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It’s a Gift to be Simple

Paul Deffenbaugh, Editorial Director, Posted 01/31/2017

The other day, Aaron Copeland's composition "Appalachian Spring" came on the radio. It had been quite a while since I had heard it, but I had a sudden rush remembering how much I enjoyed this piece of music. Copeland is a quintessentially American composer, and his body of work includes such fabulous pieces as "Rodeo," "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Billy the Kid." Part of my enjoyment comes from the piece's evocative representation of the essence of our country. "Appalachian Spring" sounds like America.

Copeland used the melody of a Shaker hymn as the foundation of the composition. The hymn is "Simple Gifts" and it begins with the lyric "Tis the gift to be simple."

I love simplicity. I adore it. I admire it. I seek it out. I try to live by the rules of simplicity. In my writing, I try to take complicated ideas and make them simpler and more accessible. The language I use can be interpreted as simplistic, but even in its plainness, simple language can convey complex ideas. We strive as writers to be concise and precise.

As contractors and fabricators and installers and erectors and manufacturers and distributors, we can all benefit from making our business operations simpler. The best way to do that is to implement procedures we can replicate time and time again.

In this month's issue, we include a feature about how metal roofing contractors should manage customer complaints. (Managing Roofing Customer Complaints, page 18.) We report on two contractors, American Metal Roofs, Flint, Mich., and McCarthy Metal Roofing, Raleigh, N.C., who have become adept at implementing systems that simplify their sales and production processes.

Much of what we do in construction is the repetition of the same tasks over and over. Day in and day out, we sell the same kinds of projects, we install the same kinds of products and we work on the same kinds of buildings. To accomplish these repetitious tasks, we create templates and cutting jigs and business forms to make sure our efforts are consistent and easily executed.

Improving our businesses should follow the same pattern of simplicity. Why beat your head against a door that somebody has already opened? Our lives can be so much easier if we seek out those people who have already figured out how to do something and learn from them.

Too many contractors, though, abide by the other American creed that Copeland also extols- individuality. We stand on our own two legs and face the problems that come, no matter the consequences.

That individuality stands in the way of our success because we believe we need to figure things out for ourselves. Again. Why bang your head against a door that somebody has already opened?

Trying to figure out how to do job costing? Somebody already has. Trying to improve your close ratio? Somebody has already done it. Trying to reduce your overhead? Somebody has a system.

All you need to do is find the right person and the right system. How? That's simple, too. Network. Join an association. Follow up on a magazine article. Hire a consultant. Attend a trade show. If you're devoted to educating yourself, improving your business becomes simple.

And it's a gift to be simple. 

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