How can builders survive the housing crisis and economic slow down? Well, they can start by seeing the situation as an opportunity, says
William D. Fairchild, the president of R.W. Murray Co., a Manassas-based design/build firm.
Fairchild is national chair of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., a major building industry trade group. In recent months, Fairchild
has been traveling the country, talking to industry officials and trying to bolster their spirits.
The biggest mistake he sees is letting panic seep in. In desperation, some contractors begin cutting costs to the extreme or going after
business that is outside their area of expertise. Those moves ultimately can damage a company’s reputation.
“Now is actually the time to invest,” Fairchild says. “You need to invest in training your people and building their skills. Invest in your
organization by working hard on improving your procedures and your systems. You’ve got time to do all these things, so take advantage of it
instead of wringing your hands and worrying. If you invest in making your company better, when we come out of the dip — which we will —
you’re ready to go.”
Fairchild also urges patience. While the residential market has been hard-hit for more than a year, the commercial sector is only just
beginning to experience the slowdown and could lag long after the housing crisis abates.
There are other challenges looming as well. Fairchild sees the Employee Free Choice Act as the biggest one. The bill, which is now before
Congress, would allow a union election to be decided by a majority of signature cards rather by a private ballot.
Passage of the bill “would be catastrophic to the construction industry,” Fairchild says. Currently, only 15 percent of construction
companies are union shops, he says.
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