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The New Normal

The “new normal” means doing more with less, razor-thin budgets, exploring new specialties or niches, etc. How is your company adjusting to the new normal?

Cutting back staff and compensation.


We have focused our marketing efforts at medical construction by joining a new coop called Associated Medical Office Experts. Through our association with them, we have become preferred contractors at 3 hospital chains and counting, plus numerous other single doctors’ offices.

—Brad Hollett, President and Medical Office Expert, Accelerated Construction, Jacksonville, Florida

It’s hard competing with those without insurance, but general contractors are taking their bids to meet their budgets.


The “new normal” is actually business as usual. Over 24 years in the business and no one wants to do business with someone on the brink, so we just raised our prices and explain to our customers that we can’t compromise our products or payroll without sacrificing quality. Doing business with a company with “razor thin” budgets may risk the job quality they might get and/or the company may not be around for service or warranty issues. So “Business as Usual” is the “New Normal” here at Hydra Stone GL Basement Systems LLC.

—Scott Nordhoff, Owner, Nordhoff Basement Waterproofing, Hydra Stone GL Basement Systems LLC, Bedford, Indiana

We have to work “backwards” from the current market prices. The old “units” aren’t applicable anymore.

—William Dick, President, Bradleigh Applications, Inc., Columbia, Maryland

We are struggling … working with a spouse tends to put even more pressure on. Sales for 2010 were less than half of normal and with the profit margin so low in order to get jobs, we are in the red. We would need an investment in another salesperson for the mediator and need the sales to justify the expense. I feel we are in a catch 22??


The “new normal” means more national companies accept work that does not meet ASTM. These home builders are turning a blind eye to this inferior work until they get caught, and then blame the subcontractor. They know the cheap price they are getting is based on the inferior work they are accepting—stucco that is too thin, stucco that is sanded down, and lath that does not meet ASTM. Also, the ” new normal” means more people in purchasing for national homebuilders are getting a ” kick-back,” and quality work means less and less than the bottom line of these home builders or getting the purchasing agents’ pockets lined with a payoff. If you don’t believe me, do some research.


We have moved from design/building to solving construction and energy use problems/heat loss. Basically using decades of architecture/design/construction experience to raise the bar on energy efficiency to reduce use and create savings for home/building owners. (We are about to launch the first dustless/meshless drywall sander [patent pending], and have other energy saving product patents pending.)

—Richard Brunner, Owner, R. A. Brunner and Co./RKB D&C, Coatesville, Pennsylvania

We are doing a lot more work for less money.—Jay L., Connecticut
Glad January is here. High expectations? Hope so, the new normal is not good at all!!! It just may be the end of my 22 years in this business. Not a good feeling. Cut prices, stock discounts no easy way!!

—Dickinson Drywall, West Bridgewater, Massachusetts

The whole team being very accurate on all its responsibilities from office staff, field personnel and management, meaning instead of giving 100% of effort, we as a team give 150%.

—Rafael Martinez, President, Martinez Quality Drywall, Inc., Maywood, California

Getting rid of all debt, including home. Downsizing, including expectations.


I don’t think there is a “new normal” or any kind of normal anymore. The world (and our industry) changes too fast for anything to be around long enough to be called “normal” like we have known in the past. Our company is adjusting to the challenges that we face every day and will continue to as we move into the future. We look at change as Winston Churchill did: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

—Jason Gordon President/CEO Heartland Acoustics & Interiors Denver, Colorado

We have tightened budgets and installation costs to a bare minimum and still having trouble securing work. Competition has increased by as much as 60–70%. We have adapted to working smarter both in the office as well as in the field. Motivating labor is still a chore getting the field to get out of the mindset of working themselves out of a job.

—Greg Jacques, Chief Estimator, MK Marlow Co. LLP, San Antonio, Texas

For us, the new norm means being extra responsive from the moment a call comes in for a bid through completion of the project. We let the customer know we want the job and appreciate getting it. It means being less picky about what we bid and being more aggressive on finding solutions for problem jobs. A positive attitude needs to extend through every employee. There really isn’t much that’s normal nowadays. If you try to rely only on low price to get work, you won’t survive.

—Andy Ritter, Vice President, Pyramid Plastering Inc., Los Angeles, California

Not well. In this economy you have people working out of the back of a truck with no overhead, and it is very hard competing with that.—L.J., Estimator

We adapted to up-selling our jobs and taking care of our customers while assisting them with any projects they have. Having a connection with our customers allows us word-of-mouth advertising, thus giving us more contacts for potential jobs.—Anonymous

While it is important to “keep with the times” when it comes to pricing, design and other items related to construction and our clients- we are also dedicated to maintaining a quality product for a reasonable price. Razor thin budgets have costs us some jobs but we continue to explore tools and educate employees to increase productivity to help with project costs.

—Christine Barnhill, BillBar Construction, Inc., New Orleans, Louisiana

Slowly…. .


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