2022: Cross-Roads, Growth, & Challenges
December is a great time to take a hard look at the year to help set the stage for the future. In other words, a time to reflect on:
What worked? What did not?
What should we STOP doing?
What do you need to LEARN more about?
What changes need to be made?
2022 I would consider a cross-roads year at PAVERART.
From the basic "how did we do?" stand point, it was a banner year. Record GROWTH, a Core team that grew closer together and overcame plenty of challenges. We continued our 19+ year history of beautifying the world of hardscaping in bigger and better ways. We've helped organizations across the country raise funds with our engraving products. But the classic metrics of success/failure does not tell our 2022 story.
Businesses and people often find themselves at a cross-roads. Hard to define what the proverbial cross-road looks like, but when you come upon them you almost always know it's a big decision. Big downside, big upside. OR, a chance to stay the course and keep things rolling as is. Cross-road decisions are not everyday, but recognizing when your at that stage is important.
Reminds me of a classic scene from MONEYBALL, a true gem of a movie when the GM and his apprentice had to ask themselves how much do they REALLY believe in this thing when confronting a tough call on their team:
So what was our cross-roads of 2022?
SUMMER. It was a painfully challenging one. We went into painstaking detail on episode 13 of our podcast (inserted into bottom of post).
Oppressively hot and humid, which REALLY challenges a couple of our key processes.
SIGNIFICANT machine downtime which put us in a hole that took a few months to dig out of. Lead times and service started to stretch and more than a handful of frustrated clients.
The continuing quest to find talent that believes in our core values....
Many businesses in the world of Hardscaping and contracting have had lead times balloon. It's not rocket science: In tight labor markets, whether that's contracting or manufacturing, the existing businesses and employees can only push themselves so much in the short-term to meet demand. And when businesses that provide a certain service go OUT of businesses, what happens to the businesses that absorb those needs? They either expand (if possible), or stretch out the time they need to fill that demand.
This dynamic has challenged both our PAVERART and ENGRAVING business.
Do customers want to hear this? Not really.
Most understand, but nobody likes it, myself at the top of the list.
The cross-roads decision, utilizing my best Jersey Slang Italian/Stereo-typical voice:
"What-dya Gonna Do 'bout it?"
Machine Downtime is a fact of life in business. Every business manages it differently.
We have 2 major pieces of equipment that assist us with manufacturing PAVERART (was only 1 a few years ago). Both have a couple of decades of service.
Decision? Buy a new Machine!
Problem? It's a cool $425k to take on this kind of project. And with a relatively small shop already crammed, how do you cram it in?
Money challenges confront all business owners. There's no magic formula on how to best confront investment decisions. But for me it's pretty basic and it starts with a simple premise:
"Do you believe in this thing or not?"
A little luck never hurts in business. In the early fall, an opportunity for additional space came available. With space, comes some added complexity, and on-going cost increases to the business. But what if we can truly give wide open space to PAVERART designs and dedicated space to our engraving business?
"Do you believe in this thing or not?"
So we are building out a dedicated engraving operation.
We have an excellent engraving PRODUCT, one that will OUT-last classic methods. But there's a problem: It takes longer to make. It's much more labor intensive. So if we can sell a better product and work towards improving response times, even better.
New space will help with that. Re-designing work-flows to improve how it's done also helps. It's not an overnight fix, but it's a plan, with real money and commitment to get better.
I've always loved the challenges that come with being on a team, and business is the ultimate team sport. Everyone has unique ability. It's the leader's job to recognize where and how all the different talent comes together. It's an ongoing process.
We were getting ready for a trade show and noticed both Mike and I are nearly out of business cards, oops! So like any good adrenaline craving person, we get to work on figuring out who can rush order a bunch of cards. But while we are at it, why don't we re-design them, just for fun.
So we get to work, and build out a 4-sided card. The mother of all Compass Roses (Leonardtown Maryland) graces the front, a number of different designs with our "World Leader in Custom Paver Designs For 20 Years" flanks the images on the inside, and our most important asset occupies the back: The Superhero TEAM & our Core Values.
Sometimes it takes last minute, urgent projects to bring front and center what's really important.
The human side of business is without a doubt the most challenging, and rewarding. The upsides are immeasurable. The downsides are VERY measurable: Extinction.
Relationships are within your 4 walls and outside of your business, customers, suppliers, community.
We aren't perfect but we strive to be real, honest and get better.
For our CLIENTS, I am grateful for all that trust us. We are far from perfect and even after 20 years, we have so much more to learn about getting better. For those that have endured longer than normal times to get your product, my hope is that you see our commitment to improve is real, backed by significant money and energy, not lip service.
For people we do business with, I am grateful for your support.
For our TEAM, it all starts and ends with them. We have a great core that bring PAVERART to life, and they work hard to set the example for new people around them.
For those people that we have NOT done business with, but keep an eye on us and follow our journey a DOUBLE THANK YOU! It takes so much more than a transaction to create a sustainable business.
The story matters equally as much. But stories do not matter unless people want to hear/see them.
If you read this far, THANK YOU! We always welcome your feedback.....
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and prosperous and healthy 2023.
If I can ever help in any way, even to just be a sounding board, here's my cell: 908-873-7522. (The NJ Turnpike at 4:45pm is my proverbial shrink/office hours!). Every now and then somebody takes me up on this offer and gives me a call, we chat and often share a laugh, insight or two. I don't bite, I promise.
For those podcast listeners, episode 26 lays out all of these dynamics: Hunker down? Or Invest?
Episode 13 lays out the height of our 2022 challenges: The Dog Days of Summer: Over!