Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Success in the Construction Industry

Profile on: Don Voth, President of Metrocan Construction Ltd.

Ask any successful entrepreneur to name the qualities that led to their achievements, and the word “perseverance” will probably appear at or near the top of their list. Few people know this better than Don Voth, President of Metrocan Construction Ltd. of Vancouver, BC. Ten years after purchasing his father’s construction company back in the mid-1970s, Don and his brother Ken’s hard work had turned the $2 million annual volume business into an entity with annual volumes of over 100 times that much.

“He doesn’t know what ‘no’ means,” says Don’s wife Elma. “He’s tenacious, absolutely tenacious. When someone says something can’t be done, that’s when he starts getting busy.”

Like any virtue, however, perseverance can also become a vice if it isn’t tempered with an awareness of the wider context in which one is working or the feelings of the people involved. Unfortunately, Don can also speak authoritatively about the consequences of failing to pay proper heed to such matters.

Don’s affinity for hard work comes naturally. As a teenager, he went to work in his father’s construction business, where he quickly learned that being the boss’s son did not guarantee an easy ride to the top.

“We started out with a really basic implement called ‘the shovel,’” Don jokes. “My dad always paid me half of what he paid everyone else… Half of my wages would go back to the home, and the rest I could keep.”

Despite these conditions, Don continued to work for his father throughout high school. After earning a degree in business administration and trying his hand at running a small company, he and Ken bought the business from their dad and set about expanding it.

By the early 1980s, Don and Ken were experiencing spectacular growth, overseeing the construction of up to fifteen high-rise buildings at any given time. Their annual sales volume was approximately $250 million in today’s dollars, and they were literally consumed by the business. That’s about the time reality hit—and hard—in the form of twenty percent interest rates. The brothers had been so wrapped up in the day-to-day running of their business that they hadn’t planned for the downside of a surge in inflation and interest rates. Suddenly, everything they had worked for was in jeopardy.

This sudden reversal in fortunes prompted Don to do some soul-searching.

“After all this busyness and building, what have I really achieved?” Don wondered. “Am I really at peace with myself, my family, and my Maker? I didn’t feel at peace, because if you’re at peace with these things, you have to be satisfied.”

Don also reflected on the role his Christian faith had played—or not played—in this crisis. It wasn’t that he had set aside his faith to do business. He just hadn’t allowed God to guide his decision-making, and that had cost him dearly.

When the dust finally settled, Don and Ken were still in business, but their company was just a shadow of its former self. Left with only twenty percent of their former holdings, the brothers decided that their new company, Metrocan, would be more streamlined than before. That meant working on fewer projects at one time. It also meant paying more attention to people- their families as well as their employees - and allowing God to assume a greater role in their decision-making.

“Ultimately, we concluded that accumulating wealth for ourselves isn’t really going to matter fifty years from now. But if we can impact people, what we are doing today will matter to this generation, the next generation, and the generation after that,” says Don.

To the brothers’ surprise, rather than see their profit margins go down as a result of their new scaled-back, people-centered approach, their profit margins actually went up! Overseeing fewer projects also allowed Don more time to focus on family. This included diversifying and starting two new companies - Merom Farm Ltd. and Proformance Racing - that allowed his children and other relatives to get involved in the business.

Today, Don is as persistent as ever. He still spends an enormous amount of time at work, but his reasons for doing so are far different than before. The bottom line is important, but it is merely a means to an end. Success is more about spending time with family, both at work and at play; helping his employees improve their lot in life, and, most of all, using his company to help others learn about God.

“I think our good Lord really has a plan in mind for each of us,” Don says, “and he’ll swing the doors open for us if we’re tuned in to him.”

Have you ever felt like your virtues have begun working against you rather than for you? Perhaps it’s time you asked Jesus to help you take stock of your life before a crisis hits. If you don’t know Jesus, we encourage you to pray the following:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me be the person you want me to be.

Is it the desire of your heart to make this prayer yours?

If yes, pray now and according to his promise, Jesus Christ will come into your life.

You are a success
Abraham Ekedum

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