I Still Have Hope

By Stephen Shook, Rarco Contracting Inc.


I headed into the county office with a fixed determination to finally get the permit I needed to start construction on my customer’s addition. Near the end of the process, I learned that my plate was missing one tiny piece of information and I wasn’t getting the permit today. The next thing I knew everyone in the county office was staring at me, my voice was raised to near screaming and the supervisor was moving toward me and asking me to not use foul language in his office.

This is not my normal mode of operation. I have been in the remodeling business for 17 years. I started from nothing and grew my business to $3.5 million annual sales. I believe in professionalism and honesty. My customers are my marketing staff; my team is one of the best around. I am now fighting for my life. Beginning 3 1/2 years ago I have declined in business volume so drastically I could not off-load overhead fast enough. As hard as I tried, projects became fewer and smaller. First I cut all our salaries by 17 percent. Then I reduced staff and then cut salaries more.

As of this writing, I have reduced forces by 75 percent and am still looking for ways to survive; nothing has been off the table. Growing a company was far easier than downsizing and reducing. It’s not my nature, and for all of us it has been contrary to everything we know. Many of my subcontractors have gone out of business and filed bankruptcy. Some have simply gone off the radar; I don’t know where they are.

Fortunately for me, I have found a way through this. I guess tough times can either make or break anybody. So far, I am determined to do whatever I have to do. The real strength that I needed throughout these years of business survival had to come from within. Even now as economic news worsens and we face a very long journey before us, inner motivation is an absolute. Without it we have no hope.

There it is. No matter what else drops away, I still have hope. As long as hope remains I can keep going.

My friend Andy Andrews says: “When you get to where you think you have to quit, ask yourself ‘If there was one more thing I could do, what would it be? Then do it.’” That single idea has brought me to the next day of survival many times.

After a request to increase my line of credit was declined, I realized there was one more thing I could do. The senior vice president of the bank was willing to meet with me and I walked away with more than a doubled line of credit. There’s always one more thing you can do. Although it may seem far-fetched, a long shot or even ridiculous, do it anyway.

I have always been about “team.” Never did I know how important this would become. In the first onset of “shock and awe recession,” my employees worked three weeks without pay. No one quit; no one even complained. They trusted I was doing all I could. We were a team. Even now, my subcontractors keep working for me even though I keep them waiting for money far longer than I should. I believe the key to all this team effort is trust. I found that being trusted right now is a stealth weapon with incredible effect and must be used gratefully.

Maybe you think I am being foolish or that I should have planned better or seen this coming. Maybe you would tell me to give it up and that the 14- and 16-hour days, the restless sleep and the toll on my body is not worth it, that I am going through all this only to lose anyway.

I say no. I say we are to do whatever it takes with the hand we’re given. I will persist, without exception. I may not have a lot of what I once had, but I now have some things that are much more powerful against defeat. I have the foundation of my faith, I have the example of others, I have the trust of my team and I still have hope.

Don’t think that because your net-worth is down or your performance is shaky or payroll is late or profits are small that you will fail. Failure is a battle within. Failure is only refusing to believe there is one more thing you can do. Failure is listening to those negative voices inside. Don’t listen to them! Surely you have those around you who want you to succeed. There are even some around you who need you to succeed. Surely there is one more thing you can do. You still have hope.