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The Mind is a Powerful Thing

This is only the second time in nearly 20 years that I have had to write the Contractor Tip of the Month during a devastating situation. The last time was when I had a rare stroke and lost most of the sight in my dominant right eye.

As I wrote that July 2016 article from a hospital bed at Ohio State University, uncertainly was looming about my health and ability to function properly in future activities. However, I wrote about how I would overcome the issue. In the first few weeks after returning home, I couldn’t even pour a glass of wine without most of it landing on the kitchen counter.

But I am proud to say that over several months, my brain took over and trained my left eye so I could control my bodily movements properly. I can see fine, drive a car, read, write, play golf, and do things just like everyone else. In fact, unless I think about it, I barely realize I have good vision in only one eye.

As I write this tip at the end of March 2020 (you won’t be reading it until May), the world is in a state of panic over the coronavirus. You can’t turn on the TV without hearing about it 24/7. Every other message in my email is about the virus and what to do about it. I have been quarantined and have not left my home for 13 days. We have some tough decisions to make at our companies as business is slowing quickly. Not a fun time to be in business at all.

There will be winners and losers in the business world during the pandemic for sure. If you are in the right business (which is very few of us), you will do well. If you are in the wrong business, you will lose big time. Luckily, the government appears to be willing to help those of us who are suffering from economic losses.

In addition to those who will experience the sickness or loss of a loved one, there will be other big losers. I am referring to those who panicked and sold their stocks at low prices, fearing the worst possible outcome of the virus. The flip side is that others bought those stocks knowing that the situation would eventually pass, and they will benefit from the stock recovery.

Some contractors, even those with nice backlogs of work, will panic and cut good people from their workforce. These companies will suffer most as their all-stars may not be there for them when it is time to gear back up, and they have the opportunity to make hay when the sun is shining again.

If you recall, in December 2018, I wrote a tip about “How to Navigate the Other Side of a Business Boom.” My recommendations in this tip are somewhat different from that one. That is because different conditions call for different reactions to the current landscape.

Something people are missing is that this quick downturn is different from the great recession of 2008. In 2008, there were underlying issues in the economy that caused the recession, so it was difficult to recover. The ones who cut the quickest were the survivors. That is the right thing to do when you have small backlogs, and the bad economic conditions will not produce work to allow you to gear up quickly when the situation changes. This time, the downturn happened during one of the best economies the country has ever experienced. If you have a strong backlog and good prospects for your services or products when this passes in a couple of months, it is best not to panic. By cutting good employees now, you will not have the proper workforce to recover your profits later.

Over the last few weeks, I have fielded many calls from employees and customers seeking advice on whether they should sell their 401(k), stocks, and/or withdraw cash from other investments. I tell them no way. You are in this for the long run, and like all trends, the market will come back and be stronger than ever at some point. If it does not happen over the next few months, it will for sure in the next three to five years as it always does.

At the end of every crisis, lessons are learned and positive changes are made to ensure we don’t get in the same boat the next time around. As Tim McCarthy, who I met through my Vistage community, wrote in his recent blog, each crisis is unique and largely out of our control. Eventually, each crisis has passed and produced long-term improvements.

During the Arab Oil Embargo, Americans began a positive, if slow incline toward more thoughtful energy conservation.  After Y2K, we learned to be more vigilant about internet security. After 9/11 we improved transportation and large gathering security. And after the great recession, we required better capitalization for our banking system.

I expect that when this crisis has passed, we will become far more able to manage the next pandemic, which could carry a significantly more deadly virus. It recalls a favorite Churchill quote, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

The mind is a powerful thing, and you can use it to either strategize on how you are going to rebound when this crisis passes or panic while we are in the middle of it. Unfortunately, our environmental conditioning teaches us to play it safe. It is an easy trap to fall into because every time the news shows a picture of what the coronavirus looks like in one’s body, people panic even more. It is like going to the bathroom. You don’t have to go too badly until you are near the bathroom. Then when you get to the toilet, you wonder how you ever made it in time. In reality, you could have waited another half hour (unless you are sick) had you not been close to a bathroom.

I hope (and believe) that by the time this article comes out in the magazines in May, the fear of the virus will be stabilized, restaurants will be reopening, people will be traveling, the economy will be on the mend, and life as we knew it will start returning to normal. Those who did not panic as though they were standing in the bathroom every time they have to go will be in a place to take advantage of the again thriving economy. The mind is a powerful thing.

BIO

Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Buckeye Construction and Restoration, Malta Dynamics Fall Protection and Safety Equipment Safety Company, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites safer and more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email dlang@watertownenterprises.com, or call 740-749-3512.

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