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Challenges Ahead

I am just getting my feet wet as president of the Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries—International, but already I see exciting challenges for me and the association on the near horizon. I mentioned some of the issues last month. Now, I’d like to add a few comments.

As I see it, one of the key management problems concerns the contracts we sign. We are putting our signatures to documents that tie us to an inordinate number of responsibilities. And we do it just to get the job. Frankly, I don’t think that limiting our liability to our own negligence is asking too much. To achieve this goal, we have to sit down with the two national general contractor associations and try and work out our differences. If we can’t come to a consensus, than we may have no option but to go to our legislators and ask them to level the playing field. Watch for things to happen on this front over the next year.

Another issue I feel has to be addressed deals with labor brokers. A number of brokers don’t pay payroll taxes or insurance on their pool of workers, which is often made up of foreigners. Consequently, contractors that don’t hire through brokers can’t compete on price. So what do we do? Start by lobbying our government to create laws that ensure brokers pay their fair share of tax and insurance.

Overall, I’m optimistic that our industry will continue to do well—at least in the short term. Prices of materials and fuel are rising, and we may face more difficult times over the first two quarters of 2005, but I don’t see the economy crashing.

Nonetheless, I think this is a good time to be a bit cautious and a time to keep borrowing habits in check. Every contractor should put some sort of business plan into writing and review it with their management team on a regular basis—possibly weekly or even daily. It could make a big difference to their bottom line.

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