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January 22, 2012 9:10 AM CST

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

Contractor tip of the month


To ensure survival, the toughest must stand up to the challenge like never before.

To ensure survival, the toughest must stand up to the challenge like never before.
In 27 years in the masonry business, we have only had to work three Sundays, and two of them have them have occurred in the last month. After not having to physically lay brick for years, our project managers were toughing it out while laying brick right next to the field employees on these Sundays. And guess what? I was laying brick right next to my project managers. If there is one thing the slower economy has done for those who still have a job at our companies, it has put us all to work, not only many extra hours a day and weekends but also, “physically.” When you are under the gun, it doesn’t matter if it is Sunday or if it is a holiday. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Thanksgiving Day, I awoke to the constant ringing of the phone. I thought to myself, “Who would be calling me on Thanksgiving morning?” It turns, out we had an emergency. Howard Offenberger, who helps me with property management, called to tell me he’d just gotten a call from the people who are renting a major facility of ours to inform him that the facility was on fire. When we got to the scene, there were fire trucks everywhere with 50 or more fire fighters trying to get the massive fire under control.

Standing there, seeing something you put your heart and soul into engulfed in flames, is devastating to say the least. In the midst of the rubble, I was talking to the fire chief and the people who were renting the facility about what to do next. Then, I turned around and saw Doug (my CFO) and Howard both on the phone making calls for advice and directing others on what to do next. Having these guys by my side at that moment was a tremendous feeling as I knew I wasn’t alone.

The decision of these managers to help deal with a disaster on Thanksgiving Day must have been an easy one for them, as I suppose they felt it was just part of their responsibilities to be there. To me, it meant a lot more. They were toughing it out, right alongside me.

During these trying economic times, one thing has really stood out at our companies: To ensure we survive, the toughest of our managers have stood up to the challenge like never before. When I arrive at the office at 6 a.m., project managers are already there, planning and scheduling their crews to insure no stones are unturned as they know how tight margins are.

After 6 p.m., these and other managers often are still there, working to cover for the lack of staff we have due to the economic conditions we are in. Some work weekends without being asked to do so, in order to stay on top of an increased workload. These are all tough guys and gals who dig in their heels and do whatever it takes to come out on top.

If you have owned or managed a business the last few years, you know how hard it is to wake up in the morning with a good attitude about conditions that are mostly out of your control. In fact, I’ll bet there have been a lot of issues that have come your way that you never had to deal with in the past. Each issue builds on the stress owners and managers already have on them.

Look around to see who is stepping up to the plate with you, and remember what they are doing to insure survival. Make sure they know you appreciate what they do to help you. These people are true backbone of your company.

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 or 740-749-3512.


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