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What’s Ahead?

Just recently I returned from the CFA Fall Regional meeting in Hartford, CT. As your president, I am pleased to see we have many exciting projects and activities identified that are sure to continue building value to the membership. As a fellow contractor, however, I share with you a subject that is not quite as encouraging…the sagging market.

During any given CFA event, there are many “networking” discussions, most held “after hours” between a wide variety of members. This time, we seemed particularly centered on the common fact that most residential markets are significantly down over previous years. I don’t imagine this is any secret to those of you who battle these circumstances every day. What you may find surprising, however, is it always seems to help a little when you can share your experiences with others discovering that just maybe you’re not the only one and it isn’t because you are doing things wrong.

It never fails; when production levels are running high our customers seem to line up and in unison tell us that since their volumes are so good that we should be able to offer a better price – “We are giving you so much work you should be able to operate more efficiently” (which is builder-speak for cheaper). Since we all love to build foundations we usually succumb to their pleas, figuring out ways to cut costs and justifying this internally because we have more work…and that’s supposed to be a good thing, right?

Well, now that the cyclical markets are trending downward, is it all that surprising that the message from our customers is surprisingly similar – “We need for you to step up and share our pain”, “Since the workload is smaller the competition is hungrier”, “When everyone needs work this badly, you have to find a way to work cheaper” – Sound familiar?

So, we begin asking ourselves, “How in the world are we going to accomplish this?” We have already tightened the belt as much as we could when things were busy. Ready mix producers are already asking for next year’s price increase and all of our “good” help are expecting raises…(I’m not even going to mention fuel). Who is going to help us share in our pain? We have already read and implemented our “7 Habits”, we have figured out “Who Moved our Cheese”, and long ago we shifted from “Good to Great” What’s left?

What I’m most pleased to report, from Hartford is that for many of us, knowing that numerous others are in the same boat can be a very real help. Some of us have taken bold moves while others have implemented more conservative approaches to deal with today’s issues. I left Indianapolis feeling cornered; I left Hartford feeling encouraged knowing that I have friends and associates fighting the same battles. Their experience, wisdom, and insight has been very helpful. Irregardless of what direction you or I ultimately choose to take, the information that can be gleaned from colleagues is more valuable than anything that can be found in any bookstore. We’re not experts, we just try the little things and look for new ways taken from each other.

When times are a little harder and the talk is constantly about cutting costs and being more efficient, perhaps this is the time when it is most appropriate to invest more time and energy into the things that can make the biggest difference. Perhaps things like the CFA.

Brad Schrock, CFA President, Custom Concrete Company Inc.
bschrock@customconcrete.com

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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