Reality Check

Editorial for the February 2005 issue of Asphalt Contractor.

On December 26th a massive tsunami slammed into South Asia, leaving in its wake (at this printing) 200,000 dead, five million displaced and billions of dollars in damage. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia generated the wall of destruction that pummeled 11 nations.

The images, reports and details of this unfolding devastation have had a numbing effect on the world, which has pledged over $4 billion in aid. The death toll is expected to climb as more bodies are found (some of the reported missing may never be found) and the threat of disease grips this devastated part of the world. Food, water, medical supplies and shelter have been the immediate focus of aid efforts. But it will take years, as long as 10 years by some accounts, to recover and rebuild what was washed away in a matter of minutes.

So what does all this have to do with you and the asphalt industry? Call it a reality check.

We live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. We have the opportunity to pursue our dreams and be financially rewarded for our efforts.

And yet we become self-absorbed by our own challenges.

In this industry, we worry about projected increases in steel and oil prices, and the uncertainty of a reauthorized transportation bill. We worry about the economy, and we hang on every percentage point increase in projected growth as the well-deserved relief we've been waiting for in our current economic recovery.

I've talked to a lot of asphalt producers and contractors who have experienced growth over the past four years in this down economy and have generated a profitable return on their investments — some are absolutely ecstatic about their success.

If you've been successful in what many would consider trying times for entrepreneurs, congratulations, and hopefully you appreciate the fruits of your labor. If you're still wringing your hands about how tough it is, turn on the news to see how tough it is half way around the world. Try putting a little perspective on the daily challenges of running a successful business. Sure, an equipment breakdown disrupts your production for the day and it results in lost revenue, but it's a challenge you can overcome.

I'll get off my soapbox now, knowing that asphalt producers and contractors have a better appreciation for dealing with perceived challenges. Continue to improve your business practices and work hard to earn the business you receive, but don't turn trifles into tidal waves.

Greg Udelhofen, Editor