Breakfast with King Husein: "Speed of business"

Gary Alt |

Lifting your business from surviving mode to achieving mode.


I had breakfast this morning with King Husein. wasn't with that King Hussein--not the one from Jordan. My King Husein (note the difference in spelling) is the President and CEO of Span Construction & Engineering, the nation's leading pre-engineered steel builder for the past 17 years. He spoke at the monthly meeting of the Monterey Management Society, a group I helped organize. The Monterey Management Society is affiliated with my alma mater, the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University.

If you already know of King Husein, you understand why he is qualified to speak on Speed of Business. For my readers who may be unfamiliar with Husein let me first tell you a little about his company. Then I'll give you the highlights from Husein's remarks.

A little about Span Construction

As I mentioned, Span Construction specializes in building pre-engineered steel structures. They have been the primary builder for Costco for many years. In fact, King said they have built over 52 million square feet for Costco. According to my rough calculations, that accounts for almost 65% of Costco's total global square footage. Span has built Costco stores throughout North America, including several stores in Canada and Mexico, as well as the United Kingdom, Taiwan and most recently Australia.

When Span built its first Costco 21 years ago, Costco alotted 180 days for construction. Now Span can go from "a dirt field to cash registers" in 110 days. Not bad for a 150,000 square foot building. According to Husein, being able to get the building completed in 40% less time has lowered costs for his customer and improved Span's quality.

Span's success with Costco has allowed it to work with other big brands such as Staples, Best Buy, and Fed Ex. An avid BYU supporter, King Husein also built BYU's state-of-the-art athletics complex as well as the beautiful Hinckley Alumni Center.

What King Husein said

I hope this brief intro to Span Construction both piques your interest about what King Husein had to say and helps establish his bona fides in your mind. His topic was "Speed of Business" and I believe his insights can help any business owner or executive think about raising the achievement level of their business. Here are the highlights from his presentation:

  • Technology is driving business ever faster. It makes business easier, but sometimes makes life harder.
  • The core principles of Service, Quality, On-time Delivery, Competitive Price, and Safety are Surviving Mode principles. They are the prerequisites for being a going concern.
  • To move beyond Surviving Mode to Achieving Mode requires building trusting relationships with clients and customers, something Husein calls establishing integrity.
  • Establishing integrity takes time. It requires delivering on commitments in a way that confirms to customers and clients that you have their interests and concerns foremost in your mind.
  • Husein estimates that as much as 25% of the communication, time and money spent on projects is pure follow up to make sure vendors deliver according to their agreements.
  • If you want to excel, you must commit to establishing integrity at any price; you cannot compromise at any cost.
  • Husein believes voice mail and email have reduced quality over the years. He is quick to stress to his employees that email should not be the primary means of communication.  The excuse that you are "waiting for a response to an email" is no excuse at Span Construction.
  • Your vendors can become your partners as you seek to establish integrity with your customers. Husein said, "Don't accept 'no' for an answer and even 'maybe' can be suspect. Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo." As an example he pointed to the fact that the steel he buys for his Costco projects is now already white when it is delivered to a project. His workers used to spend weeks painting it on site. The time saved in construction is money saved for his customer. Just because it wasn't done that way in the past, doesn't mean it isn't a good idea.

I hope these comments from King Husein help spark your own thoughts about how you can improve your business model. I appreciated King Husein's willingness to share some of his insights into building better businesses with us.

Please feel free to share AchievingMode principles in your quest for business success. I look forward to your comments.