Apr 16

Making Music

OK, the clue was not too good, but it was the best I could do at the time. I refer here to last week’s partial picture of a piano keyboard and my reference to a very intelligent and talented mentor (of sorts) that I encountered many years ago and whose sayings have stayed with me for three decades now. As I said last week, he was not an easy man to deal with but after working with him for only a couple of days, I quickly came to realize that there was much he could teach me and it is worthwhile to learn early in life that you don’t have to be fond of someone to learn from them. So I swallowed hard and dealt with the situation at hand. I remember many of his words … little slogans and sayings if you will … but the one that has come back into my consciousness with some regularity had to do with music and while I was at a concert featuring two of my grandsons (David & Ryan) a couple of weeks back, I started to remember and think of this man I encountered and learned from so many years ago.

One of his favorite sayings was that an orchestra is worthless without a conductor and the better the conductor, the better the orchestra will perform. He then likened that to a business. Talented, well trained and prepared employees are not of much value without someone to direct them and the better the director (leader) the better they will perform. Sure you have to have people who can properly play their instrument (do their job) but someone has to direct (lead) and the good director (leader) knows how to get the best performance (work) out of the people he or she is directing.

Of course he was right. And watching a truly good conductor leading a group of grammar school kids through a number of well performed musical pieces on a cold Thursday night a couple of weeks ago at the local high school gym, brought the memory of him and some of what he taught me, back into my consciousness. You need talent (performers) and equipment (instruments) but leadership must be there to make it all work.



YOU Owe Them!

Yes you really do. Specifically, now comes a report that if you divide the current national debt by the number of employed men and women in America, each employed person owes $106,000.00. Apparently, the non-working public does not owe anything so maybe the best thing to do (if you can’t pay up on the $106K that you owe) is to quit your job and try to get on some kind of welfare program with as many freebies as you can garner. Then again, I don’t think the government is going to send you a bill for the $106K so maybe you’re better off keeping your job after all … not really sure!

He’s Baaaaack

Couldn’t believe what was waiting for me when I got up yesterday morning (Tuesday April 15th). Temperatures had dropped over night into the mid-20s and there was about a 1” coating of snow on everything. Yes, Old Man Winter had returned. The crazy thing is that just a few days before, the grandkids and I were making giant floating bubbles on the patio and enjoying what we thought was the arrival of spring with sunshine and temperatures in the 70s. This has been, and continues to be, the craziest winter of all time!

Will it ever end?

Will it ever end?

And He’s Baaaaack Too

Yesterday belonged to the Tax Man who comes around once a year to get his due. Most polls find that people do not like the IRS … I’m being mild here. Most people can’t stand the IRS, however, studies conducted by a number of governmental and private firms indicate that Americans are actually very good about paying their taxes and living with the situation. Specifically, studies have shown that (1) Over 90% of Americans say that “Personal Integrity” was the primary reason they comply with tax codes and pay what they owe, (2) Tax evasion in America is estimated to be significantly lower than in most other countries – although 60% of respondents in one study did say they comply with tax laws because they want to avoid (at almost all costs) an IRS audit, and (3) it is estimated that in the U.S., only about 1% of wages and salary income fails to get properly reported and taxed. I also found out that approximately 61% of taxpayers can expect refunds this year and that about 56% of working adults in this country think they are taxed at a fair rate. Last two things on this – 50% of us pay a professional to prepare our returns and 75% of all tax forms/filings are submitted electronically. Thought you might want to know!

Hmmmmmmm – Part 2

Thank you to the readers who either e-mailed or called to discuss what I think is a rapidly approaching problem for the glass & metal industry in particular and most likely the entire construction industry in general. I refer here to what many feel is a pending “skilled” labor shortage brought on by increased work volumes combined with the loss of experienced workers and the lack of training of new recruits during the recession period of the last few years. A couple of people told me they are already having trouble filling vacant positions and they expect the situation to only get worse in the coming months. The outcome, or fallout if you will, of this will most likely be higher labor costs across the board. I don’t see how this can be avoided.

The Sports Thing

The NHL playoffs start tonight and will be followed in just a few days by
the start of the NBA playoffs. I love hockey and to me, there is nothing more exciting than the NHL playoffs and particularly so when your home town team (Chicago Blackhawks for me) is involved. It’s going to be a great playoff. The basketball thing is also good. I went to last Friday’s Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons NBA game with my grandson Jake and while the game was good … the Bulls cranked up the energy level in the fourth quarter and came from 18 behind to win the game by 8 points … the real fun of the night for me was having the one-on-one time with my oldest grandson who is an absolutely wonderful kid. Wait, he’s not a kid anymore, he’s a fine young man. The Bulls are an exciting team and it would really be great to see both Chicago teams make deep runs into the playoffs. What … you don’t share my enthusiasm for Chicago teams???

The Quotable Thing

Sandi Hill provided (and insisted that I use) this week’s quote and because I learned years ago not to argue with her, here it is.

“Be yourself. No one can ever tell you you’re doing it wrong”           -James Leo Herlihy

“Have a Wonderful Week Everyone”               




Apr 09

Lessons Learned!

We never became good friends but there were a lot of reasons for that. Differences in age, background and general outlook on life prevented that from ever happening but I had tremendous respect for his business acumen and I learned a great deal from him. The company I was working for acquired his company in 1983 and I was assigned the task of coordinating the assimilation of his operation into ours. He didn’t always make that assignment an easy one for me but we learned to co-exist and for me, it was a good thing. You see, in spite of the fact that our company was several times his size and had a very large and supposedly sophisticated administrative operation, it turned out that his business was in many ways much more advanced than ours when it came to IT matters and even certain cost accounting procedures that he had personally developed. So while I was trying to sell the benefits of having joined our company to him, I was also trying to sell the advantages of his superior processes and procedures to my company. Neither effort came easy. This was all a long, long time ago but one of the many things I retained from my time with this individual was two of his favorite sayings … and you know how I love sayings.

One of those sayings was “any idiot can sell a job – the money is made in the production of the job.” Now I don’t totally agree with this and I think the good sales/estimator is worth his/her weight in gold, but I understood what he meant. It’s easy to drop prices or over promise to get a job and there are idiots out there willing to do exactly that. We quickly celebrate the “sale” of a large job or the securing of a large order, but often, the price for which it is sold is simply inadequate for the amount of work required to be performed. Piano 013_format

The other saying we’ll get into next week but the picture above is a clue. It has stayed with me for over 30 years now and I believe it is totally accurate and I have tried to follow its implied approach to business ever since I heard it. Hope you’ll check in next week to hear about it.

Now Here’s a First

I met John Luckett (Glass Designers) for breakfast a few days ago and a truly strange thing happened. In fact, it had never happened before and John and I go back a long, long way. I would guess that over the past 25 years or so John and I have shared a breakfast, lunch, or dinner together at least a few dozen times. And never, prior to Friday, March 28, 2014, had Mr. Luckett paid or even offered to pay for one of those meals. Then it happened … when our waitress brought the check (and some of you might want to sit down before you read any farther) John Luckett took the check and paid for breakfast. I know, hard to believe, but it is absolutely true. A first to be sure.

Congratulations, Mike Current

Engineering News Record has named Mike Current, vice president at TSI Architectural Metals, as one of its “TOP 25 Newsmakers” in the construction industry for 2013. Mike was awarded this honor for (as ENR puts it) “Defying skeptics by successfully erecting five site-preassembled glass-clad pedestrian spans into a narrow slot between two office buildings in Washington, D.C.” Congratulations, Mike to you and the entire TSI team. This is a tremendous honor and our industry is proud of you guys.

Good Luck, Tom O’Malley

I had a chance to spend a few minutes this morning with Tom (we share a favorite breakfast spot which is just up the street from me) and over some coffee and eggs, he brought me up to date on his new venture, Clover Architectural Products. Tom’s long been one of my favorites and I wish him well. In case you need it, Tom’s phone number is 708/572-8856.


I have been reporting, along with many others, that the construction industry is heating up nationwide and really getting hot in several metropolitan areas. Now comes concern that the industry is going to experience labor shortages (at the skilled trades level) in months to come and some employers are starting to worry that even if they take work, they won’t have the labor forces needed to adequately produce it. A lot of tradespeople left the industry during the decline of the past few years either opting to pursue new careers or retire, and now there could be a shortage of qualified people available. In a way, this is a good problem, but it also has a dark side to it as well. Going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

The Sports Thing

Wow, what a great NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Seemed that everything was up for grabs and many were surprised that either UConn or Kentucky made it to the finals. And in spite of the fact that nobody even came close to winning the billion dollars available for anyone who could predict every game of the tournament accurately, it was an exciting tournament.

Yes, the Detroit Red Wings are apparently going to make it into the NHL playoffs after all (it didn’t look so good there for a while) and I for one am glad to see it. Some of my Blackhawk fan friends wanted to see the Red Wings miss the playoffs … there is a tremendous rivalry between the two teams that goes back forever … but they are a solid franchise that has always played at a high level. I respect them and the city of Detroit can use all of the positives it can get right now and the Wings making it into the playoffs will help. I don’t think they will make it past the first round, but again, I ‘m happy for them.

The Quotable Thing

Walt Chambliss provides this week’s quote and it seemed timely to me. It was said by Winston Churchhill.

    “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings,The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”     


Have a Safe and Prosperous Week, Everyone!

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