OF THE 85,000 or so contracting firms in our industry, the companies in our annual Book of Giants survey represent just a handful. Of course, with the volume of work that these Giants perform, they are a VERY BIG handful.
I’ve heard in the past from a number of smaller contractors who really don’t care much for our Book of Giants coverage. A few don’t believe the numbers that the Giants give us. Some of the others think that the Giants are so far out of their league that they have nothing in common with them.
As for the numbers, I can assure you that we do our best to make certain that they are true. We ask our Giants to divulge their financial information so that we can present an accurate picture of the industry to you, and an overwhelming majority of companies comply with our request. For the firms that choose not to report their numbers, we give our best estimate.
As for the belief that smaller contractors have nothing in common with the Giants, I’ve never bought that argument for a minute. Contractors, regardless of size, can learn from one another about how to stay ahead in this very competitive environment.
Just last year, for example, we mentioned that several Giants were beginning to get nervous about the economy. Up to the time of last year’s report, they still were going great guns but were starting to see some softness around the edges.
We commented then that these Giants weren’t pausing to catch any breath that a slower economy would afford them. Instead, they were taking the time to see where their local markets were heading. If some of their stronger customer sectors such as telecommunications were declining, they were looking at other areas where they could beef up their efforts.
Now, a year later, we are reporting that those Giants came through the recession in good shape. They survived the weaker economy, which many of them anticipated, as well as the impact of the terrorist attacks of last Sept. 11, which no one expected.
A few of these firms even flourished in 2001 by keeping their eyes open for new opportunities to serve their customers and finding new accounts.
That’s a lesson that should not be lost on any contractor, no matter how big or small your business is. It also applies whether your company primarily does residential, commercial, industrial or institutional jobs, and whether the work is service, replacement or construction.
A couple Giants reveal another lesson that may be just as important for you to use in your company. These firms stay on our list by taking care of their employees.
A managing director for TDIndustries tells us one of his big concerns is keeping up the company’s volume so that its 1,400 “partners” will have enough work to do. Similarly, the CEO of Limbach Facilities Services, still owned by Enron for the time being, tells us that one of his priorities is to ensure the survival of the contractor’s 2,600 employees. Too bad former executives of the parent company didn’t have the same concern for the thousands of other Enron employees.
While it’s a fact that not all the Giants had a great 2001 – and a few even disappeared entirely – it’s also true that companies which pay attention to their markets, customers and employees tend to make it through the slow times. They’re at a competitive advantage when business picks up too.