risk, you go into a risk knowing that if it doesn’t work you have a plan B. But you have to embrace risk because life is uncertain and security is a myth. If you want someone else to take risks for you, they’re going to get the reward that goes with it and you’ll get whatever’s left.
I’ve been a goal setter my whole life. The reason that I love setting goals so much is I set goals that do inspire me. There’s a lot of acronyms out there for goal setting and I’ve worked with all of them. The first one was SMART goals, then came HARD goals, but I think what both of those were missing is the inspirational part. I can’t think what the letters stand for right off the bat, but the I obviously stands for Inspirational. The point is you have to set goals that inspire you. And they have to be realistic stretches, so they can’t be too easy or too hard.
Another subject on the matter of goal-setting is values. Your goals have to resonate with your values and so does your career. You have to begin to understand in your 20s or even 30s, what are your values? There are two different types of values; there’s motivating values, which you have to take assessments to understand, and then there’s core values: like honesty, integrity, hard work, things like that. So, things that that resonate with your values will inspire you. For example, if you have a strong aesthetic value, then maybe playing the piano would resonate with your values. Setting a goal of learning how to play the piano would be a good goal to set for a person who has an aesthetic value. Me myself, I’m not a high aesthetic value, so playing the piano would just be an annoying waste of time for me. But becoming the best home builder in America excited me and was an inspiring goal that I set when I first started my company.
The N in the INSPIRE stands for Noble. So, an inspiring goal has to be a noble thing to achieve. It can’t be something ignoble, it has to be a high-minded concept. Then it also needs to be Specific, Personal, Immediate, Realistic, and Expected. So those are the letters that spell out the word INSPIRE. But I think the word noble and specific are maybe two of the more important letters there. If you’re going to inspire yourself, it has to be a worthy ideal or a noble goal.
Raising kids is another part of the book. I have three wonderful sons, they’re now in their 30s and they’re all outstanding young men. I had a blast raising kids, especially three boys, because I understood boys. They all played sports and I was their coach in many of their sporting activities. By the time they got to about age 12, they moved on to other coaches. But parenting is something I got a lot of joy out of. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s challenging. Couple of the things that I’ve learned about parenting, and I love to talk about it and tell young parents, are a couple of little techniques that I learned in the process; a couple of little questions. One of them is, when your child does something that you may not be satisfied with, you say to them, “Is this the best you can do?” Most of the time when I’ve used that, my son would look at me and not be offended and say, “You know, Dad, I could do better.” And then I’ll say, “Well, good, why don’t you go do the best you can do?” Then they would try it again. So instead of criticizing, you might just say, is that the best you can do?
Then, I also started teaching my kids how to negotiate at an early age. If they would say to me, “Dad, can I have a spend-over tonight?” I would say, “Well, if I do that for you, what would you do for me in return?” The message there is two things; one is negotiating, but the other is that everything’s not about you. I think one of the problems a lot of families make is what I call the Frantic Family Syndrome. I didn’t make that up, somebody else made that up. But a Frantic Family is one where mom and dad feel like their goal as parents is to make their children happy. I think a better and stronger family is one where you can say it’s King Dad and Queen Mom. In other words, where it’s the children’s job to make mom and dad happy. I think that creates a better environment for the kids because they’re learning early that life is not all about them. Of course, they’re important, but they’re not the center of the universe, and they need to learn that early because the world will show them that eventually, and they’ll be better prepared for life. So, what you really want to do as a parent is not to prepare the road for your kid, but to prepare your kid for the road. That’s what I tried to do as a dad, and I think it’s worked.
If I think of a stupid home improvement/luxury item, what comes to mind for me is really the contemporary architecture that has been sweeping the homebuilding industry. I’ve never been a fan of contemporary architecture, but today, that’s mostly what you see out there; home builders are using the Frank Lloyd Wright lines and whatnot and the kid’s things are over the top. Everything is just so modern. And then the floorings are all hard tile, which is not that comfortable. So, it’s kind of a new way of living, but not my taste.
The book its actually on Amazon right now; “Solid Ground: A Foundation for Winning In Work and In Life”. The hardbacks will be available by the end of March. So right now, it’s in the pre-order phase. We also are setting up our own website called “solidgroundbook.com”, where you can go there in another few weeks and read all about the book and listen to me talk about it, and so on. I think it’s a message that will resonate with a lot of people, and it’s good input for building a successful and happy life.