Super Heroes, Irish-Style

St. Patrick's Day celebrated as only Vegas can.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrated as only Vegas can.

I am writing this on Sunday Saint Patrick’s Day. In the morning. On a plane. At 6:30 a.m. Just let that sink in a minute. The sun has yet to rise on the second weekend day that should, but won’t, start devoid of work and end with corned beef and cabbage. Yet I am hurling myself in a long metal tube at unsafe speeds toward the Sodom of North America. Yawn. What could ever possess me to do this?You know what caused this. I’m headed to one of my favorite conferences of the year, the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Building Envelope Contractors (BED, no wait that’s BEC, sorry I am a little sleep-deprived here) Conference being held at the Planet Hollywood Hotel in Vegas.

There aren’t too many conferences that could coax me out of bed in the middle of the night (3 a.m my time for those of you keeping track) to get there, but this conference, which starts this afternoon and runs through Tuesday does. That’s because the BEC is my equivalent of a comic book convention to me—it is chock full of my heroes.

Contract glaziers are the superheroes of the glass industry. Without them, most buildings could not exist. The fight and slog their way through incredible obstacles and against amazing odds to survive in an unforgiving, and often deadly business. The owners and managers of the really good ones possess a set of skills and a business savvy that I envy. They are successful at one of the toughest businesses there is. Contract glaziers climb Everest every day, and have to earn the right to exist tomorrow on each and every day. I know of few businesses, in any industry, that are so unforgiving of a mistake or miscalculation.

Contract glazing was always the riskiest part of the glass business; since the recession started five years ago, those in it have braved death-defying odds just to maintain their existence. They are to be congratulated and revered. Take a look at our list of the top contract glaziers in the March issue of USGlass magazine on its way to you now, and you will see how severely and dramatically the list of players has changed in the last five years.

Yet, in a financial environment where private equity deems them “too risky,” and banks don’t want to lend to them or have reduced the amount they will provide significantly, and where difficult bonding has no become nearly impossible, they continue. They continue to build tall buildings and more and to be successful when all the conventional business gurus say they can’t be. They will forever be my beacons of business.

So off I go to Vegas where I will follow them around with a zeal worthy of attendees at a Star Trek convention in search of Spock. I am looking forward to learning from them. If you want to see the real titans of business, these are the guys.

If you are going to be at the BEC, please say “hi,”; don’t let the occasional yawn or blood shot eyes fool you. I’m exactly where I want to be.

A few more thoughts …

Well, we could not have been more timely with our February issue about “Women in the Glass Industry.” Turns out that issue hit the mail at the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote, as well as the two new books about women in the workplace. I have not yet read Fortune‘s recently published “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” feature, which includes Yahoo! CEO Melissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who recently authored “Lean In,” but I plan on it, and don’t feel I should comment until I do. Thanks so much to everyone, of both genders, who wrote to tell us how much they enjoyed the issue.

I’ll check back in when I can. Have a great week.