Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Words: Joel Guth

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? We have all heard that statement many times. Today, let’sapply it to ourselves. Whether you are just beginning in the trade or a seasoned masonry professional, you need take time to learn and to grow yourself; learn to become a lifelong learner. What does that mean? It means that you are continually educating yourself and you are always looking for new, innovative ways to improve your career or business.

As a third-generation mason by trade, I have witnessed many changes in the Masonry industry throughout my life and career. Starting out as a laborer and eventually becoming a mason contractor, I had to keep myself attuned to the changes and innovations in the trade to grow my business. Through my grandfather, my father, my colleagues, and coworkers, I gained invaluable knowledge about masonry. It’s a humbling experience to be the young pup amidst the old dogs of the trade. I knew that I would not grow without other’s help and insight. There was more to be learned and I needed to figure out where to find that information.

After working 10 years in the industry, I attended my first tradeshow dedicated to concrete and masonry professionals. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I needed to go. I remember feeling a mixture of awe and bewilderment at the wealth of products, vendors, and information at my fingertips. It was almost too much. How would I walk away from that show with everything I needed to further my business? It was an overwhelming experience, but that first year taught me that I needed a plan for the next show I would attend.

These tradeshows host countless years of experience and I had it all right there to tap into. Each year thereafter, I created a list of the top five areas of improvement my business needed and committed to learning as much as I could. Creating a plan and executing it to the best of my ability, I attended each show from then on with purpose and with a goal. It worked. My business grew exponentially and I had a successful masonry company under my belt.

So where can an experienced (Old Dog) mason or young pup go to learn more about our trade and our business? For the masonry industry, there is one place where you can go to expose yourself to the latest trends, products, and information to grow your career and business, World of Concrete. WOC, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, calls their show “The world’s largest annual international event dedicated to concrete and masonry professionals.” And it’s true.

The sheer number of seminars, exhibits, and activities can be overwhelming. But with some strategic planning, you can maximize your experience and time at WOC.

Identify what you want to learn. It might be flashing and waterproofing, making BIM-M part of your business, the latest choices in reach machines, or options for replacing your mixers or masonry saws. Reflect on your needs and pick five areas or products you want to learn about.

Create a daily schedule for yourself. Target the vendors, seminars, and activities that will most benefit your career or business. Stick to your schedule but keep your eyes open for new things as you move throughout the show. Attend a seminar on a subject you need to learn about. There could be an opportunity to get one on one time with an industry expert to answer questions that are specific to your business.

Set aside some time to attend the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 and MCAA’s Masonry Skills Challenge to support your fellow masons. While there, visit the Masonry Innovations & Workforce Development Zone to see the latest and greatest in products to improve your business.

Now, after 30+ years in the masonry trade, I am no longer the young pup, but now the “Old Dog”. I asked myself, “Can this old dog learn new tricks?” The answer is, yes. The need to be continually learning benefits your clients, your trade, and your own self. I committed myself to become a lifelong learner years ago, and I work daily to… It is a conscious commitment to consistently seek out new and relevant information and utilize all the resources at your disposal to do so. It was not easy, but I urge you to do the same for yourself.

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About Joel: Joel Guth is the President of iQ Power Tools, manufacturer of power tools with integrated dust collection technology. A third generation mason by trade and contractor for 30+ years, he has been in the construction industry his entire life. Since 1995, Joel has been a student of construction job site safety, always looking to find ways to improve efficiency and safety together with a focus silica awareness.