This month marks my 10th anniversary as part of the CONTRACTOR family, and I couldn't be prouder, more pleased or even a little bit shocked to be honest with you. Proud because CONTRACTOR was, is and will continue to be the number one publication for the PHC industry. Pleased because my column here has given me a forum to inform and entertain you. Shocked because in this industry of ours, and I'm speaking both of mechanical contracting and publishing as well, I'm still hanging around and have survived the past 10 years standing with my feet firmly on the ground, and if I say anything stupid, at least it amuses everyone.
One of the greatest writers in our industry, Dan Holohan, who used to be a columnist here, has to be given credit or blame for helping me get hired here. It was Dan who urged his good friend, Bob Miodonski, to hire me after Bob had been promoted to the editor's spot here from a sister publication. Dan and I knew each other through e-mail only, but Dan liked what he read at my personal Web site, http://hkentcraig.com. He urged Bob to give me a shot at the new project management columnist spot that Bob wanted to create to expand the magazine's breadth. To this day I haven't met Dan face-to-face or even spoken to him on the telephone, yet I definitely owe him for helping me fulfill a life-long dream.
Growing up in the household of a family plumbing and boiler business, Craig Plumbing Co. in Cary, N.C., three things I religiously read other than the Bible were the weekly copies of Newsweek, The Kiplinger Washington Letter and the monthly issue of CONTRACTOR. I longed at times to write for the magazine and even got a couple of letters to the editor published. However, all attempts over the years at trying to get an audition were unsuccessful, even after I became published in other arenas, until I met Dan Holohan online. He, for whatever reasons of kindness, choose to help me, and the rest is history. Well, not quite.
With a lifetime of mechanical contracting estimating, project management and CPM scheduling experience on my resume, it still came down to myself and another dude who had a GC background with decades more actual experience in project management than I did.
So Miodonski gave me a pre-employment test: writing a column on a topic he selected with an 800 word count - pretty hard. Sweating bullets for weeks, I hit the 800 word count and polished my sample column. Then Miodonski sent back perhaps the harshest criticism of anything I'd ever written. Even though it was done professionally and without anger, my effort was ripped to shreds.
I didn't react negatively. I didn't throw a fit as much as I wanted to. I kept my internal five-year-old in check, e-mailed him back to thank him for his time and wished him and the magazine well. I thought I'd never hear another peep about it. A week later, much to my total shock, I got an e-mail from Miodonski telling me I had my place in the CONTRACTOR family and to write and send him a couple of columns to be published soon.
The next month, in October 1998, my first column, The 7-1/2 Cardinal Myths of Project Management, was published, and at that point, I knew this was real and my dream since childhood had come to reality.
That column in its own tiny way was ground breaking for our industry, establishing a gut-level benchmark of honesty about things on my part to you, dear reader, while unflinchingly kicking some sacred shins pretty hard. It got me a couple of violent threats, along with a whole lot of polite boos and a small tidal wave of, “Well, it's about damn time …”
I have to admit it was the message and not the messenger that got everyone's attention. As good a writer as I thought I was, I quickly learned after reading the edited version of what was published that my writing left a lot to be desired. By comparing and learning from the two, Bob helped make me a much better writer. This has continued along the way with the equally professional efforts of my current editor here, Bob Mader.
What does the next 10 years hold for me, the column and the magazine? Well, when Miodonski hired me, I told him not to unless it was understood this was to be a lifetime gig for both of us. I still consider him to be a friend now that he has moved along. As long as I keep doing my job to the satisfaction of my ultimate boss - you, who honors me each month by taking the time to actually read my modest words, who keeps subscribing and supporting our advertisers - then I hope to be able to continue to write for you until we both retire.
Please don't be shy about e-mailing me about anything you'd like me to write about or sending me any comments, complaints or kudos about anything I've written since I'm here to please you, not the other way around. See you next month, same time, same channel.
Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating, and plumbing. You may contact him via email at [email protected].