(March 3, 2008) — Walking the show floor at the International Builders' Show, I found the relative quiet disconcerting.
The National Association of Home Builders reported more than 92,000 attendees, down a mere 11 percent from a year ago. But it felt like the decrease was larger. It just did.
Where one typically must bob, weave and dodge traffic from every imaginable angle, I felt like I could have run laps among the show's exhibits.
It's a sign of the times. Things are different. That feeling, at least for me, was palpable.
Developers, home builders and building products makers have a couple of choices — curl up in a shell and wait for the storm to pass, or use the downtime for self-reflection and self-improvement.
During the boom cycle, many building products makers were so busy manufacturing, that they never stopped to ask themselves if what they were making was as good as it could be, or even if they should be making it in the first place.
To them I say: Here is your chance to accomplish all that you could not when you were too busy to do anything but crank out product. Here is your chance to lay the groundwork for what your company will be during the next positive building cycle.
When the going is good, it can seem like there is no time to try to new things.
This slowdown is an opportunity to do everything you didn't have time to do before — develop new products, improve manufacturing efficiencies, invest in new technology and diversify product portfolios.
Crane Performance Siding has taken the plunge into polymer roofing. Fiber Composites LLC launched a cellular PVC deck board that looks nothing like their competitors'. CertainTeed developed a stucco-looking vinyl fence in an effort to better compete in new markets. Azek Building Products Inc. has transformed seemingly overnight from a trim-board maker to a provider of an array of exterior low-maintenance building products. And Ply Gem Industries Inc. is committed to doubling its $1.5 billion business through strategic acquisitions and better business practices in the relative near term.
These are all companies that have a clear understanding of who they are, and who they want to be five years from now. There is a lesson to be learned from them. All are set to come out of the building slump stronger than they entered it.
Talking with these companies lifted my spirits and reminded me that these slow economic cycles are an opportunity.
Don't waste it lamenting the present when you could be securing your future.
Griswold is an Akron, Ohio-based Plastics News staff reporter.