When the right opportunity appears, grab it while you have the chance
Contractor tip of the month
By Damian Lang
In the book, “The Warren Buffet Way,” Buffet explains that, during your lifetime, there will be very few great opportunities that will present themselves to you. When one does, you must “grab it while you have the chance.”
I spend a lot of time nosing about the masonry/construction/manufacturing business worlds. I take the time to attend affiliated dinners, meetings, peer groups, seminars, workshops, classes, conferences, outings and shows. I meet new people and learn new things. As well, I golf, fish, fly, eat, hunt and drink, all in the pursuit of growth.
Back in 2009, I was walking the ConExpo show floor in Las Vegas. The ConExpo is like a giant show-and-tell for grown-ups in the construction industry. Showcased are products and technologies for anything construction related. Placed in a straight line, it would stretch into miles of steel, rubber and plastic. It was there that I came across Lifline Inc., a company that builds safety equipment. The main product is a tall, slender, steel mobile machine used as a support system that workers wearing safety harnesses are tied to when they are working atop airplanes, trucks, bulldozers, buildings or other surfaces. Basically, when there is no other structure above head to which the worker can be tied, it steps in to save him, should he fall.
Intrigued, I talked to Ted Wilkinson, inventor of the machine and owner of the company. I told him I might be interested in purchasing one of the units, as it could be handy in situations whereby my employees are working with nothing above them to which they could hook their safety harnesses. Ted explained in detail how the unit worked, and the advantages of owning one. I told Ted that I owned a manufacturing facility that built equipment. That led to Ted saying that he was having his equipment built by another manufacturer, but may be interested in talking to us about building it for him. A couple months later, after a few meetings, my company was building the equipment for Lifline.
That was more than five years ago. If you read last month’s Contractor Tip, you know I wrote about making the difficult decision to shut down one of my companies after years of struggling to make money. A person would have to be nuts to go through starting a company, losing his tail, feeling embarrassed and agonized, shutting it down, and then promptly starting a new one, right? Well, within 30 days of shutting down Watertown Steel, I bought Lifline Inc. Therefore, I must be nuts!
Wait a minute! Before you think I jumped off the deep end: When the right opportunity presented itself to buy Ted and his partner’s company, Lifline, I “grabbed it while I had the chance.” Let me explain some of the differences between the company that I just shut down, and the one I just started.
- Instead of worrying about our people falling from 30 feet in the air, we catch those who may fall from 30 feet in the air, potentially saving lives (a different approach for sure)
- Margins on the products we will build and sell are good in the safety equipment industry (remembering the slim industry margins in which the company I just shut down was operating)
- There are barriers to entering the safety industry and, therefore, less competition
- The safety industry is large and growing rapidly
- We know the product well, as we were already building Lifline’s equipment
- We will take a layer out of the food chain – no EZG to Lifline, and then Lifline to the distributors but, rather, a straight shot – EZG to distributors
- The equipment fits well with our current line of products and distribution
- As a plus, Ted is staying on board, and working with EZ Lifline to help take the company to new heights.
About the Author
Damian Lang is a mason contractor in southeast Ohio and inventor of many labor saving masonry systems and products. Lang has served as the Marketing Committee Chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America. He is also author of the book Rewarding and Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry. To network with Damian on contractor tips or tips you have and would like published, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-749-3512.