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These are tough times for the housing industry — 15 years of solid growth followed by a nationwide contraction like we’ve never seen. Even though many of us experienced a dip in revenues after September 11, this recession has been far worse. Most custom builders and remodelers are down 20 percent to 30 percent, and many have cut their staffs in half. Government estimates put unemployment for the construction industry above 17 percent, and many think it will get worse before it gets better.

The question is, what have we learned from this recession? We’ve had to make many difficult choices during the slowdown, but will those choices improve our companies as we move ahead?

I know that I picked up bad habits during the boom years, and now I’m having to unlearn them. My company has had to change, and the process has not been pleasant. In 2007 I gave a talk at the JLC Live conference; titled “Growing Your Business Beyond Yourself,” it focused on how we could continue to grow our businesses by developing our staffs and learning how to delegate some of the roles we take on as company owners. Then came the crash, and instead of growing we had to shrink to survive. Conserving cash was critical, and rather than delegating I had to lay off well-trained staff and take on roles I had relinquished as I grew.