Contractor Tip Of The Month: The King of the Mountain Doesn’t Get to Stay on Top Very Long

Words: Damian Lang

Damian Lang

Do you remember when you were a kid playing King of the Mountain or something similar? The name of this childhood game varies, but the rules are pretty much the same everywhere. Everyone starts at the bottom of a hill, then upon a signal, everyone races to the top.  However, getting to the top first does not guarantee victory. The winner is the kid who stays on top even when the others try to push or pull the “king” down. And when the king goes down, someone else moves into the top spot and tries to protect that turf.  The winner is the “king” who manages to stay at the top when everyone else eventually gives up.  I played King of the Mountain often with my brothers and neighborhood friends who would stop by our house. I did not win a lot at first, but neither did anyone else. After one particularly rough takedown, I sat on my behind at the bottom of the hill and just watched the other players. It dawned on me that if players used only their physical strength, they did not stay on top very long.  The next time we played, I “borrowed” some tricks from the previous game’s king. I learned the most effective technique was running back and forth from atop the hill, taking on one challenger at a time instead of two or three at once, then quickly returning to the top. The success in my childhood game provides the essence of this month’s tip: the most important secret to staying on top.  One thing is for sure. Getting to the top in your profession and staying on top are two different challenges. The path to the mountaintops of our success today is more complex than the grass meadows of our youth. We must pull through all the small and great challenges that try to knock us down as we seek success on the job, in the office, and even in our personal lives. In these complex times, the challenges to the top can be financial, technical, or even social.  So here’s the secret. Everything I know, I learned from someone else. Rather than pushing through on strengths, I “borrowed” tricks from other successful people. When you think about it, everything you know, you learned from someone else. As for the lessons from the “kings” of my youth, I know that if I do the same things successful people have done in their businesses, I can get the same or at least similar results in my own business.  So if you want to stay on top, you and everyone on your team must set up times and practices that allow everyone to study, learn and borrow the tricks and tips on how to stay on top of your mountain.  It’s not hard. I take every opportunity to learn. I listen almost every day to self-improvement and business books while I exercise or during my travel time. The expert advice found in these books keeps me sharp. And I push my learning out of my comfort zone. When deciding the next book to read, I research what our company’s biggest issues are, and find a book that teaches how to overcome those issues.  I often pick up an insight that I can share with my team because learning does not stop with the company’s owner. Learning and borrowing new tips every day is important for everyone. By surrounding myself with people who are smarter than I am and learning from these folks, I have become more successful. Of course, success does not mean you have no problems. Successful people listen to others then learn to solve those problems. Living successfully and getting the things we want from life is a matter of studying the issues that stand between where we are now and implementing processes to get to the point where we want to be. If you have laborers and bricklayers, what kind of training program have you developed for them? If you have estimators, are you encouraging them to watch webinars on current topics and trends? Have you encouraged your foremen to take certification courses? Or, what kind of a training program are they in? I found that the best way to ignite the borrowing initiative in my companies was through our safety programs. Safety is key to the success of any construction business. And it’s a topic that everyone has a stake in. Are you providing proper safety training programs for your field employees so they can go home to their families every night?  Safety meetings often expand into other conversations in which everyone learns. Discussing a near-miss at a jobsite often leads us to improve a certain practice or to invest in new equipment. But just as important, these lessons – sometimes learned the hard way – get passed on to a new group of workers. And managers and owners also learn from the challenges and successes that happen on the jobsite.  When everyone takes the time to learn from the experts and each other, we all win. Something I am proud of when I arrive at work each day is the nice vehicles in the parking lot. These nice cars comfort me that our people are doing well. It is just one indication that our people are learning new skills and ideas, are on a winning team, and therefore are on top of their mountains.   Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Malta Dynamics, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites more efficient, visit his websites at or To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, or call 740-749-3512.
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