It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

— ATale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1859

Almost everybody knows the first dozen words in Dicken’s epic novel about the chaos leading up to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror in the late 1700s. If you read past those 12 words you find yourself thinking the world old Boz (the great author’s nickname—remember it as a frequent crossword answer) created is very much like our own, which is a bit scary.

It is often, but not always thus. For the last decade, the southern California construction market has been climbing out of the deep hole left by the 2008 Crash. Right now the problems facing our businesses have more to do with managing success than fighting for survival.

Staying Competitive

Does that feel weird? It doesn’t if you are over 30 because you’ve been up and down on the construction business roller coaster before. Our contractors are fighting to get and keep qualified people, to meet the very stringent air and water quality regulations that keep pouring out of Sacramento and still try to make a profit in this insanely competitive market.

I want to assure you that I am not Nostradamus or even a gypsy fortune teller, so I can’t tell you when our good times are going to go south, but we all know they will and we all have to be smart about what we do now.

So, the rules, for now, are simple. Don’t take work if you can’t make a profit on it. Bank as much profit as you can. Don’t overdo it with equipment purchases to comply with CARB rules, mostly because CARB is threatening to change the game…again. Remember the things you had to do to survive the last decade and compare your current operation to that template.

By Brendan Slagle, ECA President Email: [email protected]