Know Where You’re Going or End Up Where You’re Headed

Marc Duncan, CEI

January 2005

The opnions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of AWCI, its officers or members. Send your responses to porinchak@awci.org for publication in a future issue.

How many times have you said, "Darn! I wish I saw that coming"'? Probably more often if you are one of the many uninitiated zombies. Do you naively assume that our markets go where they may and we as contractors have no influence? I used to be one of those naive zombies. I thought, "If we mind our own business and do the best job we can every day, then it will all work out because the actions of others are beyond our control, but they also will not hurt us."

In 1996, in Wilmington, N.C., the inevitable occurred: The EIFS market imploded. Many saw the "Big Bang" coming but left it to those who were causing the problems. We stood by and watched as the ship of rats sank. We saw the very people who caused the problems change anthems, fly new flags, then eventually get out of the EIFS business. We saw the parade of lawyers and self-proclaimed experts seeking fortunes. We watched suppliers and contractors cower as the builder associations fired up their "escape goat tanks" and rolled on. There was nothing we could do, and it hurt us all.

In picking up the pieces from the disaster, we know there were three stopping points of the implosion: education and open dialogue, control the materials and a presence of organization (power) to stop the builders from pointing fingers. All three stopping points required action before the disaster. Thanks to the members of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry and the manufacturers, we have a post-disaster, rebuilding plan in place. But, how could these stopping points have been realized and put in place? Who should have taken the initiative?

Another battle is mold. There is a very well initiated plan in place to educate and open dialogue, control the materials and provide a presence of organization (power) to direct the finger-pointing. But who is taking this initiative?

What other battles lay waiting? How about immigrants? The economy needs them-always has and always will. Thanks to the border patrol, there have been plenty of them. But what should we do with them after the party and for the long haul? Send them back? Maybe ignore them, and hopefully they will go away? The AFL-CIO tried it in 1986 but has since reversed its position to embrace them. What about keeping them under your thumb for as long as possible? Then what? Will they come back to bite off your hand? Will they start their own business and destroy the market by circumventing the system and with labor subbing, bad pricing, poor quality workmanship and improper insurance and tax reporting?

Three camps of thought seem to have formed: Ignore them, keep them down or embrace them. What about embracing them? We could welcome them, indoctrinate them, and create partners and allies that work within the system. After all, this method worked for the United States in Japan and Germany. The Catholic Church has done well with this policy too. But such a plan would take education and open dialogue, control of the materials and a presence of organization (power) to drive the agenda to the market. But who should take the initiative?

There are other potential implosions developing: inconsistent design details and specifications, EIFS suppliers selling directly to general contractors, insurance, active versus passive fire suppression, paper versus fiber face, safety, certified mechanics versus a labor-driven free-for-all, etc. The time to put stops in place is now. Develop a plan to educate and open dialogue, control the materials and provide a presence of organization (power). How? Get involved with AWCI, because if you don't know where you're going, you'll end up where you're headed.

About the Author
Marc Duncan, CEI, is general manager of Dundee Company in Raleigh, N.C. He also is a founding member of AWCI of the Carolinas, AWCI's newest chapter.