Bob Cleveland | Crain's Las Vegas

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Bob Cleveland

Background:  

Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada is a nonprofit organization that has been in Las Vegas for 24 years. The group provides critical home repairs to low-income seniors, veterans and disabled people, helping between 200 and 300 homeowners each year.

The Mistake:

I was very naive. 

When I first came onto Rebuilding Together I was actually hired as a consultant. They wanted to see how I worked with volunteers in the beginning, and this particular project I was assigned to, we had a volunteer group from the hotel industry, and they were supposed to bring out between 50 and 75 volunteers for this project. We planned this project for about a month based on that number. It was a one-day workload. You want to make sure everybody stays busy, and so you plan on that number. I assumed [that number would be accurate].

So when only 23 volunteers showed up, I was very shocked. Thankfully everybody on the staff had friends and families they could call so we got 20 to 30 extra people out there and we got the project finished in a timely manner, but it was eye-opening.​

We always have a contingency plan.

The Lesson:

I assumed right off the bat that if a group says 50 then 50 people are going to show up. And over the years I've learned that's just not the case. We've learned to prepare our projects: If we supposedly have a volunteer group of 50, set the project for 25 with extra things we can do if more people do show up.

It's that old adage – hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We prepare for half the people to show up, but we always have a contingency plan: If we have extra people, we'll add this thing to the project. If we have this many more, we'll add this. We have room to add. It's a lot easier to add than it is to take away because we've already told our clients we're going to do A, B, and C. When only enough people show up to do A, it makes us look bad.

We get a lot of corporate teams here in Las Vegas. They come in for a three-day conference and they want to do a day of service. They leave the conference at 4 p.m., maybe earlier, and then they go drink all night and they enjoy Las Vegas, as they should, and we're grateful for that. But they don't want to get up in the morning to come work on a project, and when they do come work on a project, they're pretty tired.

Looking back, now I know, especially when it's a corporate team from out of town, half is pretty normal.

Follow Rebuilding Together on Twitter at @NewsRTSNV.

Photo courtesy of Rebuilding Together

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email nryan@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for our newsletter at Crain's Las Vegas.