I wish all readers of this magazine a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. And, I would like to reflect briefly on what it takes to make some new year wishes come true.

Learn something new in 2008, or try a new approach in the way you operate. But whatever change you are contemplating, explore it thoroughly, taking into account how others have handled it as well as your company’s current culture and the strategic plans you already have in place.

You have some well-thought-out strategic plans, don’t you? If not, I suggest your first assignment of the new year should be making an honest assessment of your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Gathering opinions from all the parties involved with your business should be part of the process. That means listening to customers and employees, too.

Having that information will allow you to take the next step—determining where you want to take your company, evaluating the feasibility of your goals, and deciding what interim actions you should and can take to get there.

That’s certainly apt advice if you are thinking about entering a new line of business. And, given the economic forecast for 2008, with the slumping housing market and ensuing credit crunch threatening to slow consumer and business spending, contractors may well be tempted to look for greener pastures. Yes, that’s a deliberate pun, since predictions for the growth of the green building market continue on an upward path, bucking the trend for many other sectors.

However, it takes more than faith in market predictions to succeed in a new field. When that field is something as complex as the one in which green buildings blossom, it takes a whole lot of management education and work force training before any other activities can proceed.

Even when we’re talking about something that should be less complicated, such as making a change in a basic administrative operating procedure, some prep-work is still in order. Consider, for example, contract documents.

This stodgy, old topic has suddenly become exciting with the debut of ConsensusDOCS, hailed as one of the most significant developments to impact construction in decades. It is an online catalog of more than 70 construction documents (www.consensusdocs.org) that were crafted through an unprecedented collaboration among 23 organizations representing all concerned parties—designers, owners, contractors, subcontractors and even sureties. And what makes these documents revolutionary is that each of them was drafted to reflect the project’s best interests, rather than a single-party interest, and to prevent conflicts that can jeopardize project delivery.

The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) is proud to have participated in the three-year consensus-building process that led up to this breakthrough, both independently and through our organization’s membership in the Associated Specialty Contractors (ASC) and encourages everyone to consider using ConsensusDOCS. But, don’t consider them in a vacuum—also take into account what will work best for you and your project partners. Even though ASC participated in developing the new documents, this umbrella organization also endorses the standard-form contracts published by the American Institute of Architects, recognizing that they still have a place in the broad world of construction.

Look, it’s like Davy Crockett said: “Make sure you’re right. Then go ahead.” Or that old carpentry maxim: “Measure twice. Cut once.” My point is simple: Before you make any major change, do your homework.

Fortunately, we all can continue to count on this magazine to help us with the research part. And, with NECA furnishing such great resources, I am confident we all can anticipate another productive year ahead.  EC