Concrete Progress: Turn three solutions

Gerald F. Voigt, P.E. / November 24, 2009

It’s no secret these are trying economic times in which we are now living. Many people have called this prolonged and persistent recessionary cycle the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. “Do more with less” is the reality that we are all facing on a daily basis. Despite these sometimes difficult current realities, it is important to guard against the unintended consequence of pulling in the reins so much that customers and suppliers of products and services become isolated and even polarized. Businesses need each other in any industry community. No one does business alone. A loss of institutional knowledge and expertise, and even a breakdown in the faith and confidence that exists among stakeholders, would take years to overcome.

There are no simple answers to these challenges, but we humbly offer three solutions that we hope will preserve, and possibly strengthen, your bottom line and your business relationships while you navigate your way through these times:

Keep the lines of communication open. Let’s face it, it is not just you. Everyone is busy these days, and chances are they are not only working hard at their jobs, but each person also is carrying the extra weight of having to tackle more issues. It is important to stay in contact and to share information with people who have similar interests and likely are facing similar challenges. They may very well provide the idea or solution you need. Chances are they (and you) will benefit from a well-timed phone call, e-mail or visit, especially if that contact is aimed at some problem solving;

Invest in continuing education and training. Often one of the first business expenses cut in tough times is employee training, but this is a practice that definitely costs a business more in the long run and may affect the short term too. It is common experience that well-trained employees improve a business’ efficiency and effectiveness. The benefits of training may even be greater in tough times when each decision carries more impact. While no technology-based training can beat forums where experts can personally transfer the latest technology and share best practices, they can give your employees valuable information at a fraction of the cost of traditional training courses. One- or two-hour webinar formats and self-directed online training allow participants to fit training into their busy daily work requirements without the time or expense of traveling to a training venue; and

Put your industry association to good use. As an association professional for more than 20 years, I realize that the value a business derives from an association is in direct proportion to its level of participation in the organization’s activities. Trade and professional associations unite companies and organizations that have common interests and needs. Especially now when the economic climate limits business opportunities, we encourage you to increase your involvement, not step back. We encourage you to be well represented in actions that will directly influence the paving materials, equipment, specifications, design requirements and construction best practices that define your opportunities for new business.

No economic cycle lasts forever, and the challenging times of today will give way to a cycle of growth. While we all anxiously await more signs of recovery, let’s not forget that now, more than ever before, we need each other in this industry community.

About the Author

Voigt is president and chief executive officer of the American Concrete Pavement Association, Skokie, Ill.