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How quickly things change.


One day, I’m in shirtsleeves strolling the aisles of the withered, yet still-fascinating World of Concrete (WOC) show in Las Vegas.


Forty-eight hours later, I’m trudging through the Washington, DC, area’s worst snowstorm in decades, wondering how much more my well-used snow shovel and cranky back can take.


Sort of reminds one of the construction industry's reversal of fortune, doesn't it?


Two years ago, WOC enjoyed its second largest turnout ever. Even with portents of an economic downturn on the horizon, vendors were generally pleased with the quality of the conversations they had with visitors to their booths.


Flash forward to last week, where the marked decrease in the number of vendors, the size of their booths, and competition for elbow room in the aisles was reminiscent of the show’s closing hours, rather than its opening day “prime time.”


But just as a few glimpses of sunlight and a few hours of above-freezing temperatures offered DC-area denizens glimmers of relief this week (at least before the latest snowstorm blew in), WOC 2010 wasn’t entirely a sea of frowns.


Several equipment vendors’ exhibits were in a near constant state of activity, and not because they’d recruited some local Vegas-style eye-candy to lure visitors. They were chatting up present and potential customers, showing off their newly released models, andbelieve it or notwriting out order forms. One even confessed after a better than expected WOC week, “maybe the tide has turned.”

Perhaps, but don't start dancing in the streets just yet.  (Many haven't been plowed yet, anyway.)


Several factors contributed to these vendors’ success in defying the WOC downturn oddslocation; existing reputation; products or services being offered; planning, strategy, and expectations going in; andappropriately for Las Vegasa little luck.


But these are the same factors that typically distinguish successful manufacturers and contractors (not to mention snow-weary Washingtonians) during trying times like these. Take care of the things you can control the best you can, manage those you can’t the best you can, and hope that perhaps a little luck comes your waya customer with some capital, a green-lighted project, a funded RFP….or simply a dose of ice-melting sunlight.