Tim Wies’ AWCI President’s Messages

Participation Is More Important Than Ever

By: Tim Wies

July 2011

Hello, everyone. It is a great honor for me to be able to represent AWCI and you, its members, as president for the upcoming year.

Before I get started on my thoughts, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fantastic performance of Steve Etkin and our AWCI staff this past year, as well as the incredible job that Brent Allen did serving as our president. A job well done by all!

As I write this column, we are just a day or two removed from devastating tornados that have wreaked havoc on communities in my home state of Missouri. These tornados have followed massive flooding along the Mississippi River, which followed the fatal tsunami that destroyed parts of Japan and reached to our western shores. I think back upon all of the devastation caused by Mother Nature and all of the lives across the globe affected, and as I watch the news reports documenting the aftermath, I marvel at the resiliency of the human spirit. People who have lost family, friends, their worldly possessions, all come together to help one another out, they slowly pick up the pieces and start to rebuild their lives.

I see a slight parallel between these natural disasters and the state of our construction industry the past couple of years. Our industry has suffered its own versions of "casualties” and we all have had "industry family members” adversely affected by the construction economy. But remember the resiliency of the human spirit; we humans are a tough bunch. We too will help each other out, pick up the pieces, and rebuild our lives and companies.

Now, more than ever, we need each other. We need a conduit for education, information, ideas and, yes, sometimes a sympathetic ear to bend. This is where your association, AWCI, fills the need. The information, education, ideas and, yes, the sympathetic ear are all available to you, the member. All that you need to do is get involved. I challenge everyone to invest in yourselves, invest in your young people, and invest in your future by actively participating in your association. Together we can be better. Work hard, work safely, play hard, and have fun!

In addition to being the 2011–2012 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Wies is president of T.J. Wies Contracting, Inc. in Lake St. Louis, Mo.

Geeky in a Good Way

By: Tim Wies

August 2011

Hi, everyone. I hope that this issue finds all of you in good health and good humor.

I have just returned from our AWCI Executive Committee meeting in Quebec City, Quebec. What a gorgeous, historic city. On the flight home I started taking mental inventory of the weekend’s activities and the inspiration for this month’s column hit me.

During some of our scheduled time off, your executive committee toured the old city of Quebec. Yes, we do get scheduled time off—all work and no play makes for very grumpy contractors. As we walked into one beautiful building after another, I watched my fellow contractors first look up at the ceilings and then the walls before making comments about what they saw. I had to chuckle to myself—we are all the same, no matter where we are from, how large or small our companies are, no matter if we are union or merit-shop, we are all drywall geeks. When we gather together in a bar without our significant others, we discuss general contractors’ contracts, capabilities and insurance requirements; we talk about field productivity and jobsite issues; and, yes, we do some whining and complaining as well—after all, we are drywall geeks.

This leads me to challenge each and every one of you to join us, your fellow drywall geeks, at this year’s AWCI Industry Executives’ Conference & Committee Meetings in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Sept. 13–16. The Executives’ Conference is typically a little more laid back with a less hectic schedule than AWCI’s Convention & INTEX Expo, so it is a great time for newcomers and INTEX veterans alike to get more involved, meet new colleagues and establish new relationships. There is even scheduled time off for those impromptu bar discussions that are just as beneficial as the actual meetings and seminars. I can honestly say that every time I get together with AWCI colleagues, I come away with some valuable information or new and creative ideas that I can implement in my company right away. This is definitely worth the cost of these trips.

So fellow drywall geeks, until next month, work hard, work safely, play hard and have fun.

In addition to being the 2011–2012 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Wies is president of T.J. Wies Contracting, Inc. in Lake St. Louis, Mo.

Never Stop Seeking Information

By: Tim Wies

October 2011

Hello once again. Most if not all of us are constantly being bombarded with information: email, Twitter, Facebook, radio, television, magazines, newsletters and personal interaction. As business owners, we wear numerous hats. One of the most important ones I wear is that of CIO, Chief Information Officer. It is my responsibility to gather information from all sources and then process and cull that information so I can make decisions that set the direction of our company.

Just the other day I received an email newsletter from our former accounting firm that carried the headline, "Budgeting for Profit.” Since I was in the middle of working on next year’s budget I opened it and read it through. My formal education is in business management so developing yearly budgets is standard procedure, but the current economic situation has forced us to spend more time developing our budget and, more specifically, adhere to it.

Unfortunately, during the go-go times we grew a little complacent and developed some bad habits. Budget formation was more of a formality, not a management tool, and adherence to the budget was merely a suggestion. Wow, what a difference a couple of years make! The accounting firm’s newsletter suggested both "bottom up” and "top down” budgeting. We have always used the "top down” method but never "bottom up.” The idea proved a great one that was very beneficial to us.

Information we can benefit from is all around us, we just need to make the time and effort to gather and process the data. Your association’s magazine, "AWCI’s Construction Dimensions,” is one of my favorite sources of information about our industry, but my all-time favorite comes from interacting with my colleagues, vendors and industry partners facilitated by your association, AWCI. Once again, I invite you to get involved or continue playing a role with AWCI because you never know when new information will present itself. A great solution to one of your problems could be on one of the following pages.

Thanks for reading, work hard, work safely, play hard and have fun.

In addition to being the 2011–2012 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Wies is president of T.J. Wies Contracting, Inc. in Lake St. Louis, Mo.

Stay the Course

Tim Wies 2011By: Tim Wies

September 2011

After my first month as your AWCI president, one thing has become quite apparent to me: Most of the contractors in our industry are hurting. Whether they are small contractors or large national contractors, startups or companies with decades of experience, they are all struggling.

Many projects are bid below labor and material costs. Winning bids offer little or no profit. Company owners and managers are faced with some of the most difficult personnel decisions of their careers, such as laying off employees who have been solid performers. Most of us have already trimmed the fat from our operations while some have gone further, cutting through the muscle and now must cut into bone. What’s an owner to do?

As I write this on Monday night, Aug. 1, the United States seems to have averted what has been publicized as the impending meltdown of the world economy if a budget agreement regarding the debt ceiling and spending cuts was not signed. Thus, I am reminded of two phrases: First, the nautical metaphor popularized by Ronald Reagan and then lampooned on "Saturday Night Live”—Stay the Course; secondly, an old proverb meaning all material conditions, both positive and negative, are merely temporary—"This Too Shall Pass.”

We contractors need to Stay the Course and make sound business decisions that will sustain our companies through these difficult times. We must reassure ourselves that This Too Shall Pass. The economy will change and grow, and more construction services will be required. Those of us who have made good decisions, invested in education and kept current in the industry will once again reap the benefits. And that brings to mind some other famous quotes: Patience is a virtue, and good things come to those who wait.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at the AWCI Industry Executives’ Conference & Committee Meetings in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

In addition to being the 2011–2012 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Wies is president of T.J. Wies Contracting, Inc. in Lake St. Louis, Mo.


Sticker Shock Not All Bad

By: Tim Wies

November 2011

Hello everyone, I hope all is well. First off, I would like to thank everyone who attended AWCI’s Industry Executives’ Conference & Committee Meetings. I think that I can speak for all when I say it was a great week of work, networking and fun in a beautiful location. A special shout-out goes to Dan Wienstroer for introducing everyone to St. Louis–style pizza and toasted ravioli!

Before I tell you my thoughts, let me say that they are solely my viewpoint and may or may not reflect the view of AWCI or its membership. Also, since this is being written a month before publication, some of the content may be out of date at the time of reading.

In late September/early October, several gypsum board manufacturers announced "a game changing strategy” as of Jan. 1, 2012. They are eliminating job quotes, substantially increasing prices and fixing the price for the calendar year ahead. This follows hard on the heels of steel stud manufacturers who changed their quote policies for similar reasons. (See page 49 for details.)

In my opinion, this is not necessarily a bad thing for our industry or, specifically, for contractors. The micro view first: Contractors have had to become leaner and more disciplined to survive (we have to do more with less staff), so a known price per board for all projects for the coming year will make estimating and procurement less labor intensive and therefore easier to administer and verify. Also, most contractors are very accurate in their material takeoffs. We hardly, in fact, ever have a bust on materials. Our major risk is the human side of the labor productivity equation. The stability in material costs eliminates some of our risk; a higher cost on materials changes the labor/material ratio, thereby also decreasing our risk.

In the macro view, such changes in quoting and prices should allow our manufacturing industry partners to achieve profitability. We do need strong, financially secure manufacturers in our industry, and without stability and profitability the manufacturers cannot continue to invest in new products and new technologies. Without continued R&D by manufacturers, our industry—which is a "mature” one—may start to decline. The only major risk in this paradigm shift is the potential to lose market share to competing products. However, I think that the long-term survival and stability of our manufacturer partners far outweigh the risk.

Until next month, work hard, work safely, and have fun.

In addition to being the 2011–2012 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Wies is president of T.J. Wies Contracting, Inc. in Lake St. Louis, Mo.