Mark Skaer

I keep an inspirational note on the message board in my office. It simply states: “Think POSITIVE. Stay POSITIVE. Be POSITIVE!!!” Admittedly, that message is difficult to follow these days. Everywhere you turn, let’s just say that less-than-optimistic news is right there, front and center. Blaring from the radio. Crying from television news. Screaming from newspaper headlines. Hearing it from an out-of-work neighbor.

As we all know, the final three months of last year sent the economy into its worst downhill slide in a quarter-century. The economy stumbled backward at a 3.8 percent pace, government economists said recently. That rate could accelerate to 5 percent or more this quarter.

But, wait. I’m not here to repeat all from the dark side. Instead, I’m here to look at the positives. In my estimation, it’s the best solution for contractor owners everywhere.


OK, being positive does not mean ignoring what is happening around you. After all, I cannot expect an owner who is going through problems or disasters, or living in difficult circumstances, to ignore his/her present condition and start thinking positively right away. Admittedly, it is far easier to think positively when in comfortable situations. Not so, however, when in the midst of a financial crunch, layoff possibilities, or other harsh situations - unless you are trained.

Being positive, like any other skill, requires gradual development and training. If you have not started training your mind accordingly, now is the time. After all, one cannot speak a new foreign language unless one studies and practices it for some time. At the same time, a person who is not trained cannot lift heavy barbells or run or swim like an athlete. Practice is designed to make one more positive, in addition to perfect.

Let’s make one thing clear: Saying that everything is going to be all right, smiling with no reason or ignoring problems and difficulties, without trying to solve them, is not being positive. It is being impractical, as well as naïve.

I believe positive owners expect the best and believe that a bad situation will improve. They are also practical people. The key here is that they act, not just daydream. They look for opportunities and for solutions, instead of doing nothing and blaming everybody for their troubles. They don’t dwell on their problems, live in self-pity, and believe that they are victims.

When going through these difficult times, what good can one gain by becoming despondent, negative, and unhappy? Why let circumstances and situations affect your moods and state of mind? Granted, being positive will not make circumstances and conditions disappear, as if by magic, but with a positive attitude one can improve the situation and be more in control of one’s business, state of mind, reactions, and behavior.

You can keep thinking of the problems that you face and keep suffering, but you can also refuse to let circumstances affect your mind too much. You cannot always control external circumstances, but you can change your attitude and the way you feel.

Positive thinking is being hopeful, and, as corny as this might sound, hope brings light and happiness into the soul. One can dwell in fear and negative expectations, but one can also try to do the best under the circumstances. It is a matter of choice.


Looking for positives? Here’s one. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, passed by the House before the end of January, could certainly help in turning around this drab economy. The House bill has $55 billion in building infrastructure spending, including $18.5 billion for the Department of Energy, of which $3.5 billion is dedicated to energy efficiency and conservation block grants to communities. Workforce training programs would receive $750 million, with $500 million dedicated to green jobs training programs authorized by the 2007 Energy Policy Act.

As we all know, we cannot, and should not, bank on the government to solve all this country’s current economic woes. However, we need its help - along with a positive mindset.

During these tough times, I encourage owners to involve employees. Encouraging employees to contribute ideas for cost-savings and process improvement accomplishes two important objectives. Not only do some of the best ideas come from the employee population, but involving people in decisions that affect them decreases the feeling of uncertainty.

Publication date:02/09/2009