Think like an Engineer, Work like a Businessman

No matter the industry, all American businesses run in a similarly structured way. But entrepreneurs are always looking for how he or she can challenge the normal, so how does one gain that competitive edge in such an environment? It requires strategic thinking says Chris Hofheins, president and founder of BHB Structural Engineering Firm. Hofheins’ firm employs more than 50 people in both Boise and Salt Lake, and he attributes his success to this method of managing,

Chris was our speaker for the STEM and Entrepreneurship Workshop, where he explained strategic thinking and had our students run a simulation to employ this technique. Here is what we worked on, in case you missed it!

1. Simplify first

Like all engineering problems require, simply the problem first. Setting too many goals will distract you and cause you to achieve less than if you had set fewer objectives originally.

2. Find your WIG (wildly important goal)

This is defining WHAT change will have the biggest impact. Set it in the format of where you are versus where you want to be and by when.

3. Act on lead measures

These are the direct, predictable and influential actions you can take and should set every week to achieve your WIG. Be sure to make these continuous actions, not one-time decisions, that account for possible lag measures (past actions you cannot control). Do not be afraid to change these actions as they can unpredictably cause misdirection.

4. Make a compelling scoreboard

It will cause you to be more effective when completing your lead measures. Requirements for “points” should be simple: how well you accomplish lead measures and react to lag measures.

5. Set a cadence of accountability

These are weekly check-ins and new commitments for the week ahead to report on lead measures and review the WIG. At BHB, Hofheins calls these ARCH meetings which stands for account, review, commit and help. Hofheins attributes this step to a great deal of his success because he believes it reinforces teamwork and motivation.

Hofheins received his undergraduate degree in structural engineering and then went on to get his MBA at The U. He believes that this combination has best prepared him for the professional world. “Engineering teaches you how to think about and approach problems, and on the other hand, businesses require particular management techniques and skills,” he said. As an entrepreneur, Hofheins emphasizes that this requires immense dedication to stay focused and incorporate these concepts into the workplace.

In 2008, BHB changed direction and Hofheins experienced the need to change WIGS and reevaluate lead measures that were too complicated. After not only recovering, but thriving after the recession, he learned valuable lessons about evaluating problems efficiently and directly. “The real world doesn’t present you with the problem, he said. “You have to find it yourself.” So, before your next entrepreneurial venture, ask yourself again about the problem before you provide the solution.


About the Author:

Julia Dominesey Julia is an undergraduate student at the University of Utah studying mechanical engineering. Her passion for public speaking and networking has led to her frequent contributions and involvement at the Lassonde Institute.

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