September25

October 2014 – Chess Instead of Checkers

By, Tony Shepley

History has an incredible way of repeating itself. As much as every generation thinks it is sailing new directions into undiscovered and uncharted waters, most everything we do has been done before, and probably more than once. Banker and Tradesman’s September 17th headline read “Builder Confidence Hits Highest Level Since November 2005”. That folks, is just one month shy of 9 years! Usually, that’s more  the length of time that the good times last than the bad, yet this time around it is the time between the beginning and the end (we hope!) of the worst Recession of our lives.

If you want to entertain yourself with how many times the United States has teetered on the brink of financial ruin, read Empire of Wealth by John Steele Gordon, because it chronicles how many times this country has come close to, but always survived economic calamity. Actually, it celebrates how resilient we have been and what an incredible economic engine we have created. To go from a loosely organized group of colonies to the greatest economic power the world has ever known, in less than 200 years, is incredible. The key ingredients have been ingenuity, diversity, and flexibility.

Today, as we emerge from what we call the Great Recession, it is no less important to maintain our ingenuity, diversity, and flexibility. This goes for individuals, companies, institutions, and our country. What has helped us succeed is the spirit of innovation and a passion for growth and change.

When I was a kid, Hertz was the number one in rental cars. Their motto was , not surprisingly, “We’re number 1”. However, I remember admiring their closest rival, Avis, for their motto “We try harder”. No question who sounded like they would work for your business. No question which company sounded like they were ready to rest on their laurels. 2014 is far from a time to rest.

This is a very exciting time in our industry and in our businesses. Liz Kovach, who runs our Estimating Department, recently said, “For the past 6 or 7 years, we’ve all been playing checkers, now we finally will get to start playing some chess” . Well said Liz!

If we’re paying attention, we won’t wait around for things to get easier, we’ll prepare ourselves to get more competitive. We won’t hope to do less, we’ll look forward to being able to do more, to plan, to execute, to improve, and to push forward. We will get more efficient, because when we get busier, we have to.

Winning at chess means thinking a number of moves ahead. So does winning at business. This year has been one of change for us at Shepley. We have brought in new staff, worked on training programs to bring along new hires, re-arranged virtually everything in the Hyannis yard for the sake of ease and efficiency, brought new equipment on line, and with all this extra work, have seen our morale shine. People have been saying repeatedly that we have never had a better group of people at Shepley. Going forward, we are working on some additional staffing in Wellfleet and Nantucket, and a new facility on Nantucket. We are committed to better tools, better training and better results. We’re happy to have come through a recession that has taught us all plenty of lessons…the hard way, but has given us those lessons to learn from. Let’s not waste any of them!

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