In our 100th year, we find ourselves at what feels like a pivotal moment. Tom Jr (TL) and Sam formally took over the business early this year. Then the COVID-19 pandemic halted projects and forced us into a position to take the time to assess our priorities and the direction we are headed. Most recently the unrest in our country surrounding the death of George Floyd and systemic inequality underlined our discussion about what type of company we want to be for our clients, our trade partners, and ourselves (employees and owners). Though we are a small business, we are an actor in our community. It is up to us to do our part and commit to holding ourselves accountable.
At the beginning of March, we joined a business round-table that pairs similar-sized construction companies from around the country. Participation requires full buy-in to a program that mandates weekly Zoom calls run by a facilitator and a bi-annual meeting on either the East or West coast with extensive preparation beforehand. All participants are required to fully open their books and business processes and be open to constructive feedback from the owners of other participating construction businesses. The commitment is non-trivial, and the timing coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. We were uncertain if it was worth the risk of investing time and money to expose ourselves emotionally and financially amid all the other uncertainty we faced. We are glad that we did. We think that we will be a better business for our clients, employees, and trade partners as a result.
We got the idea for a newsletter from a builder called the South Mountain Company out of Martha’s Vineyard. They are a cooperatively owned design-build firm with an impressive team of architects, engineers, carpenters, solar installers, and cabinet makers – all under one roof. Their most recent newsletter was entitled “Silver Linings,” which highlighted the forced adaptation of their local building code office to put the building permit review process online and have code inspectors do virtual inspections. While the pandemic has been potentially life changing, the upshot is that we are all adapting and some of the changes are for the better. Another silver lining is that we have been forced to be more vigilant about environmental controls on job sites and separating construction spaces from living spaces. We don’t know how long social distancing and other hygiene guidelines will last, but we are happy about the increased collective understanding about the need for adequate dust control and air quality management. These adjustments improve the health and safety of our job sites for everyone and will hopefully allow for long-term improvements that carry beyond the current moment.
Lastly, we are heartened by the support we have received from the community. We hope to pay forward as much as we can. While we are not at the end of this, we are optimistic that we all going to learn necessary lessons from this mess of the last few months and come out better for it.
The Rust Construction Team