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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Shaun's Corner "First Quarter Update

Dear PEiR Members

I recently decided to get more active with the construction industry and have joined both the local and national American General Contractors Association (AGC). I also have been meeting with a wide assortment of members from the construction industry, both General Contractors and Sub-contractors, to learn how we reprographers can become better equipped to serve this particular industry.

In pursuit of this goal I attended a variety of local and national construction events to learn more about the needs and challenges of the construction industry.

One such activity was a workshop called Successful Negotiating in the Construction Environment offered by the local AGC Chapter of Northern California.

This workshop was developed by the AGC to help their members learn a more systematic approach for negotiating. It was interesting to learn that the culture of the construction industry expects almost everything to be negotiated. Sub’s and GC ‘s are constantly negotiating during all phases of a construction project. I learned that, as reprographers, we must be prepared to negotiate whenever working with representatives of the construction industry.

Last week in Orlando, I attended the National AGC Convention where approximately 1,000 industry representatives met to discuss the future of construction and their plans for stimulating construction projects and increasing construction jobs. It was a pertinent topic given that today, estimates suggest the construction industry has 29-30% unemployment.

As an exhibitor at the convention (we were showing PlanWell and Sub-Hub) it was clear that many attendees were finally realizing that they are in a new era. Some, if not most, of these professionals have never experienced a down-turn of this magnitude in their entire careers. Several GC’s who stopped by the booth claimed that they have not had to hard bid (vs. negotiated bid) for more than 20 years. Today they have been forced to do so, just to survive. Many GC’s stated they have lost bids when they have bid at or slightly below their real costs.

When you are calling on the construction industry, it is important to be empathetic, but also resourceful. It you explain ways that your services can help keep costs down and reduce errors there are opportunities to be had.

Despite the industry challenges I did hear of some sweet spots in the industry. Civil Construction is doing well ( mass transit, urban rail, superfast trains, airports, waste water, nuclear power, wind, and solar ), as are Data Centers.

Color also seems to be on the minds of construction companies. Applications for color are growing exponentially. Since the future will be more design-build and focused on integrated project delivery, projects will need to be rendered in realistic color, bid documents will contain more photos, and drawings and schedules will require more color to communicate well.

On a side note, I also got to talk with reprographers themselves in my travels to the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. Many have indicated that their investments in LF and SF Color seem to be beginning to pay off. As a matter of fact, more than a couple of reprographers have told me that this month’s sales projections (March) are tracking for one of their best sales months in years. Most explain the up-tick in sales to their efforts to market color to both the AEC and Non-AEC markets.

While it’s early in the year to start saying things are looking up, keeping your ear to the ground will serve you well throughout 2010. Whether the reprographics industry manages to crawl out of the recession this year or next, knowing what your customers are dealing with and where the opportunities are will serve you well.

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