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Letters to a General Superintendent (Part 18)

What follows is the 18th letter in a series of letters supposedly written by an owner (Jack Owployer) in response to a general superintendent’s (Joe Gensup) request for something more than the typical job description. Though the company had provided a generic job description, what the superintendent needed and received was much more personal and heartfelt when compared to the sterile notion of do’s and don’ts so commonly emphasized throughout our industry.

Dear Joe:

It’s been a while since I’ve touched on this topic, and it’s well worth revisiting. It is oftentimes referred to as R&R, an acronym for “Rest & Relaxation,” and is also most certainly a part of your job description.


Though this topic might not fit the cookie-cutter concept of a job description, it ought to be a prerequisite for employment. Hold that thought. I’ll elaborate on it momentarily.


It so happens, I’m writing you from a beachfront villa in Belize. That setting could have been left unmentioned, but sharing it underscores the essence of my message.


Hidden behind the punctuation and paragraphs lurks a yearning temptation to stop typing, set my iPad down and steal a glance—better yet, stare at the sheer magnificence of my surroundings. I find myself inevitably distracted by the sights and sounds unique to an environment as close to paradise as anywhere on earth.


For the time being, my only interruption is the rare sound of an occasional coconut thump, pouncing a dimpled imprint in a puff of sand, and the screech of a howler monkey. I am far, far away, right where I need to be, completely removed from the pounding of hammers, grinding squeal of a screw gun or the sparkling slice of a chop saw.


This is what it takes for me to completely unwind and escape the relentless repetition, the daily duties of a drywall contractor. For my money, this is priceless. It’s exactly the R&R I want, need and simply have to have, at a regular interval. The more often, the better.


A close friend and fellow contractor who has long since passed away once gave me some good advice: “Take a long weekend a month and also a work-week sandwiched in between two weekends, giving yourself 10 consecutive days off, each quarter. Do it routinely. You’ll be better off for it. Nobody finds themselves on their death bed wishing they had spent more time at the office or job site.” I’ve never forgotten that. It’s well worth remembering. Take it to heart.


That said, let’s circle back to my opening comment about R&R being part of your job description. Hopefully my long lost friend’s advice and my personal example, will make what I have to say next, all the more relevant.


Having doubled our workload year over year has required us to work long hours as well as several successive seven-day workweeks. Such demands—the stress of deadline after deadline, the labor shortage, apprentice training and the constant demand to do more and more with less—became unbearable at times.


Though doing more with less is always a goal and usually a worthy one, at times it becomes nothing more than a very clever catchphrase. Sometimes the only way you can be certain to do more is with more.


In our zeal to get more done with less, both you and our workforce were pushed to the brink of exhaustion. Inevitably, morale as well as work quality drops. At that point, doing more with less is no longer productive; it becomes counterproductive.


The late Stephen Covey reminded us of that with Habit #7, “Sharpen the saw,” in his worldwide best-selling book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” I know you know that. Our top management were all fortunate enough to attend his workshops.


You’ve probably heard some not-so-veiled criticisms of managers who consistently falls short when they’re not on their game. Someone interfacing with such management types might make the snide remark, “They aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed,” when all the while, perhaps all they need is to simply take the time to “sharpen the saw.”


If you don’t maintain the right life/work balance, both will suffer. A life/work balance is a critical part of your job description, and that requires R&R. Yes, I expect you to work hard—and you do. To balance that, you must also play hard. Work hard, play hard. You must rejuvenate. You must sharpen the saw.


Carefully consider the analogy—it’s a dandy! And take yourself a well-deserved break when I get back.


That’s a wrap!


Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at

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