July 2016: Contractor Tip of the Month

Words: Damian Lang

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Damian-LangBy Damian Lang

Yesterday, while I was flying back to Columbus, Ohio, from Kansas City, Mo., a lot of things were going through my mind. I was concerned about a $5.7-million job that Lang Masonry started three weeks later than we planned, and the fact that the general contractor is requiring us to catch up on the schedule, regardless of the cause of the delay. I was also apprehensive about decisions that would be made by a couple of banks over the next few days. Projects, revenue, capital expenses…all of these were churning in my mind. Yet with all that, I was excited about coming home to Ohio so I could watch my daughter Amy compete at her regional track meet. Yesterday afternoon, I watched while Amy jumped 5 feet, 2 inches, earning her a position to compete at the state level next week. Things were as they should be, and I was feeling pretty good about life. But when I woke up this morning, all the worries I had yesterday quickly disappeared, for when I turned my computer on to catch up on emails from my hotel room, the screen appeared blurry. I cleaned my glasses, and it didn’t help. So I closed my left eye and found I could not see the screen out of my right eye. It was strange to walk around with blurred vision — and scary, to say the least. Rachelle, my fiancée, quickly set up an appointment and took me to a local eye and ear institute, where the doctors said I had experienced a rare, stroke-like condition in my right eye that has left me mostly blind in that eye. The bad news continued, as they informed me that the sight in that eye would most likely come back only a little, if at all. Next, I was sent to the Ohio State University hospital to have a series of tests run to try and confirm the diagnosis, and find out why this happened. While lying in my hospital bed (with too much time to think), I decided to write this tip and put my mind on more productive activities. Instead of yesterday’s worries about jobsites, finances and getting home, my only concerns today are whether or not I will be able to drive home, if I can be as efficient at work, whether I will be able to read my computer screen, and whether or not I will be able to find a golf ball once I hit it. As I lie here, every few minutes a voice comes over the loud speaker, calling out a trauma unit, the room number, and how many minutes the doctors have to get there to help someone who could be less fortunate than I am. It reminds me of how lucky I am to still have full sight in my left eye. I have been joking with friends and relatives, saying the doctors believe I have 100% sight in my left eye and 40% in my right one, so that is really 140% eyesight, which isn’t too bad. However, regardless of the front I put on, deep down inside I realize this isn’t a joke at all. After shedding a few tears, I decided I must move on from how things were yesterday, and make a plan for the situation I am in today. Here’s what I came up with:
  • Driving: if I can’t see well enough to drive, I will get a driver to take me where I need to go.
  • Computer work: I can get an assistant to keep up on emails, and to help me write and respond.
  • Finding golf balls: I can get golf balls with a GPS tracking system on them, so I will be able to find my balls quicker than ever before.
Although working on the computer and driving to and from the office could be a concern, running my companies is not. That’s because I have great managers and partners in place at each of them. Several months ago, I wrote a tip about my succession plan, and how I took on minority partners in my companies so they could be run with or without me when needed. As I lie in this hospital bed, not knowing for sure what the future holds for me health-wise, having made these moves ahead of the curve brings me great relief. Well-built companies are not dependent on one person to ensure that the show goes on! Make sure you have your own succession plan in place. Ask yourself this question: can the people I have in place manage their departments without me being present? The answer should be yes. If it isn’t, you still have work to do to get the right people in the right places. Once you have the right team in place, you will have built a self-sustaining company that lives forever. And by the way, start this process today, because what a difference a day makes!
Damian Lang owns and operates several companies in Ohio. He is the inventor of the Grout Hog-Grout Delivery System, Mud Hog mortar mixers, Hog Leg wall-bracing system, and several other labor-saving devices used in the construction industry. He is the author of the book called “RACE—Rewarding And Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry.” He writes for Masonry Magazine each month and consults with many of the leading contractors in the country. All rights reserved, © 2016 Damian Lang, President of Lang Masonry Contractors, Inc., and EZ Grout Corp.
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