Stone World

Hanging by a Thread

August 3, 2009


I rarely look out my seventh-floor window, but a few weeks ago a dangling window washer grabbed my attention. This guy--let’s call him Wally--was cleaning windows on a building adjacent to the one that houses BNP Media’s offices.

Wally was busy doing his job and seemed to cranking along efficiently. I don’t know if he was experiencing any fear, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous for him.

Even though Wally’s safety rope and harness looked secure, 10+ stories is a long way to fall if his support system were to fail. Thank goodness it didn’t.

Then it hit me. Wally’s precarious position presented the perfect metaphor for the construction market.

Wally was hanging by a thread.

OK, it was actually a reinforced climbing rope designed for Wally-sized loads. But Wally had no safety net. No open window to climb through. Not even a flat ledge to clutch in case of an emergency. Just rope--his lifeline--supported Wally.

Unfortunately, that’s the same position in which many construction pros now find themselves. Their pipeline of work is gone. Their network of friendly business contacts has shrunk. Pros that once turned down jobs are scrambling for work, week after week.

For some construction pros, the lifeline is unraveling.

Maybe this week you’ll be on the receiving end of a lifeline. You’ll win a bid, get a loan, or finally receive a client’s late payment.

Or possibly you’ll be the one to toss out a lifeline. You’ll inform a construction pro that he or she got the job. You’ll mail a check. Or maybe call someone back to work.

I’ve got a couple bids on some home repair work I need done. I’ll look at them as more than jobs. They could be lifelines. I hope they are.

Know anyone you can throw a lifeline to today?