Last month we lost one of our former chairmen, Wes Dicken, who passed away at age 81. Wes, who chaired the NPCA Board of Directors in 1998, was universally loved and admired by nearly all who knew him, a fact that was reinforced by those who eulogized him at the funeral service held in Fort Thomas, Ky.
One of the stories told about Wes has stuck with me these past few weeks, because it serves as a parable for anybody who’s struggling to survive and keep a business going through this prolonged recession.
When Wes was a boy, he had a dog that followed him everywhere. If you saw Wes, you knew the dog was nearby. One Sunday morning on a sultry summer day, the family decided to attend a special church service across the Ohio River from their home in Strathmoor Manor, Ky. Now, if you’re familiar with the Ohio, it’s a serious river – up to a mile wide in some places.
The family planned to boat across the river and attend the service. Well, the dog followed Wes down to the boat dock and was quite upset when Wes had to take him back home and lock him in the basement. So you can imagine the family’s surprise a couple of hours later when the water-soaked dog trotted through the open door of the church in the middle of the service, walked up the aisle and plopped down next to Wes. The dog had escaped from the house, swam the river and followed the scent to the church. Whoever coined the phrase “dogged determination” must have known a dog like Wes Dicken’s loyal companion.
It’s that kind of dogged determination that we need now to carry us through the last phase of this recession and into the “new normal.” If we look at the time between when Wes was chairman and today, it is apparent that 2005-2007 was not normal. We were in a bubble. Work was flowing, profits were high and everybody was thinking big. The recession that followed was not normal either. We’re like that dog in the river now, paddling our way to the other side and trying not to get swept away. It will take dogged determination to make it to the other side, and to get there we’re going to have to keep pushing relentlessly forward, figuring out ways to be more efficient, finding new products, studying our markets to ferret out new opportunities, getting closer to our customers and aggressively educating specifiers about the benefits of using precast to replace other materials.
It’s up to us to create the new normal, and we’re on the road to creating a dynamic industry that will not just survive, but will thrive in the post-recession construction economy.
President, National Precast Concrete Association
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