By Mark Buckshon

President, Construction News and Report Group of Companies

One of the commonest adages of business growth gurus is that the business leadership/ownership should “work on, not in” the business. In other words, if we are doing day-to-day chores and actively pursuing our trade, we cannot see the big picture, and will never get off the mediocrity treadmill.

If I believed this stuff absolutely, presumably, I would not be writing this article or, in fact, overseeing virtually all of the editorial content here and in several other publications.  Writers can be hired or contracted relatively inexpensively; in fact, we have one person contributing to our website content who lives in Pakistan and receives generous compensation (for someone in Pakistan, of course) of $3.00 an hour. His writing needs very little editing.

However, the counter-argument to the “lead, not do” business perspective rests within the understanding of the “why” behind the business. Journalism has always been my passion; and I successfully mastered the craft as a young adult by travelling to central Africa and experiencing first-hand the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.  I still get a thrill when I dig out the truth behind the PR machine, and am able to share it.

This process is reflected in my work this month on deciphering the story behind the move by the Carpenters Union to have general carpentry certified as a compulsory trade at the Ontario College of Trades.  I needed to research some of the more arcane processes you could imagine to discover how the decision unfolded. Finally, after some false starts, I connected with someone with close connections to the room where the initial decision was made.  Employers were “blindsided,” my source told me, when the employee representatives on the General Carpenter Trade put forward the motion when an employer’s representative was in rotation as chair. Since the chair can only vote in tie-breaking situations, this meant there were three votes for employers, and four for labour – and, of course, the motion passed.

The question is, will this gamesmanship continue to the next stage, in selecting the three-person adjudication panel?  Certainly, personal biases can have a significant impact on review panel decisions. But who will sit on the relevant adjudication tribunal? This research took me down further paths, which you can read elsewhere in this issue.

There are challenges, of course, in co-joining active journalism and publishing business ownership. We’ve recently published a special supplement for the Carpenters Union, and have produced features for Merit Ontario. We need to get along with and respect everyone in the industry, even if their views on critical issues may be polarized. The solution here, for me, is to always strive for fairness in publishing the news. There often are several sides to each story. Anyone can tell their story exactly the way they wish in t he revenue-generating special features; in the news section, however, we’ll take a more middle-of-the-road path.

I’m not about to give up my journalistic inquisitiveness to settle for life as an “executive” and I don’t think you should necessarily give up your trade or professional passions/skills to oversee your business or practice.  However, none of us can do everything alone – and we all need to be able to discover, lead and support a team of employees and contractors who can adapt their own skills to the larger picture.

            Mark Buckshon is president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies.  He writes a daily blog at and can be reached by phone at (888) 432-3555 ext 224 or by email at


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