153. Brett Lindell: Designing and Assembling a Breakthrough Business in Construction

Design & Assembly is the second pin (after Imagination) in the Economics For Business GPS system — the toolset to help entrepreneurs navigate their business environment. We talk to Brett Lindell, CEO of Pantheon Holdings (which includes Aegis Exteriors and Fortress Roofing) about his Design & Assembly approach that has helped him build a fast-growing business from scratch in the crowded, competitive, and demanding field of regional house construction. His advice: there are plenty of resources available; if you assemble the right resources to fit a system of assuring and delivering the best customer service, there’s a lot of growth to be harvested, whatever the industry.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

The entrepreneurial method uses currently available means to create the possibility of new future outcomes.

The entrepreneurial method is not to try to control outcomes but to put available resources to use to explore possibilities. Brett Lindell used the method for his business launching pad:

Who am I? Experienced as a US Marine, a college student and a corporate executive in learning, planning, doing, and relationship building.

What do I know? A lot. How Marine Corps plan complex missions, and how they train inexperienced young people to implement amidst on-the-ground chaos. How the system of a global corporation puts the highly engineered products of a worldwide manufacturing web in the hands of construction site workers equipped with nothing more than hammers to produce sturdy and beautiful houses. How sandy beaches and a good climate attract residents who want to buy homes.

Whom do I know? There are companies in the construction industry craving nothing more than simple, reliable good service — which is scarce. There are young people graduating college in my region with limited job prospects who are enthusiastic and highly trainable.

Controlled downside: The entrepreneurial method controls downsides, and doesn’t pretend to control outcomes. Brett’s controlled downside was public commitment to starting, with the consequent specter of public shame if he didn’t succeed, knowing he hated the very possibility of shame.

Design is the series of steps from idea to a working system.

Brett Lindell set out to design and assemble a system of systems to achieve his mission.

Geography/Market system: A magnet for homeowners (beaches, ocean, climate, beauty, great place to live) and therefore for developers and builders. Not dominated by cities and so the construction market is highly dispersed.

Labor resource system: Young people graduating college in the area face limited employment opportunities combined with high enthusiasm to stay in the area.

Organizational system: Integrate geography and labor resources via decentralized command that locates tools and decision-making autonomy in the hands of front-line customer-facing employees.

Service system: Basic research (talking to potential customers) revealed that the addressable market is for reliable service: answer the phone when they call, be on time for deliveries and appointments, keep the promises you make. Brett’s system is classic system design of simple rules: employees must (1) tell the truth, (2) pick up the phone when it rings, (3) return all phone calls, (4) customers in all directions — i.e., treat everyone like a customer and serve them as they want to be served whether they’re suppliers, colleagues, or anyone else in the system. (And for Brett, his employees are his most important customers.)

Rich knowledge encoding: Brett believes in handbooks — a belief he learned from the Marines. Handbooks encode all the knowledge of the firm on how to follow every process and implement every task. Every employee can thereby benefit from all the accumulated knowledge and experience in the firm, and the handbooks are continuously updated via new experiences and new knowledge.

Tech systems: In a relatively low-tech industry, Brett’s firm is a high-tech leader because he is always looking for and evaluating the latest technology for automation, work-reduction, and control. The technology can be in the form of apps or software or hardware, and is especially valuable when it can all be integrated together in end-to-end systems or sub-systems such as inquiry-to-order and order-to-cash. Technology integration for these sub-systems speeds up cash flow, reduces labor costs, and increases transparency, thereby enabling quick fixes and improvements. Brett would rather have too much technology than too little.

A plan: While planning can never predict or control the future, it can be an integrating theme for system design. Brett’s plans are a brief and compressed (one page) set of numbers, and those numbers are shorthand for a lot of detail. For example, if Brett’s company is to have the capacity to provide construction components and services for 50 homes in the current year and 500 the next year, then systems of procurement, logistics, sales and marketing, finance and technology must be designed to scale to handle more volume and more complexity without impeding growth. Time, resources, and personnel must be deployed appropriately.

Assembly embraces and harnesses the human element of the business system.

A system combined with the right people, suitably trained, and equipped, and with the right mindset, produces the right results. When individual employees are oriented to independent problem solving and autonomous goal-driven creativity rather than central planning, the firm can cope with — and, in fact, generate — dynamic change.

Brett has injected as much humanity as he possibly can. Seeing his hires get promoted and take leadership and realize personal goals is his greatest reward. He has created a family-friendly firm where people can get home to their kids before they go to bed, and take the family on vacation without worrying about the office or the job site, knowing that the system will manage the absence. He creates jobs and makes people’s lives better. That’s the entrepreneurial society.

Additional Resources

“Designing and Assembling a System for Entrepreneurial Growth” (PDF):

“The Entrepreneurial Method” (PDF):

Reach Brett at

131. Saras Sarasvathy On The Entrepreneurial Method

The scientific method has served us well to date. The entrepreneurial method, informed by the principles of Austrian economics, can take society much further. Dr. Saras Sarasvathy joins the Economics For Business podcast to distill the essence of the value-generating and wealth-producing method.

Download our knowledge graphic for the Entrepreneurial Method.

There is an entrepreneurial method — a systematic way to achieve the unpredictable.

The scientific method aims to discover universal laws that make the future predictable. If we have enough scientific understanding we can, for example, build bridges that we can predict will not collapse. We can construct an entire scientific infrastructure in our society.

The entrepreneurial method aims higher, at human flourishing. It aims at discovering how we can all work together to achieve our human purpose, including new purposes that we all agree are worth achieving. We can construct an entrepreneurial structure to build a better human life and a better society.

Entrepreneurs choose a control strategy that’s appropriate to uncertainty.

Some people fear entrepreneurship because its outcomes are uncertain. But this is worrying about the wrong things: outcomes are outside your control. Entrepreneurs are more discerning about what can be controlled: means.

Dr. Sarasvathy lists several control strategies:

The Bird-In-The-Hand Principle: work with what you’ve got and can control, which she sums up in the questions: Who Am I? What Do I Know? Whom Do I Know? What resources do I own or control now? This is the first principle of control.

Affordable Loss Principle: Entrepreneurs can control their downside, making it affordable and limiting uncertainty, by asking “What one value generation project would I undertake even if I risk losing everything I invest In it?”

Crazy Quilt Principle: How do entrepreneurs control the uncertain process of identifying the right partners, including hiring the right people? They don’t try to predict the results of hiring and pitching. Instead, don’t hire, don’t ask. Just talk to people — those who fit best will self-select into your project.

Lemonade Principle: Don’t fear the unexpected. Welcome surprises. All unexpected happenings are opportunities and can become resources. Leverage contingency, and make lemonade out of lemons.

The Pilot Is The Plane Principle: Everyone on the plane is a pilot, co-engaged in shaping history. The plane will reach a destination, the exact nature of which is unclear, and everyone on the plane contributes to getting there.

There are some guidelines that entrepreneurs have established over time.

Non-Predictive Action Is The Driver

Everything in the entrepreneurial method is driven by action. Or, more completely, action, interaction and reaction. Things you care about, things you can actually do, things we can do together, and how we handle surprises. Interacting with the environment with a sense of purpose, and thereby changing it in some way.

Even-If Thinking

Our aspirations and the outcomes we experience may not be symmetrical. Not succeeding is not the same as failing. Even if a new idea does not work out, what is the worst that can happen? We shouldn’t make decisions just because we can’t predict the future. Embrace the unpredictable but make sure the downside is under your control.


The great productivity of entrepreneurship comes from intersubjectivity — two or more people can interact and come up with something neither one had actually thought about or dealt with or considered or contemplated before. Intersubjectivity is more than interpersonal and beyond negotiation. It’s a question: “I am doing this. What do you think?”

The Entrepreneurial Method leads to social good and a new role for business in society.

A side effect of everyone in society learning the scientific method was the emergence of the middle class, defined by income. Science brought productivity which enabled a large swath of society to earn enough money to escape poverty. Everyone was able to harness science.

Let’s teach everyone the entrepreneurial method. Let everyone start companies, grow companies, invest in companies, all with no thought of prediction. A middle class of business will emerge, defined not by income but by venturing. This middle class will produce more jobs and more enduring, more stable companies, embedded in strong communities, with greater well-being and less churn. The fruits of creativity take root in endurance and durability — not in Schumpeterian creative destruction — and contribute to stability and the taking on of bigger challenges. Decade after decade, the middle class of business will generate value and produce wealth, employing lots of people and educating successive generations to take the entrepreneurial method with them into a better future.

Additional Resources

“The Entrepreneurial Method” (PDF): 

Among the innovations planned for the Economics For Business platform is a series of encapsulations of important research papers. Here is a sample:

“The World-Making Scope Of The Entrepreneurial Method — An Encapsulation” By Gabriele Marasti (Original paper: “The Middle Class Of Business”):

Some links:

Effectual Entrepreneurship (PDF):

“What Makes Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurial?” (PDF)

“Entrepreneurship As Method: Open Questions for an Entrepreneurial Future” (PDF):

What Is This Wonderful Institution We Call Entrepreneurship? It’s A Force For Social Good.

What exactly do we mean when we use the term entrepreneurship? The theoretical definition is the intentional pursuit of new economic value. Intentional means people – entrepreneurs – do it, either as individuals or teams or in an institutional setting like a firm, or a business or a corporation. Value means that there are other people who benefit as recipients, and become better off. Pursuit means that the people who conduct the process are not guaranteed a successful outcome every time, and may take a while to establish the right recipe and the best practice. New means continuous innovation and improvement for those recipients of value. And economic means it’s an ever more efficient use of the resources available to us, free from politics, that mean and vicious fight over dividing the pie that the entrepreneurs have so generously baked. 

Yet, beyond this definition that comes from economics, there is something even greater and more expansive. Entrepreneurship is a social force for good – the greatest such force that has emerged from the long and checkered history of civilization. And if we employ the entrepreneurial method that makes it a force for good, we can achieve greater and greater levels of community, collaboration and societal advance.

Innovation and improvement

To continuously improve people’s lives, we need new things. We need people to invent things that haven’t been thought of before. And we need innovators, people who improve those things and find new purposes for them or new ways of producing and distributing them. And we need entrepreneurship, the marshalling of resources to produce these better things faster and more efficiently and get them into more people’s hands.

Entrepreneurs are those unique people who organize the marshalling of resources, and who risk their own capital and their investors’ capital in this pursuit of a better future for all.

Cascading Development

When entrepreneurs undertake this act of discovery, and especially when they succeed, they trigger cascading development. One innovation and entrepreneurial initiative leads to another. They are all aimed at making people’s lives better – easier, more convenient, more affordable, more efficient. And, eventually, knowledge spreads, and people’s lives are transformed, so that Indian peasant farmers can check produce prices on their smartphone and get the best offer from the market. Development cascades from individual to individual, firm to firm, market to market and country to country. It’s never-ending improvement.

Long termism and ethical behavior

The outcome is long term uplift and benefit for all. Entrepreneurs are long term thinkers. They are focused on the lifetime of their company and their products, and perhaps to passing them on to the next generation. (Politicians are the opposite – they can only think in election cycles.)

Entrepreneurs don’t want to just make a short term profit and then leave the market. They want long term revenues and long term profits. That means creating reliable, returning customers who love the entrepreneur’s product. That requires delighting those customers, serving them impeccably, never letting them down or breaking a promise. There are few, if any, institutions that are constituted in this way.

This long termism is ethical. Entrepreneurship is ethically driven.


A small firm can trade on a global stage, and if they can, they will. It’s easier than ever before in the digital era. New and better ideas quickly spread around the world. But it has always been the case, since the earliest of times. Politicians establish borders to divide people, and then violate them in invasions and wars. Entrepreneurs see no borders between people. Political borders can’t divide markets. 

Social good

Entrepreneurship achieves more for social good than any other institution. Entrepreneurial innovation in goods and services enhances life and opens up new possibilities. Customers flock to entrepreneurs because of the tremendous service they deliver. The constant improvement delivered by entrepreneurs constitutes civilizational progress. The competitive pressure to improve quality and utilize resources more efficiently generates more and more value for the world. 

It’s an error to see business as extractive – extracting and using up resources. Business is generative, putting life-changing inventions at the disposal of the global population. What’s seen is the dirt and smoke left over from mining or manufacturing. What’s not seen, and often unappreciated, is the huge amount of good that comes into the world via entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is the application property rights at every scale

It’s another error to think of entrepreneurship as small business or young and immature business. Ray Kroc of McDonald’s was a great example of an entrepreneur who worked out how to operate a hamburger restaurant at global scale with continuous improvement. Entrepreneurship requires property rights; people need to have control over their property in order to transform it into marketable innovations and services. But that does not limit the scale of entrepreneurship. Property rights are a principle that supports global scaling.

The entrepreneurial method

Probably the best way to define entrepreneurship is as a process or a method. It’s akin to – and as important to civilization as – the scientific method, but different. They both involve trial-and-success, coming up with ideas and testing them. The scientist tests against reality, looking for a law, a repeatable outcome that will never vary. The entrepreneur tests against consumer approval, looking for acceptance that might be repeatable until conditions change, such as new competition arriving. Entrepreneurs can’t predict the future as scientist can, and they can’t exert control in the form of unchanging laboratory conditions. Yet they still are challenged to build  a business that lasts.

Can we nurture this institution?

Yes. In school, via literacy and entrepreneurially-oriented education, teaching young people about profit, and uncertainty and the requirement for supportive environmental elements such as property rights and flexible labor laws, and the value of trying multiple different initiatives before discovering a winning proposition. We might not be able to teach successful entrepreneurship, but we can create the conditions for learning.