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  • Nonresidential Construction Index Rises, Comes with Struggles

    The Nonresidential Construction Index from FMI, an organization offering management consulting, investment banking and people development services to the engineering and construction industry, raised by two points in Q1. This normally is a positive economic sign. However, construction companies are facing the challenge of having enough people to keep up with increasing backlogs, warns Phil Warner, researcher for FMI.

    The engineering and construction executives that comprise the NRCI panel are strongly optimistic about both the economy and their businesses. The diffusion indexes for the overall economy and the geographic economies where individual panelists do business rose more than six points, reaching 78.

    The report discusses owners’ views on expectations for 2015 Construction Put In Place, top business challenges for 2015 and employment trends. Lack of a skilled workforce was among the top concerns. Other comments express some political angst. One panelist expressing, “Need a federal highway bill!” A different panelist says, “Another challenge is the increasing regulatory burdens placed on our clients and in turn our business. Some projects are taking almost two years to clear local planning hurdles. By the time the project is approved, budgets are obsolete, and the project may not be feasible.”

  • April 2015: Contractor Tip of the Month

    Finding (Thinking) a Way to Let the Good Times Roll

    By Damian Lang

    It doesn’t matter if you are winning playing cards, making a three-pointer in basketball, bidding work and getting it, or running a profitable business: When things are going good, it seems you can’t lose. When things are going bad, it seems you can’t win.

    It was the height of the recession, when I took a phone call from a contractor friend. He told me how much bad luck he was having in his business. He had very little work, was losing money, and had to make cuts everywhere, including laying people off. “Man, I am stressed out. I just can’t seem to win,” he confessed.

    I knew he was struggling like most of us in the construction business, but I also knew he built a nest egg when things were good, and still had it.

    “You’re in great shape, congratulations.” I said. He replied, “It sure doesn’t feel like it.”  I said, “Wait until you hear the circumstances I have been living the last couple years.”

    I went on to tell him that sales at my manufacturing company dropped from a $1 million per month to $230,000, virtually overnight. (It took $600,000 per month to break even.) My masonry contracting business had $3 million worth of work canceled. The managers and estimators at Watertown Steel took on $2.5 million in work at an average of 50 percent below costs to stay busy.

    Between all companies, a good month meant losing $100,000, a bad one $200,000 plus. As well, I spent my nest egg up keeping the companies afloat. He said, “Man, I don’t know how you sleep at night.” Stealing a line I heard from a Coke Cola executive, I told him, “I sleep like a baby. I am up every hour crying.” He got a charge out of that!

    Then, I painted a picture for him explaining how great things were going to be for my companies in the future. He said, “You are one crazy *&%$^; could you possibly believe everything is going to work out that way?” I told him I had to find a way to “Let the Good Times Roll” again.

    I had been listening to self-improvement CDs, all dealing with staying positive. I have always turned to these CDs during difficult times of my career. One of my favorites is The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles. Wattles teaches that our thoughts are the secret to our success.

    Therefore, you must think and believe you have already succeeded in getting what you want, before success will be attracted to you. For example, to lose weight, you must believe you are already thin. Your thoughts of being thin will create the ability in your brain to develop habits that will make you thin. Regarding debt, if you want to become debt free, you must think and believe you are already debt free.

    I was down to within a few weeks of being able to make payroll. How the hell was I going to believe I had no debt, to make it go away? I listened and followed the directions Wattles taught in the CDs. I imagined things were fine and just kept on working with the best attitude I could. Wattles also teaches that one must begin to do ALL that you can do where you are…the very best thing you can do for the whole world is to make the most of yourself.

    A few days later, I got a message from my CFO that the bank had approved the $750,000 loan we applied for to provide us working capital to continue operations. From that time, with the exception of one of the companies, which has since been shuttered, we have been on a roll with sales going from $13 million to more than $24 million in 2014. Not to mention, back to being profitable the last few years.

    Is this turnaround due to listening to those CDs and applying specific thoughts? I can’t say for sure. I do believe that if I would not have applied them, kept positive, negating all can’t-win thoughts, it isn’t likely our companies would have survived the Great Recession.

    Many of the authors and speakers I turn to teach that you create your own destiny, through your thoughts. This is evident in the successful people I meet in my travels. I have yet to meet one that is wildly successful, that doesn’t have a positive outlook about the current state of being, along with what they believe their futures will bring to them.

    That brings us back to where I started. “When things are going good, it seems you can’t lose. When things are going bad, it seems like you can’t win.” Think about it!

    Damian Lang owns and operates four companies in Ohio. He is the inventor of the Grout Hog-Grout Delivery System, Mud Hog mortar mixers, Hog Leg wall-bracing system and several other labor-saving devices used in the masonry industry. He is the author of the book called “RACE—Rewarding And Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry.” He writes for Masonry Magazine each month and consults with many of the leading mason contractors in the country.

    All rights reserved, © 2015 Damian Lang, President of Lang Masonry Contractors, Inc., and EZ Grout Corp

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