Most concrete specialty contractors have had ups and downs over the past few years, but few quite as severe as those of Madison Concrete Construction, Malvern, Pa. Since 2004, Madison’s revenues went from $65 million to $181 million then back down to $51 million.

“Madison is alive and well,” says CEO Jim Dolente Sr. “We are left to make the best of a difficult situation. However, we are well capitalized and in a good place when the market recovers. There is an expression I like to use: ‘When business is good be prudent, when business is not good be patient.’ We are in the patient phase for sure.”

Being patient for Dolente partly means reexamining the company’s basics. Operating the business with his son, Jim Dolente Jr., Madison surveyed its customers to see what they could do better. “We have a few items we need to improve upon—communication with our customers is important,” says Dolente Sr. “But in the most important areas, our customers gave us high marks. We were told as far as schedule, quality, and competitiveness, we are a market leader. It’s not just that we are good in the good times, our customers have confidence in us—one said ‘I know when Madison gets the job, I won’t have to worry about it anymore.’”

But are there really any silver linings in this construction recession? “There’s a recognition that we are in a cyclical business,” says Dolente. “Some of the younger people haven’t seen this before, but I started in 1969 and there were difficult recessions in the 1970s, so we understand it is a part of the business. But it’s stressful, everyone is happier to see expanding times. When it doesn’t go that way, it’s like you have a bat in your hand but no one is throwing you the ball. You can’t get a hit if no one will play ball with you.”