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Archive for June, 2010

Having played guitar since I was a youngster, I have developed a deep appreciation for guitar players. Once, a friend asked me, “What is the difference between you and Sonny Lallerstedt?” (More on Sonny in a moment.) I replied, “I play guitar, Sonny is a guitar player.”

I could regale you, if you are a music fan, with Sonny Lallerstedt stories for the entire blog but I will make a point before I am done. Sonny is one of the best friends I have ever had, and without a doubt the most talented musician I have ever known. He played Phil Keaggy’s ‘Wedding In The Country Manor’ at our wedding, has played on hundreds of albums from Elton John down to people no one has ever heard of and he is as humble as he is gifted.

A couple of quick examples of Sonny’s musical abilities:

– When Sonny was 12 years old, he could play any song on the radio by Chet Atkins (His major guitar influence)

– Sonny has perfect pitch. You can put a guitar tuner in front of him, ask him to sing a ‘C’ and the tuner will indicate a spot on ‘C’.

– I was in his recording studio once when he was working on a project for the ‘Miss South Carolina’ beauty pageant; they were making a track of ‘New York, New York’. He had six horn players, all partitioned from each other but still playing/recording at the same time.

After they finished, Sonny had to point out to one of the horn players that at a certain measure, he played a ‘F’ instead of a ‘G’. Obviously, the trumpet player asked to hear the playback. Sonny ‘punched out’ all the rest of the horns so we would only be hearing the player in question and sure enough, the mistake was obvious.

There are so many other examples I could share but the bottom line is I have been very blessed to have so many experts at so many things among my circle of friends. When I am buying a new guitar, piece of equipment or whatever, I always ask Sonny’s input first.

Now, back to business; when Eddie Van Halen came on the scene, the tones he got out of his home-made, Fender ‘Stratocaster’ copy guitar were amazing. I once mentioned to Sonny how I would love to play Eddie’s guitar to get those sounds. He replied that it would sound different if I played it. (He was not just talking about the vast talent gap either.) That thought never left my mind.

When I got the idea for his blog, I dropped Sonny an email just to make sure I remembered this conversation correctly, that if I picked up Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, played it, it would sound differently. Sonny’s reply was:

You’re right! Everybody has a different touch. We might get close to the sound, but the little things that each of us does makes a difference.

This was good news for me. First, I would not have to abandon my idea for this blog and secondly, my memory may not be as bad as I feared.

As we try to build new business, we are inundated with solutions, tools, opportunities and experts all offering help. I have no doubt that we can all learn something…even from a blog like mine! The thing to remember is when you hear someone say “This is the way to do this.” or “This is the way to do that.” each one of us, no matter how closely we follow the recipe, will have a different result because of, just like Sonny said, we all have a different touch.

It you play guitar or are a guitar player and you want to improve…read a book, attend a seminar/webinar or even better, take a personal lesson that will help you develop your unique touch. What may be comfortable for me to say in front of a building committee will be different than what you would feel comfortable saying. If you are in charge of growing revenue and/or increasing profits for your company, I believe the same holds true.

There are many solutions out there that will help you grow your company, just remember that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. Or, one ‘sound’ doesn’t fit all.

Post Script – I want to thank Chris Hill for his guest post last time. Chris is an incredible resource and his blog, ‘Construction Law Musings’ is the best law blog I have read.

Also, if you want to see a very short clip, less than a minute, of Sonny:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22tMBjerRdk

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

www.cmconl.com

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Today, I am taking a big ‘risk’ and letting Christopher Hill pinch hit as a guest blogger here on ‘Building New Business’. When I say taking a ‘risk’, I mean get ready for a real writer and excellent blogger!

I have gotten to know Chris in the past year and a half through his wonderful blog ‘Construction Law Musings’, via email and Twitter and his blog is the reason I did not want to enter any ‘Best Blog’ contest. I am a big fan of his and have learned a great deal from him and I am confident you will as well.

So, without further ado…Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Christopher Hill.

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As I left a mediation last week at 8:30 at night, I realized something that I knew all along. Mediation works.

Why does mediation work? For several reasons that I can think of.

The first, and likely most important is that lawyers are expensive. In most construction cases, we charge by the hour and those hours build up, especially close to a trial date. A mediated settlement can avoid this sharp uptick in attorney fees that always occurs in the last month before trial. Therefore the earlier the better.

The second is the flexibility to make a business decision. Commercial contractors and subcontractors are in a business, and they should be making business decisions. While one such decision can be to go to litigation; litigation is not always the best solution from a financial, or stress perspective. Construction professionals, with the assistance of construction attorneys, can come up with a creative way to deal with a problem and solve it.

While sometimes trial is inevitable (yes, even with a mediation), mediation allows for more options. At trial, someone wins and someone loses. A judge must pick sides and leave someone (and possibly both sides) unhappy. Then there are appeals, collections, and other expensive issues to deal with. Mediation allows compromise and allows the parties to agree to terms that the Court (or arbitration for that matter) could not give them. Add to this the opportunity costs of protracted litigation and the idea seems to be a no brainer.

The third is that a contractor can leave a mediation satisfied that they took part in the process and in controlling their own fate. Let’s face it, litigation is a foriegn world for most construction professionals. Once that call is made to their lawyer, the process can seem to be out of their hands, and in many ways it is. A good mediator can change that. While the compromise may not result in complete satisfaction, trial can, and often does result in dissatisfaction. At least with mediation, one can feel as if he was in some control and not on a headlong charge to oblivion without a way to put on the breaks.

Don’t get me wrong, mediation must be approached with a spirit of compromise and sometimes starting litigation is the only way to get there. If the parties aren’t committed to the process, no settlement can occur. Mediation does not work all the time, particularly if the parties present hurdles to the process.

In short, while litigation has its place and I am a construction attorney with the experience to pursue a case from start to finish, I would much rather help the contractors and subcontractors I represent continue to make money and avoid the stress, expense and monetary cost of litigation through contract review and mediation where possible. This is for one simple reason, mediation works.

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Christopher Hill is a LEED AP and construction attorney in Richmond, VA. Chris is a member of Virginia’s Legal Elite in Construction Law and authors the Construction Law Musings blog. Please feel free to contact Chris through his blog or on Twitter at @constructionlaw.

Please check out Chris’s Construction Law Musings Blog for more on Virginia construction law and other topics.

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