There are some changes going on in our business lives lately and while they probably aren't of much interest to anyone else, I do want to have it in my BigG records.
This has been a difficult week for John. As we have been wrapping up the year end, we have been looking closely at our finances of the past year and projections for the year to come. I guess it is no secret to anyone that the economy is tough. The work has been getting to be thinner and further between since '08. Many of the contractors from our area have either gone out of business or have moved to places like North Dakota. So far, we haven't had to go down either of these roads.
When things were going strong, we had nearly 100 employees. That was several years ago. we had our first initial 'belt tightening' at the same time everyone else did with the financial crash. We downsized and laid off many of our excavation workers. On the excavation side of things, we lived from job to job, wondering if it would be our last. We took any work that came and we were able to stay afloat. A recurring phenomenon was the length of time it took many of our jobs to pay us. Instead of the usual 30-60 days, the new norm was 60-180 days. When you pay all of your own bills on time, that becomes a big issue for what is known as 'cash flow.' More and more it has been increasingly hard to swim against that flow.
I just need to say here that over the years, people would ask us if we had work. I was always able to answer 'Yes.' Every time we would wrap up a job, thinking it was our last, another one would appear and the timing would be almost perfect. Like almost eerily perfect. And that happened for us over and over and over for 3 years now. We never were quite sure where our next job would be, but (and I know this is true) the Lord showed us over and over that he had a plan for us. Even writing this now, I am teary eyed thinking of some of John's sleepless nights wondering about work. He would do all he could to get it, and when we weren't sure where to look anymore, the Lord would show us the path.
We are wrapping up our last big job. And this time, it is different, because this time there is not another job that has come up in front of us. John had been mulling over an idea that kept coming back to him, and has explored every other option because this idea was difficult for him to embrace. But last week, he made the decision to get out of the excavation business altogether. Doing all of those excavation jobs, you build up lots of equipment over time and it becomes a big beast that you need to feed with payments, fuel, repairs, etc. So we will be going to auction with our beasty friend and seeing if we can get out from under him.
Once John made the decision, although it was really difficult, he knew it was the right one. He has had to lay off a lot of employees which was the hardest for him as he feels a lot of responsibility for each man and his family. He states without reservation that this has been one of the most unpleasant weeks he can remember having at work. But he also says that although it really stinks, he feels at peace.
I could sit and speculate all day about why our lives unfold the way they do. In fact, I do that a LOT! ;) Having excavation has enabled us to do a lot of things that we wouldn't have otherwise. We were able to buy land that gave us continued access to the pit (and pay it down a chunk), we were able to buy out other family members that owned a part of the business (which we finished doing officially this month! Yeah!), and we continue to be able to take care of Kristine and our own family. And hopefully, going back to just making gravel will still do that. When I ponder the timing of things, I can't help but notice a few other things that have happened this month. We were able to sign a contract ensuring that we will actually HAVE a gravel pit in years to come. It is in a different location on a place called Ewing Mesa, not far from our current pit. It has been an outright pleasure actually to deal with the owners of the land, which seems to be an uncommon thing these days in business. We also have had another business opportunity present itself last month. Something completely different than construction. I look forward to posting about it when it's a done deal.
It's just crazy how the last month has unfolded. There is a line from 'The Sound of Music' where Maria says that when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window. That line has come to my mind many, many times this month.
So what will we look like in the new year? Hopefully on the construction front we will be leaner and meaner with positive cash flow going into our spring crushing. On the new business front, hopefully we will be rocking it and I will blog all about it. On the home front I know that our family will be all right. The Lord has taken care of us up to this point in ways that are nothing short of miraculous to me. So recognizing that, I don't know exactly what the new year holds, and if it all turns out to be completely unexpected, then I know it will be what is right for us. I don't expect that it will be easy, but I am trusting the Lord will walk us through whatever it may be. Don't get me wrong I of course am hoping it will be us, holding hands and laughing, as we skip down a flower lined, sunny path!! ;) I guess I'll just have to wait and see until we get there.