My husband, my brother-in-law, and I were sitting around reminiscing about construction slowdowns we've been through. (What can I say? We're old.) My brother-in-law talked about the '70s, when to avoid laying off his crew he sent them to his mother's house to paint. He was hoping that by the time they finished he'd have some other jobs lined up. Instead, he wound up sending them to the homes of his mother's friends, too. My husband talked about 1991, when he loaned a truck to a friend running for office, who needed it for putting up campaign signs. At least that way the truck was on the road, where potential customers could see the company's name printed on the side. Otherwise, it just sat in the driveway — business was that bad.

It's a painful truth: Sooner or later every construction company goes through hard times. And when that happens, you can't get away with the things you could when times were good. Here are some of the problems you have to watch out for when business is slow.

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