Volume 42, Issue 6 - June 2007

the Aluminum Citings
What Matters Most
Things Move Fast; Slow Down and Consider …
by John B. McClatchey Jr.

What was it that happened in March? April? Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of work. There was an abundance of quoting and bids to get out but there also seemed to be a bit of a lull in terms of actual orders and jobs that were in progress. This happens every year. Then, traveling with my rep in New York, Stephen Goodwin, we saw it pick up drastically in a few days time. A lull in the work is a time to reflect on some things. Here are a few things that have been on my mind.

Jobsite Concerns
In the architectural metal business, we are under a lot of pressure. Sealing a building is the last job done before it is inhabitable, and while the time a glazier has to do the job may shorten, the completion date remains. 

If, for instance, the HVAC or the masonry contractor falls behind or has some unforeseen issue arise, it doesn’t change the finish date, but it may impede the glazier. Perhaps you, the glazier, had bid the job with a certain timeframe in mind for completion. Maybe you even added in a little extra time (who doesn’t need it?). Well, if there’s no building structure to which you can attach the panels or brake metal, there’s not much more to do than wait. 

Field dimensions can also be a problem. Once you have these you can finally begin ordering or fabricating the metal. It would be nice to have everything ready and waiting, but this is not likely. Instead, you’re getting bombarded with pressure because the building is not sealed, even though it’s not your fault. If you are lucky, your customer is deflecting the pressure from the owner. Unfortunately, you get most of the blame for buildings not opening on time. There’s little that can be done about it except grow thicker skin. It is what it is.

Staying Busy
We’ve all heard the question: “How long is this boom going to last?” Our company just opened a distribution facility in Northern California. There’s work out there. The thing is, there’s work everywhere right now. Everywhere there are glazing contractors booked through 2008. 

Usually with more work comes more money. There are two philosophies on what to do with increased income. First, you may decide that the cash coming in right now might not be there in the future. You decide to save it, anticipating a time where not as much work is in progress. That is the safe route. 

Still, if you want to grow, you need to take chances. So, when times are good, you may decide to invest that cash into expansion. The risk is looming but the rewards can be too enticing. The idea is that you invest in growth so that when the next lull comes, you are able to provide a product or service that will give you an edge over your competition. 

Construction Reptiles 
The last thing on my mind is reps. Jason Meuse, a rep for my company, jokingly calls them “reptiles.” It’s good for a laugh, but it is far from the truth. In the territories I call on, I have manufacturer’s representatives in eight states. They do a great job and the company wouldn’t be where it is without them. 

There can sometimes be a negative stigma attached to sales people, but every company needs them. I would not be able to give the attention that I would like to all of my customers if I didn’t have reps. All of my reps, Stephen and Justin Goodwin and Jason Meuse, have addressed complaints as well. Say, for example, that I’m making sales calls in Milwaukee and I have a freight complaint in Hartford, Conn. Thank goodness I can call Jason or Justin and they can function as my eyes and ears at that location. They quite literally represent us whenever we’re needed. So, to all you reptiles, thank you.

Looking Forward
As my father said last week: “buckle up.” The economy is strong and there is new construction everywhere. There is enough work to go around, so be equitable and competitive. Beware of lead times. They can change quickly. Please don’t put anything off. If you put something off for a day, it could mean weeks to the completion of the job. Lastly, reflect. At the end of the day, go home, kiss your spouse, play with your kids, pet your dog, feed the cat, kick off your shoes, take a deep breath and relax. Life is short. 

The Author: John B. McClatchey Jr. is an account manager and third generation owner at Southern Aluminum Finishing Co. and SAF Metal Fabrication in Atlanta. Mr. McClatchey’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine. His column appears quarterly. 

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.