You Can Have Two ... But Not All Three

While attending the ACI 2022 Fall Convention, I was introduced to an interesting construction meme based on some commentary of construction projects. Humorous as it was, I think there's a hidden factor encircling the entire concept.

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Adobe Stock Images | By Touch1976

At one of the hundreds of seminars during the American Concrete Institute Fall 2022 Convention, I was introduced to a particular Venn diagram. The image received a bit of a chuckle from the audience as if it was a well-known trope between construction professionals. 

Truth be told, it likely is but as I venture more into this industry learning more with each expedition away from my comfort zone, I found the concept quite poignant. If you aren't familiar, the speaker at the seminar explained it through an anecdote where a contractor spoke with a project owner in a fictitious "don't you wish" tone with the owner asking for the moon. The situation had the contractor respond with a simple drawing and said, "you can it fast and cheap but it won't be pretty." The idea was that while the project can and will be done well regardless, good work takes time; good work should be valued; and good work can be as pleasing to the eye as it needs to be. 

The hook of it all was that the project can be accomplished with a combination of two of these qualities (fast, cheap, or pretty), just not all three.

Today's contractors are put to task for each and every project no matter the scope. Where once not too long ago contractors would be able to plan projects a year or more in advance, that lead time now seems to be cut down to a few months - six if you're lucky. Offhandedly, one contractor had recently told me that a six month wait for concrete order is normal. But even then he's also ran into the supplier cancelling day-of.  (The material went to a higher priority job and the delivery was pushed to the following week. The supplier was apologetic.)

If we take our three concepts and apply them to current market: it's more and more difficult to get concrete fast; tariffs on imported goods as well as the supply chain impacts from the pandemic have all affected many construction material costs; and while a skilled labor shortage has it's own factor in the supply chain, a limited crew can definitely put a strain on a business's productivity and efficiency. 

Despite the pessimistic "you can have two" outlook, there's a factor that I think is being overlooked. It's that regardless of the pairing of options, the work done will always be considered as "good." Regardless of the challenges of material costs and hard work, I've never heard anyone allude that the job done well was an option to just not do. There's a pride there and that's something commendable. 

Here's to you for getting through 2022 and working hard into 2023.

Thank you and stay safe.