Business Lesson 6 from Mr. Blandings

Building a house is the perfect metaphor for the challenges we face as buyers and sellers, consumers and producers.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) highlights these parallels with brains, wit and humor.

The film shows how, from start to finish, almost everything that could go wrong does go wrong. It also shows how everyone at each step contributes to the snafus and confusion as well as the successes.

Early in the film, for example, we accompany Mr. and Mrs. Blandings as they begin their hunt for their dream house. The realtor takes them to the old Hackett place, steeped in history and ready to collapse under the weight of its 170 years.

The realtor says, “I know you can look at that house and just about picture what a couple of coats of paint and a little pointing up here and there can do to it.”

Through the magic of film, we see that in Mr. Blandings’ mind, the house has transformed into a lovely country estate. In Mrs. Blandings’ mind, the house has morphed into a neat, tidy cottage with a white picket fence. In the realtor’s mind, the house appears as it is, but the target sales price he pictures above the roof keeps increasing.

They’re all looking at the same house, but what they see in the present and envision in the future is dramatically different.

The same is true of the flagstone floor from Business Lesson 5. Once the floor was in place, everyone saw it from their own point of view. The architect saw the effort, material and ingenuity that made the floor possible. Mrs. Blandings saw a floor that was attractive, functional and made good use of leftover materials. Mr. Blandings saw a possibly functional floor that was definitely over-priced.

Business Lesson 3 provides another example. In loving detail, Mrs. Blandings describes to the painter her plans for each room. The painter gives every appearance of listening intently, then he reduces her complex descriptions to five words: Green, yellow, blue, white, red.

So, what’s the lesson?

Everyone sees the problem from their own perspective. Everyone creates a unique image of the end result, based on who they are, what they want, what they know or think they know, and where they stand in the process. As product and service providers, it’s our job to discover these differing points of view and examine them carefully.

It's our job to help clients move from problem to vision and from vision to solution, creating along the way a shared perspective. It's our job to confirm, manage and communicate these ever-evolving expectations and ensure every employee, partner and supplier understands both the desired outcomes and their role in the process.

It's our job to do all these things, and the best among us do them diligently and well.

In the end, the Blandings built their dream house. Was it exactly what they’d envisioned? No. Was it precisely right? Yes.

If you haven't watched the film, do so. You'll discover even more business lessons than we've tackled in our series, and you'll have fun doing it.


Business Lesson 1 from Mr. Blandings
Business Lesson 2 from Mr. Blandings
Business Lesson 4 from Mr. Blandings

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