The Market is Alive: Shake off the Rust and Get Back Out There

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By TOM WOODCOCK

Tom Woodcock

Well, I hate to say, “I told you so,” but I told you so.

The minute pandemic-related restrictions were beginning to be lifted, outside sales activity started picking up.

Zoom is fading. The desire to meet face to face is once again taking center stage. The new normal didn’t quite happen as predicted. Whoever said the handshake was going away obviously had no idea how business works, or he simply doesn’t know how people prefer to interact.

We are now coming back to the way it was. The big question is: Were you working your sales effort properly before the pandemic took center stage? The past two years have seen sales efforts deviate from tried-and-true methodology. People scrambled to find ways to stay connected to their customer base and often resorted to digital communication. Since so many took this route, a lot of sales individuals simply melded into the white noise of social media, video conferencing and electronic communication. The introverts amongst us loved it; they said, “It’s the way to go. We’ll never have to go to the office again and interact with other humans.”

Sorry, wrong.

The point is this: People want to interact with others. Psychologist after psychologist attests to this fact. Therefore, we need to structure our sales efforts and aggressively implement them. Time to go back to blocking and tackling, covering the basics.

The first step is to make sure your information gathering system is in place and up to date. This will help you in reaching out to potential targets and give you a home for the customer information you collect. The next step is to determine which organizations and associations you want to engage with. Remember, your first criterion in making this selection is the degree of customer involvement present in the group. Focus on customer-rich environments. People are heading back toward these organizations to restart the interaction process. Skipping this step can lengthen the amount of time it will take you to reengage with your customer pool.

The next step is to set your customer targets. These can be existing customers you need to retain or grow, or new targets who haven’t used your product or service in the past. The one thing I promise you is that you’ll see there’s been a personnel changeover in many of these firms. Also, keep in mind that a contact is a person, not a company. Relationships you’ve held onto during the shutdowns and restrictions should be the first face-to-face meetings you schedule. Make sure all is well with those who have hung in there with you. Then move on to the true development of sales. Set a high level of activity and see as many people as possible. Letting competitors get out ahead of you can result in lost opportunity. The floodgates are open. You need to shoot right out of the gate. This can create an initial advantage for you. The old adage; “You snooze, you lose” is a reality in this scenario.

The final step is to actually close the business. Our economy is all over the place currently, and legitimate sales opportunities need to be secured as quickly as possible. Between the financial and political landscapes, the level of uncertainty is increasing. This can slow down construction spending at any point. Nailing down projects you’re being presented now can go a long way in getting over any slowdown. The supply chain and raw material cost factors are real. They have significantly affected efficiency on construction projects. Using these factors as a closing strategy is actually a good idea during this period of time. You’re simply taking a factual situation and relaying it to the client. If the client waits on a project, it may not hit the client’s schedule or your client may end up paying higher prices due to escalating material costs. This is absolutely acceptable sales behavior.

The ultimate point: Now is go time. Don’t be lulled to sleep by the past two years of sales hibernation. Shake off the rust, clean the machine and blast off from the starting line. If you need a refresher, get out those old sales videos or books and hone your approach. True professional businesspeople understand the critical role sales plays in their businesses. It’s only the most important aspect of any business.

Why on earth would you wait on full implementation the minute it is possible? The market is alive.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at 314.775.9217.

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COVID-19 Causes Breaches to Construction Contracts: Which Party Bears the Risk?

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By TYLER SCHAEFFER

Tyler Schaeffer

The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely unpredictable in its effects on businesses. On March 16, 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 2,997 points – the largest single-day point drop in history. By the end of 2021, however, the stock market had fully recovered and reached new record highs. At the beginning of the pandemic, the concern focused heavily on rampant unemployment and need for increased government benefits. More recently, the job market has been measured by the number of available jobs that remain unfilled. 

One of the most noteworthy – and perhaps not immediately predictable – consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic was its exposure of the fragility of our global supply chains; many businesses and industries experienced unprecedented delays in obtaining needed products and supplies. The breakdown in the supply chain coupled with drastic changes in consumer demand caused wild inflationary swings in the pricing of certain products and commodities. These swings in the availability and affordability of certain goods and services caused many businesses finding themselves unable to fulfill contractual obligations made before the beginning of COVID-19. 

 Which party bears the risk of pandemic-caused inability to fulfill the terms of a contract? Parties may allocate the risk of unforeseen circumstances in what is known as a “force majeure,” or escape clause, in the contract. “Force majeure” is a French term that means “greater force.” A force majeure clause allocates the risk if performance becomes impossible or impracticable especially because of an event or effect the parties could not have anticipated or controlled at the time of contracting. 

If the contract does not allocate risk through a force majeure clause, the common law provides several related defenses that may excuse performance due to unexpected causes: impossibility, commercial impracticality and commercial frustration.

  • Impossibility is the most stringent standard and excuses a party’s performance only when its performance is rendered impossible by an act of God, the law or the other party. Unforeseen difficulties, however great, will not excuse performance.
  • Commercial impracticality will excuse a party when an occurrence of a superseding, unforeseen event prevents performance, not within the reasonable contemplation of the parties at the time the contract was made and that goes to the heart of the contract.
  • Lastly, commercial frustration may excuse performance when the contract’s principal purpose is frustrated without fault by the happening of some event, the nonoccurrence of which was a basic assumption on which the contract was made.

Should a company find itself unable to fulfill its obligations under a contract due to COVID-19, looking to a force majeure clause as well as the defenses listed above provide potential avenues to escape liability for the COVID-caused breach of contract. Although COVID-19 has been with us for two years, the caselaw providing guidance on the applicability on typical force majeure clauses and these defenses is not fully developed and often has limited applicability to the specific facts in such cases. As such, none of the options above provide a sure-fire solution to an otherwise innocent party unable to meet its contractual obligations due to COVID-19.

The complications caused by COVID-19 have also inspired many companies to revisit and rethink the negotiation of their contracts to include greater protections for the risks of pandemics and their collateral consequences. Concepts such as pandemics and government shutdowns will surely be expressly appearing in future contract escape clauses. Additional rights for cancellation and for delay based on such events will also be appearing in such contracts. On the other hand, parties to contracts concerned about the other side’s potential delay or inability to perform due to unknown consequences of a pandemic will also wish to obtain protections in their contracts. There are many new and creative contract options for both sides to consider in a post-COVID-19 world.

Hopefully COVID-19’s effects on businesses will soon be a thing of the past. But, before memories of this time fade, businesses would be wise to ensure they protect themselves contractually from the risks of a severely disruptive pandemic or similar event in the future. Any contracting parties unable to fulfill their contractual responsibilities due to COVID-19 or wishing to negotiate a new contract with an escape for unforeseen circumstances caused by the pandemic should contact their attorney to explore available options.

Tyler C. Schaeffer is an attorney with Carmody MacDonald and concentrates his practice in business litigation. He works closely with businesses including construction companies in disputes, including contracts, business tort, financial restructuring and bankruptcy, and consumer protection. Contact Tyler at tcs@carmodymacdonald.com or (314) 854-8645.

This column is for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be considered legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.  

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What’s Your Marketing Budget for 2022 and How Do You Measure ROI?

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By STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

The average B2B company spends between 6 percent to 7 percent of its overall revenue on marketing costs. According to a study conducted by Deloitte and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, each industry varies based on different growth strategies. The energy industry, for instance, spends 3 percent of its total revenue on marketing and the construction industry spends 2 percent.

Based on these numbers, a small construction company with an annual revenue of 3 million dollars should be spending $60,000 on marketing.

To determine our own 2022 marketing budget, we need to know our growth objectives. Let’s start with what we have in common:

We all want qualified leads, repeat clients, better cross selling, greater market share, market recognition and brand loyalty. 

For those of us who want to grow in 2022, a quick overview of our numbers helps. What is our annual recurring revenue? And by what amount do we want to increase that revenue? The difference is the growth delta.

Typically, a company will spend 40 percent of that growth delta in effective marketing to achieve certain goals. Isn’t that fascinating? Many of the companies I see who want to grow miss the big picture. They buy more equipment, onboard an expensive CRM program, get better computers but neglect to realize their website has a slow load speed, is not optimized for mobile, is not SEO friendly and has no value proposition to set them apart from their competition.

Companies typically spend money on items that count the money rather than make the money because it’s easier to measure than make. 

I was recently asked in a new client meeting, “How do you measure ROI (return on investment)?” Great question. 

ROI is based on whether you meet your key performance indicators (KPIs) with your marketing strategy and implementation.

You can’t determine your KPIs until you know your marketing objectives.  A KPI of 4 new clients a month may be good for one company but not good for a firm that wants to increase market share with 10 product lines.

What is your KPI? How do you want marketing to move the needle for your business?

Here’s where so many company owners differ, stating:

I want to grow my company XX amount. 

I want to increase my brand presence and enhance my company image.

I want to grow the company through more product lines or services.

I want to increase customer loyalty.

I want to impress existing customers with technology enhancements.

Your marketing budget should be based on determining your objectives and putting real numbers to those objectives. Finding the right strategy and a good workable budget depends on which of these objective(s) you want to meet.

Now the good part. How do we get in front of those new clients? What’s our strategy?

We find the events where they are. We use the marketing channels they pay attention to. We get in front of them with inbound and outbound marketing. 

Measuring the ROI is no easy task because our key performance indicators are so dependent on the quality and accuracy of our strategy. 

I once had a client who spent the bulk of his budget being a platinum sponsor in a customer-rich association. He attended every meeting, spent beyond his annual platinum sponsorship and knew the value of each customer attained through that association. Event marketing was his main strategy to reach his KPIs. 

I had another client who needed website leads nationwide. He had a new product on the cusp of an emerging market but needed brand recognition. His marketing budget was devoted to revamping his website, optimizing it for higher Google rankings and investing in paid search.

I have another client who writes articles and sends them out in press releases, magazines and online newsletters. She creates her own tribe of followers through thought leadership articles and can charge top dollar for her services because she has personally helped construct its value.

We can be successful with a variety of strategies. The key is to BE where the customers are or where they are going to be. 

Your marketing team’s focus should not be on improving the measurables to prove their own success and better measure ROI. Rather, they should be focusing on tactics that will make an impact.

We can become so consumed with trying to measure the data and determine ROI that we forget to use common sense and our instincts. Marketing in this industry takes instinct. Our buyers take a long time to become customers.

It’s easier for me to measure the ROI of an email marketing campaign than it is to measure the value of an event sponsorship or a print ad. The three work together, so which strategy gets the marketing credit?

Together we learn how to carefully curate the best value for our customers with the right marketing channels. 

My favorite strategies for the construction industry are content, email and event marketing. Content marketing delivers 3 times the leads versus tradition advertising. It also has a longer sales cycle because you’re often developing brand awareness with customers before they are “now” buyers. Traditional advertising works as well strategically in the right environment. 

The research backs me up. In a 2019 survey of 1,000 senior-level B2B marketers, the most effective B2B marketing channels were reported as:

1.) In Person Events (41 percent)

2.) Content Marketing (27 percent)

3.) Email Marketing (14 percent)

4.) Paid Social and Search (6 percent)

5.) Organic Social and Search (3 percent)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Once you answer some of the questions above and find a budget line for marketing, contact me to discuss strategy and ROI.

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Too Creative, a St. Louis-based design and marketing agency. She can be reached at stephanie@toocreativestl.com.

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Is Your Insurance Company Refusing to Pay Out a Claim?

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How the Law’s “Good Faith” Measure is On Your Side

By MEGHAN M. LAMPING

Responsible business owners and companies understand they face risks every day. To manage – and potentially mitigate – those risks, companies purchase insurance. In exchange for sometimes hefty premium payments, companies expect their assets to be protected in the event of a claim for damages or a lawsuit. 

In fact, companies turn to their insurance carriers for help in many situations. Companies may look to their insurance carrier if they experience property damage or are dragged into a lawsuit alleging claims of negligence or unworkmanlike performance. In these types of situations, companies expect their insurer to step in and either pay out a claim for damages or settle a lawsuit. When an insurance company balks at paying out a claim or settling a lawsuit on the company’s behalf, that company is, understandably, frustrated. 

But there are some mechanisms built in the law to encourage insurance companies to treat their insureds fairly, act promptly and in accordance with the policies of insurance they issue.  Insurance companies owe their insureds certain duties and obligations under the law and the policies of insurance issued. When insurance companies do not act properly, they can then find themselves facing additional liabilities. 

For instance, in Missouri, an insurance company can be liable for causing damages to its own insured if it “vexatiously” refuses to pay claims covered by its policy. Damages, including attorneys’ fees and monetary penalties, can be awarded when an insurer’s refusal to pay a claim is determined to be “vexatious and without reasonable cause.” The statutory protections exist, in part, to incentivize insurance companies to pay legitimate claims without litigation. 

Additionally, an insurance company can face tort liability, including punitive damages, if it unreasonably refuses to settle a claim or lawsuit against its insured. In Missouri, an insurer runs the risk of a legal liability where, in bad faith, it assumes control over a legal proceeding against its insured and refuses to settle a claim within insurance policy limits after the insured has demanded that the claim be settled. Missouri courts describe “bad faith” as “the intentional disregard of the financial interest of the insured in a hope of escaping responsibility imposed upon the [insurer] by its policy.” Again, the purpose of these laws is to encourage insurance companies to settle cases or claims covered by the policies. 

To be sure, the penalties and awards of damages ordered against insurance companies, where liability is found, are not insignificant. Litigation against an insurance company is expensive and courts often recognize this burden when they award litigants tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees. Damages awarded to an insured – apart from attorneys’ fees – can similarly be significant. In 2013, a Missouri court of appeals affirmed a jury’s verdict of more than $6 million in favor of an insured over its insurer where the jury “apparently believed the refusal to pay the claims or make a determination of coverage was unreasonable.” In another Missouri case, an insurer was ordered to pay its insured more than $900,000, including punitive damages, for denying a claim and defaming the insured by claiming – incorrectly – that the insured had burned down his own house.   

It’s obviously important to mitigate risks in business by having the proper insurance coverage. It’s also important to remember insureds have legal protection when working with insurance companies not acting in good faith. Specifically, the existing applicable laws and stiff penalties associated with running afoul of the purchased protections. 

Meghan M. Lamping is an attorney at Carmody MacDonald and focuses her practice in the areas of general civil litigation. Contact Meghan at mml@carmodymacdonald.com or (314) 854-8676.

This column is for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be treated as legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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Field of Dreams: How to Showcase Your Company’s Best Assets Through Marketing

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Stephanie Woodcock

By STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

At the time of this writing, I am stranded at a hotel near The University of Massachusetts Amherst for my son’s first college prospect baseball showcase. Our predicament is courtesy of “Henri” making landfall on the New England coast as a category one hurricane for the first time in 30 years. Though it was downgraded to a tropical storm, it was angsty enough to cancel our return flights to St. Louis. Not good. The showcase got moved from the campus’ pristine baseball fields to an upper gymnasium with no air circulation. The camp was reduced from 8 hours to 2.5 hours. The school tour was canceled. The only originally scheduled event was our free lunch at UMass’s “award winning dining hall.” What should have been a delightful campus stroll to lunch morphed into a gusty, mad dash through a torrential downpour. It was a no-frills, soaking wet showcase.  

Let’s not let this happen to you.     

When a company asks me, “What’s the best way to spend my marketing budget?” I say, “Create professional marketing assets that showcase your company’s talent, identity and culture.” I get really excited. “Let’s turn your work into art,” I add.  

“Why?” They react. “Don’t we want to sell, sell, sell? Print up a flyer about our services? Promote our great products with a blast?”  

While these things are important, “No,” I say, smiling. “Sit down. You’re making me nervous.”   

Then I explain how professional, well-executed marketing assets like video and photography can transform a company’s image and brand to showcase the best part of who and what they are. When done right, these marketing tools are elevated to art. They evoke a sense of something bigger than a sales vehicle, while still becoming the engine that drives your sales. 

It’s difficult to convey the culture of a company – the “who” behind the “what.” So much of our business comes through our relationships, longevity in the industry, reputation and referrals. It’s the nature of our industry. We network.  

So how do we extend those relationships in this digital age through our marketing efforts?  

In an age of endless Zoom, Microsoft Teams and digital influences – when everyone is grappling to be heard – production-value video and custom photography tell a deeper story.  These assets provide more long-term, greater traction than the traffic and buzz of today’s next big thing in digital marketing.

Photography and video should portray something intangible about the identity of the companies they showcase. They create brand voice, a major marketing component necessary before unleashing the salespeople with flyers and promotions.

In other words, when you’re inviting a client to come to your proverbial “campus,” we need to show them the green, well-groomed baseball fields before we drag them through the rain to the dining hall. We need to show them our culture and identity – why we are worth doing business with – before we get to the hot upper-level gym.    

I recently asked CEO of Solstice Productions, Amanda Aschinger, how important video is to our marketing. She gave a great answer: 

“There are some set standard expectations in the A/E/C (architecture, engineering and construction) world, such as on time, quality, safety and on budget. What makes one company a better fit for a given project often comes down to the people, the experience and the approach. Construction is a long, sometimes painful and expensive process. The ‘who’ of the team can greatly impact the ‘how.’ Aside from an in-depth in-person session, a well-crafted video is the best way for prospective customers and employees to experience the who and how of your team.” 

Aschinger adds, “Video is not a standalone solution. Like any marketing or sales tactic, it works best when used in a full strategy. All of the channels (social, email, web, trade show) can be made more effective when video plays a role.”  

She recommends a standard package of videos that every A/E/C company should have:

  • Company intro or overview 
  • Capabilities-specific videos (one for each) 
  • Market expertise-specific videos (one for each) 
  • Core values/culture – something that works very well for both business development and recruiting, and is really focused on your people 
  •  

Aschinger also recommends highlighting key milestones as part of ongoing video campaigns. Adding a new division, targeting a new vertical, celebrating an anniversary, completing a high-profile or unique project and releasing a new product are all great times to use video to help communicate your wins.

The value of seeing and hearing a company’s faces and voices through video is more than a sales avenue. It is a way to portray a company’s true identity, culture and mission, beyond what we have to sell. In the relationship business, we don’t want to lead with sales slicks, fancy flyers or rock bottom deals. We want to lead with our voices. We want to show, not tell.

My dream clients are ones who need and want content creation. They want to figure out the best way to tell their story and convey their culture. Great marketing educates, energizes and engages. When a story is told right, customers get excited, too. They see the beauty of the campus, the “field of dreams” and can envision their own success. When a story is told right, customers see the company’s best assets and want to “go the distance.”

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Seal the Deal Too, a St. Louis-based marketing, creative and communications firm. She can be reached at stephanie@sealthedealtoo.com.

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New Bankruptcy Law Provides Welcome Changes for Small Contractors

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Chapter 11’s New Subchapter V Helps Achieve Successful Restructuring

By ROBERT E. EGGMANN and THOMAS H. RISKE

Thomas Riske
Robert Eggmann

Shortages of materials and skilled labor continue to put increased pressure on some small construction contractors and subcontractors to consider bankruptcy reorganization. Unfortunately for them, the hope of re-emerging in Chapter 11 is often unsuccessful because the rules are complicated, challenging and not traditionally well-designed for their needs.

Last year, the federal Small Business Reorganization Act (“SBRA”) became law, added a new “Subchapter V” to Chapter 11 that streamlines bankruptcy procedures for small contractors and provides new tools designed to achieve more successful restructuring.  Subchapter V should be welcome news for many small contractors facing financial difficulties, although individual circumstances will dictate whether this is the right course of action.

Eligibility

A person or entity must be engaged in commercial or business activity with an aggregate liability below $2,725,625. At least half of the debt must have arisen from the business. The CARES Act provides for a temporary increase of this threshold to $7.5 million that is scheduled to roll off in 2021.

Creditors’ Committee

In Subchapter V, no creditors’ committee is appointed unless a court orders otherwise, making it the exception and not the rule and saving the small business money.

Appointment of Trustees

The SBRA created a new type of trustee, a Subchapter V trustee, to be appointed in every case. The trustee’s duties include appearing at the first status conference and hearings that concern major case milestones, facilitating the development of a consensual reorganization plan, and making payments to creditors under the plan. 

Disclosure Statement

No disclosure statement is required unless a court orders otherwise, which removes a common source of protracted battles among the parties involved.

Reorganization Plan

Only the small business debtor may file a plan of reorganization under Subchapter V and must do so within a shortened 90-day timeframe from the order for relief. The rules for the contents of a Subchapter V plan of reorganization are more debtor-friendly. Notably, a loan secured by a principal residence can now be modified if the proceeds of the loan were used for the business.

Plan Confirmation

There are two ways to have a plan confirmed:

  1. Consensual. Subchapter V strives to help the debtor and creditors reach a consensual plan. Confirmation of a consensual plan terminates the trustee and the debtor receives a discharge upon confirmation, two important incentives for debtors.
  2. Cramdown. A plan can still be confirmed if some or even all classes of creditors don’t accept it, so long as the plan doesn’t discriminate unfairly, and is “fair and equitable” to impaired unsecured creditors.  A “reasonable likelihood” of repayment must be demonstrated, and the plan must provide remedies to protect creditors if payments are not made.

Voting

Voting rules change significantly under Subchapter V. As mentioned above, a debtor can now confirm a plan with no votes from creditors.

Absolute Priority Rule

In Subchapter V there is no absolute priority rule, allowing debtors to retain ownership without adding new value – provided the reorganization plan does not discriminate unfairly and funds the repayment of creditors in three to five years by committing all projected disposable income.

Robert Eggmann and Tom Riske both serve as Chapter 11 Subchapter V trustees in the Central and Southern Districts of Illinois, respectively.They practice in the financial restructuring and bankruptcy department at Carmody MacDonald P.C. in St. Louis. Contact any of Carmody MacDonald’s attorneys at 314.854.8600.

This column is for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be treated as legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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The Cost Today. The Cost Tomorrow.

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Mike Chollet

Think about the last time you bought new tires for your car. Unless you are really into cars, that event was probably preceded by a length of time where you knew the purchase was necessary but, due to the cost and inconvenience, was postponed for a too-long period where you knew you were maybe in some danger but still put off the inevitable. (In Congress, this period of time before actually doing something is called, “Admiring the problem”.)

Once the new tire purchase project was complete, you were most of a thousand dollars less well-off and, aside from vanquishing the nagging feeling of needing to do something you didn’t really want to do, you didn’t really get the pleasure of having spent the money on something more fun. Money spent on maintenance; things like new tires, roofs, HVAC systems are equal parts important and unsexy. But we do these things to avoid even more cost and inconvenience down the road. Being able to plan and save up for such expenditures always trumps unpleasant surprises.

It’s easy to see why maintenance and infrastructure are so easily deferred by elected officials. Such expenditures are rarely popular with the tax paying electorate and the practical gains are generally hidden. No one ever arrives at home thinking, “Awesome, my car did not disappear into a giant pothole today!”

Unlike the rest of us, politicians have the luxury – the imperative actually – of deferring necessary expenditures in exchange for another term or two in office. Who else is rewarded for such short sightedness?

Love him or hate him, our current president is pushing forward the boldest infrastructure plan since the 1930’s. Regardless of the final price tag this will greatly benefit the construction industry. Not only will the country be able to address long neglected matters of maintenance and safety, the vast bulk of expenditures will directly benefit the building community.

Hopefully, we will have the workforce required to get the big jobs ahead done. Baby boomers aging out of the workforce are not being replaced in sufficient numbers. Estimates are that companies will have to double the number of workers now being hired to address the tidal wave of work coming our way. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey found that 88 percent of commercial construction contractors reported moderate-to-high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers, and more than a third had to turn down work because of labor deficiencies.

A number of local and national companies and organizations are developing programs to attract and retain young people to the construction industry. These efforts are to be lauded. The importance of assisting these efforts cannot be overstated. 

A recent New York Times article tells us that “Community colleges, which offer a variety of vocational training programs, have suffered steep declines in enrollment. A recent estimate from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that community colleges were the hardest hit among all colleges, with enrollment declining by 9.5 percent this spring. More than 65 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment losses this spring occurred at community colleges, according to the report.” Remember this when considering things like the propriety of money for colleges in the upcoming infrastructure bill.

Our lead article this issue highlights work done on the Blanchette Bridge which connects St. Charles and St. Louis Counties. This 43-year old bridge handles an average of 165,000 vehicles per day and is arguably the area’s busiest bridge. Its longest span is 480 feet. Its westbound width is 60 feet with an eastbound width of 68 feet. The last major repairs to the eastbound bridge were joint replacements done in 2006, according to MoDOT. Projected to take two years to complete renovations, the job was completed in just nine months. The total cost was $33M.

Yes, thirty-three million dollars is a sizeable sum of money but, for scale, just one trillion dollars would fund the similar renovation of more than 33,000 other bridges.

There is a growing sentiment in the country that, now that we will not spending $300 million dollars per day in Afghanistan, that money can be put to better use at home attending to needs that have been long neglected. Everyone who knows what Washington is capable of, understands that a new tornado of cash will always be subject to the money grab of special interests. Hopefully cooler heads may be able to focus spending on actual needs.

I am in my late sixties now and have a lot of discomfort about how my generation has governed the country and conducted big business. Ours has been a privileged generation which has focused too much on the “what’s in it for me”. Hopefully we can pivot to a position which addresses current needs with greater emphasis on the future. Dealing with those needs while being appropriately fiscally responsible will benefit our industry and the country on the whole.

The work can be done now while the federal government is committed to do what is necessary and the cost of money is cheap or we can put it off until neither of these is true.

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Clayco Celebrates Groundbreaking of 26-story Skye on 6th, a New Luxury Residential Tower in Downtown Phoenix

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Today national design-build firm Clayco celebrated the groundbreaking of a new 17-story student housing tower, The Standard at Columbia, located at the corner of Washington and Assembly Streets in downtown Columbia, just blocks away from the University of South Carolina (USC) campus.

Designed by LJC, the 443,000-square-foot, urban-infill property will include 247 fully furnished units and 678 beds with an amenity package that boasts a podium-level rooftop pool, grilling stations, resort-equipped fitness and wellness center, game-day lounge and ample group and private study lounge space.

“We are thrilled to bring our integrated design-build method to Columbia on this premier student housing tower,” said Matt McKenna, Clayco’s Vice President of Residential Construction. “We look forward to delivering this project safely and efficiently for the students of USC.”

The building’s exterior cladding is comprised primarily of masonry, stucco and aluminum framed glazing. Building information modeling (BIM) is being used to coordinate all site utility, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems around the post-tension and reinforced concrete structure. The building is designed to earn National Green Building Standard (NGBS) certification. 

Clayco is a full-service, turnkey real estate development, master planning, architecture, engineering, and construction firm that safely delivers clients across North America the highest quality solutions on time, on budget, and above and beyond expectations. With $3.8 billion in revenue for 2020, Clayco specializes in the “art and science of building,” providing fast track, efficient solutions for industrial, commercial, institutional and residential related building projects. For more information visit www.claycorp.com.

LJC is a full-service design and architecture firm committed to enhancing the quality of the human experience and to improving how design and architecture can impact each individual’s emotional being. By harnessing the power of integrated design, including architecture, workplace strategy, interior design, landscape architecture, urban planning and engineering, the company achieves its clients’ goals and aspirations. For more information, please visit www.theljc.com.


CRG is a privately held real estate development firm that has developed more than 9,000 acres of land and delivered over 200 million square feet of commercial, industrial, institutional and multifamily assets exceeding $12 billion in value. CRG leverages a powerful North American platform with local market expertise and offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, Southern California, St. Louis and Philadelphia. CRG’s philosophy of developing for the future and anticipating the enhanced needs of next generation users led to the creation of its industrial brand, The Cubes, and its multifamily brand, Chapter. For more information, visit CRG’s website at www.realcrg.com.

Ranked as the nation’s most active student housing developer and top student housing contractor, Landmark Properties is a vertically integrated developer and owner-operator with over $7.5 billion of assets under management. Landmark’s current portfolio includes more than 75 student housing properties across the country and over 50,000 beds, including over $3.5 billion in assets currently under construction. For additional information, visit www.landmarkproperties.com.

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Perspectives: Building Safety

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The tragic building collapse in Surfside, Florida, hit the news as we were in the middle of putting together this issue of CNR. It was sheer coincidence that our 2021 editorial calendar, determined many months ago, included this issue’s feature about building security and safety systems and a feature story on Resilient Buildings that will appear in our upcoming September-October 2021 issue.

When coverage of the Surfside incident began to unfold, we reached out to some of our trusted sources in engineering, architecture and other related disciplines to ask for their thoughts on the Surfside collapse and what cause or causes might have precipitated that horrific event. Even though these companies had no connection to the tragedy, we found no one who was ready to dip their toes into the unfolding story due to the massive loss of life and what undoubtedly will be years and years of litigation.

Early reports about the Surfside collapse uncovered warnings from earlier inspections that the building was in need of massive, expensive repairs. This building was reportedly a middle-class residence, and it seems the cost of repairs would have been overwhelming – tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per family. While it is too soon to know for certain, early stages of the investigation suggest this tragedy was entirely preventable and we will be following the story closely as more is revealed. American building standards are among the best in the world. There is clearly an ongoing need to review, update and, in some cases, improve enforcement, but I think we are most fortunate that catastrophic building collapse of this magnitude is incredibly rare in our country.

 Owners and occupants of commercial structures have a vested interest in attending to the more common safety and security matters that affect everyday life. The attention those issues receive is driven largely by insurance companies who strongly prefer prevention over remuneration. Fire protection has long held a position at the top of the building security pyramid. Over the last decade, other ascendant concerns have come to the forefront such as how to prevent people with malicious intent from entering spaces to which they should never have access, protect business software and computer data systems from a world full of hackers, and provide protections that keep building occupants as safe as possible in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

While our team loves reporting on exciting new projects and product innovations (and we hope you enjoy reading those stories) safety is and always will be an aspect of the construction industry that we take very seriously. We consider it a privilege to serve as an information source for our readers, especially when the subject matter is so very important.

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We’re Back in Circulation and Life is Opening Back Up. Now What?

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Tom Woodcock

Things are opening up and people are crawling out of their basements. Commerce is coming back to life. We’re beginning to see business after Covid. Even though the construction industry held strong through the various incarnations of lockdowns, business still was not quite as usual.

Now companies will need to reengage their sales strategies.

The big question is this: Exactly how do you accomplish that? The first step is to take a breath. Review what was effective prior to the pandemic and take the successful elements into consideration. Your outside sales effort will still be vital to ongoing success, especially if the market turns in any fashion. By meeting with customers face to face, you can gain a pulse of what’s trending.

The opening of associations and organizations is a good place to begin as you interact with your customer base. Attend consistently and be sure to focus on customer-rich groups. This will allow you to connect with a larger pool of clients and potential clients. Get to as many events as possible and maintain consistent involvement.

Frequenting proven networking groups and events can also reignite your sales mojo. Casual business functions provide the opportunity to be more relaxed and knock off some of the rust.

Oh, you will be rusty. For some, it has been a year since they’ve engaged with customers in any format that doesn’t include a computer screen. It is already becoming apparent that Zoom meetings will not be the differentiator. People who prefer these types of virtual meetings over traditional in-person sales work will be forced into more intense pricing situations and less development of true customer relationships.

Relationship growth is always the differentiator in sales. It increases the level of trust and creates a fertile environment for gaining critical information. Two crucial elements tilt the scales in your favor: 1) The opinion that sales work can now be done from the comfort of one’s home, which is misguided, and 2) That salespeople will be the drivers of businesses’ recovery, which is absolutely true.

As for crucial element number one, if we’re already seeing people taking sales appointments post-pandemic, it’s only a matter of time when those who don’t get out publicly will attract less attention.

I’ve witnessed multiple revolutionary sales trends over the years that eventually fade, and there is a return to the tried-and-true methodology of outside selling.

Covid dealt a severe blow to many in the sales realm. Some were forced to move in new directions, others are coming out of it hungry. Those with an appetite will be aggressive and leave those who are hesitant in the dust. Waiting to see what transpires may seem prudent, but this strategy could put you behind the frontrunners. Markets are a bit unpredictable at the time of this writing; the one thing that will be a constant is that the most active sales personnel will be those who bring the greatest results.

As for crucial element number two, as PPPs, unemployment compensation and backlogs fade, people will become more anxious to produce. Those with the responsibility of selling will need to be the drivers. New business will need to be secured, and there is a great deal of instability in the construction industry. The combination of escalating material costs with tight labor pools can compress opportunity. This will require an expansion of your customer base to cover fluctuations.

Clients who may have previously been consistent, recurring business may no longer be as reliable. Qualifying new customers and beginning the process of winning some of their projects will not happen overnight. Getting in front of them before the rest of the pack could give you an edge.

I feel the need to reiterate that I’m not trying to set a standard for anyone concerning their response to the pandemic. That is an individual choice. I’m simply pointing out what is already becoming apparent: The choice to engage with the customer base is going to prove effective in moving the sales bar. Not all customers will be ready to embrace the return to traditional sales work initially, but plenty are jumping at the chance to get out and reconnect.

The question is this: Are you ready?

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at 314.775.9217.

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