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Diary of a Drywaller: Chapter 8

Mayan Seaside, Belize, July 2, 2018. Looking back, and considering what management has come to mean, if I were asked to define it in one sentence, I would define it as such: “Figure out what will go wrong unless someone intervenes, and see to it that it is prevented.”


As you well know, that isn’t a comprehensive, broad-based definition. You can’t do that in a single sentence. There are certainly other characteristics involved in management. But, if you can manage to routinely “prevent problems,” you are well within your rights to call yourself a manager.


“Figure out what will go wrong and prevent it.” That just about sums it up. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound quite right and in some ways its insufficient, perhaps a bit oversimplified, but that is my conclusion. Management, is all about problem prevention.


This kind of thinking seems negative to some. Maintaining a focus on avoiding negative impacts that management believe will occur unless they intervene doesn’t sound positive enough. They think of the approach as flawed. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. Nonetheless, it is the true manager’s mentality.


Somehow, in the midst of that endeavor called “problem prevention,” the manager must try to avoid getting on everyone’s nerves, meanwhile staying upbeat, jovial and so on.


What about this? What about that? How well are we keeping up with maintenance on our trucks and rigs? The weather is about to heat up. Make sure the workforce stays well hydrated. Do we have a good potable water supply on site? Make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water. Great topic for a safety meeting about now.


That kind of thinking bugs people, and I know it. But, it’s your job. Not bugging people, but maintaining foresight that is keen enough to see what others miss. Get in front of it and avoid a negative outcome.


All of us have three options: prevent problems, solve problems and or live with problems. I don’t want to do the latter, prefer the former and most certainly live somewhere between the two. But one thing is certain: I’d much rather prevent a problem than solve one or have one.


As long as our feet are fastened firmly to this planet, I suppose we can expect some combination thereof. We will find ourselves in one mode or the other—foreseeing a problem and avoiding it, solving that same problem and/or living with the consequences of that problem.


So then, in my opinion, problem prevention is the goal. That is where we want and need to be. Where we stay. That is the mode in which the management in our businesses needs to be, so we better be all about doing it personally and developing it in our management team. Right? Right!


But it can be nerve-wracking when your mind runs away with you, in hot pursuit, chasing down all of the what-ifs. Must we worry? No, it’s not worry. Worry is worthless. It never helped anyone. On the other hand, problem prevention, the keen insight I’ve mentioned, is slightly related in a productive sort of way.


The manager’s mind seems to scan. It stays out of the weeds and maintains the 10,000-foot, 360-degree view. Oversight. Upper management. Working its way through the maze. Looking down on that maze and providing guidance to those deep in the maze, “guidance” from a unique perspective. Enough of that for now. Let’s leave here, pondering that. Let’s go back to the beginning.


Spray Force, San Francisco Bay Area, July 1976. I stood at the counter. I was finalizing a transaction, the purchase of a T-150 spray rig, for the grand total of $3,500. I was feeling a bit of fear—healthy fear, I guess. Apprehensive. Justifiably so. I had no idea what I was in for.

I had passed my exam and was now a licensed contractor in the state of California. I was committing to the first of many business purchases and uncertain I could actually survive in business. No more paycheck. No boss, kinda sorta.

I later learned that once you are in business, you actually have all sorts of bosses; they’re called “customers.” However, at the time I was ignorant of that. You get the gist. I had no guarantee of income, and I was entering into the transition of becoming self-sufficient.

New business, new purchase, uncharted territory and only 24 years old. No one was backing me or mentoring me. It was just me—and that was scary. It was sink or swim.

Swim, I did. In a few short years I built a thriving business, only to lose it when the recession hit. But there was more to it than that. Much more …

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Contact him at

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