When was the last time someone asked you how your business was doing? Like most concrete contractors, you've probably heard this question numerous times, perhaps even daily. Chances are you've often asked your peers this question as well.

We heard this question a lot from contractors and from tool and equipment manufacturers attending the 2009 Annual Meeting for the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC), St. Louis, this past September in Atlanta. This topic, as well as the overall state of the industry, was among the many items addressed during the Concrete Construction Annual Roundtable, held prior to the ASCC event. Check out “where do we stand?"" to read excerpts from the roundtable.

Despite recent setbacks, our discussion examined the future that contractors face in the construction industry and, more importantly, when the industry will settle and begin to make positive gains.

As you know, the industry certainly is challenging right now—and will remain so for the next 12 to 18 months. But what may be more important is how you position your business to face these challenges.

According to a presentation given by Scott Humrickhouse, consulting group manager and principal at the FMI Corp., Raleigh, N.C., during the ASCC Annual Meeting, there are numerous steps concrete contractors can take to ensure their business remains profitable.

Humrickhouse suggested expanding revenue opportunities to new customers by accelerating direct selling efforts; improving the results for the selling time you invest in and execute; and offering additional concrete-related services. An example of the latter could include concrete maintenance and repair, one of the many ways you can diversify your business.

Additionally, Humrickhouse mentioned improving labor productivity; lowering the cost of work in place while maintaining productivity; improving materials procurement to deliver lower total cost to projects; and finding and implementing improved equipment efficiencies without negatively impacting your balance sheet.

Finally, Humrickhouse recommended reviewing every line item overhead cost component in your income statement by assessing the necessity of each; and what may be the most difficult option, evaluating the status of all employees and management compensation packages for possible savings. Of course, Humrickhouse's suggestions represent only a snapshot of the overall program he discussed during his presentation.

The evolution of your business involves constant improvement by challenging the traditional concrete contracting business model. Rather than asking your peers “How are you doing?” perhaps the question should be “What are you doing?”