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Letter from the Director: We’ve Learned Our Lessons – and Now We Are Stronger

This month’s letter from the CFA Executive Director:

We’ve Learned Our Lessons – and Now We are Stronger

CFA Executive Director Ed Sauter,

CFA Executive Director
Ed Sauter,

Another winter is on its way but otherwise things are heating up in the residential concrete industry. Growth is slower than we would like to see but the trend is there. Credit is tighter (as it should be) but the inventory of underwater homes is dwindling. Attitudes – and that is really what has been holding us back the most – have changed. People have gone from cautious hope to optimism. We aren’t where we were 6-7 years ago and will likely never get there again but slow, steady growth is far better than the boom or bust cycles we have been through.

So what will be the new paradigm? The bad times eliminated many marginal operations (as well as some very well managed ones). You likely flushed out many of your poor practices and underperforming personnel. To put it as one contractor said, ”Why waste a good recession.” Nearly everyone cut their business overhead to the bones during the recession. They entered new business areas and performed work outside their specialties in order to make ends meet. This will make their businesses stronger in the long term.

I have made several observations during those times. Perhaps you have seen these also but they bear repeating none-the-less:

  1. Continue to diversify and retain those new markets you entered to survive.  There will continue to be hiccups as the economy ramps up. Diversify and grow.
  2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That adage has never been truer.  Do not get to the point where 1 or 2 customers control your destiny.  It gives them too much control over your schedules and prices – and what if something happens to that company?
  3. Lean on your peers. That is one area where the CFA comes in, providing venues, connections, and dialog to solve your problems and find out what works and what doesn’t.
  4. Educate yourself. Again, the CFA offers numerous opportunities to learn and grow.  The CFA Summer Meeting continues as the premier resource for educational content specific to your core businesses.
  5. Embrace Technology. There are still a few of you out there who operate with paper and a telephone – and don’t get me wrong, those are still good – but your customers of the future are very tech savvy. They get their news and entertainment; they shop and research their products on the internet. If you aren’t there, you WILL be left behind. CFA will continue to be at the forefront in delivery of content, information, and connections for our members through the internet.

I’m sure there are other lessons learned I haven’t listed above. If you have ideas, send them to Jim or myself. We are all impatient to see a return to profitability but a “boom” would simply allow many people to start businesses that should perhaps wait before they take the plunge. A slower growth trend will keep some of that in check. Take this time to fine tune your business model, set realistic goals, and prepare for what comes ahead – whatever that might be.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us