Perspective | by Thomas J. Finan, Publisher | 01/07/2010
Shortly before Christmas an old friend called to let me know that she had once again watched the Jimmy Stewart movie "It's a Wonderful Life." For many years, as I worked to build a publishing company, that movie had been a touchstone.
took over the reins of this magazine when my father died suddenly - as
had the father of George Bailey in the movie. And like George, I felt
the burden of being there for all the people who depended on me. At
least that's the way I thought it was. In the last 10 years I've
watched as the other magazines in which I was involved in addition to
CNR were sold and the people associated with them had to find other
work. And through it all I've learned that the people who I thought I
was carrying were actually carrying me.
Over the past year the economic forces that all of us in the construction industry have felt have caused painful layoffs at companies deeply rooted in the St. Louis construction industry. The beginning of 2010 sees us beginning to climb out of the worst drop in construction since the Great Depression. All of us have struggled and many of us have seen good friends hurt. But we've also seen moments of grace; as friend reaches out to friend, and the network of those of us make our living in our industry find something bigger than ourselves, creating opportunities where none seemed to exist.
Our industry is not going to be the same one that we've known going forward. But this is as it always was. Of the five contractors in St. Louis' top five in 1969 when CNR was founded, only one is still in that elite. And the number of great names in the industry that have gone by the wayside in the four decades that this magazine has been around is large. As I think back on those companies, it's not so much the projects they did or the position they held in the market. What I remember is the people -- the people who steered the direction of the companies, made their livings in them, and crossed paths with me in the process.
At the end of "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey reads an inscription written in a book that his guardian angel Clarence has left for him. The inscription reads: "Dear George: Remember - No man is a failure who has friends." Ours is an industry - more so than many of others - where people make the difference, where relationships are paramount. As we work to repair the damage that's occurred over the past year, one of the most important things we can do is to reach out those who have been most affected by what has happened.
St. Paul told us to "bear one another's burdens". That doesn't mean coming up with solutions or fixing things. That's not within our control. But picking up the phone to touch base on a regular basis with an out-of-work friend, or taking one another away from the grind of business to focus on family and friendship and balance in life over a cup of coffee or a beer is something that we can and should do for one another.
Times are hard, but we're among friends.