When my son returned home for the Middle Tennessee State University Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program's fall break, he had a lot to tell me. He was pretty sure he passed his American Concrete Institute certification test. He was really enjoying statistics and thinks he'd like to focus on quality control. And he wanted to earn a few extra credit points in his geology class by bringing back a few of my extra mineral and fossil samples to give to his professor.

But when I asked my most important question of the day, he really didn't have a very good answer. While I was pleased he's really getting involved in our industry, I wanted to know where he plans to perform his summer internship. I've been praying that he'd be able to select an exotic city to learn about the industry, never thinking for a moment that I might tie in a work-related visit.

To my chagrin, he hasn't been too focused on the interviewing process. It seems that between school-work, his full-time job in Nashville, and other distractions of college life, checking out the recruitment listing board outside program director Heather Brown's office has not been a priority. I can't get too upset. But I hope he'll take my advice and spend a little more time preparing for his future.

Acquiring the right perspective is a part of being successful. For my son, doing well in the here-and-now is exciting. But as we all know, the here-and-now is fleeting. Like my son, all of us from time to time need a reminder that we need to think bigger.

My reminder on the importance of thinking about the bigger, more strategic picture came in October when I attended the fall meeting of the Strategic Development Council (SDC). I hadn't been there for quite a while because I was too busy solving the daily battles of my job.

My experience was refreshing. The SDC meeting has become our industry's think tank. It was an opportunity to be part of systematically changing the concrete industry. And we need more of you there.

For example, how would you answer the following questions? If the price of oil reaches $120 per barrel, what would be the effect on your business? What would happen if 10% of interstate mainline paving switched from asphalt to concrete? Would there be enough cement for everyone? How should our industry address the problem of aggregate supplies?

Some of our industry's biggest thinkers addressed these and other topics for two intense days. Sure, these discussions may not help you tomorrow when the plant breaks down or help you win the next bid. But if you want to be a leader in this industry, you need to take time and spend some time thinking strategically with your fellow producers.

For me, it was an opportunity to listen, learn, and focus on what to report to you for the next few issues. But for most of you, attending the next SDC meeting may provide a sense of renewal and encouragement. But more importantly, your attendance can actually enact change in the concrete industry.

And now I'm going to offer a challenge to my fellow SDC members. I'm proposing that we find a way to include one student from each of the CIM programs at our next meeting in April in the Baltimore area. Just imagine how each student will relate the far-reaching ideas to his fellow classmates?

But more importantly, our dreams, visions, and plans for how the concrete industry will look in 2030 mean more to students like my son than they do to me. After all, he and his classmates will be in charge.

To learn more about the Strategic Development Council, contact Doug Sordyl, SDC's managing director. His phone number is 248-848-3755; his e-mail address is Douglas.Sordyl@concretesdc.org.