Founded in 1983, Birdwell & Associates was established on strong family-run business roots and has continued to be a successful specialty floor and concrete paving contractor. Bryan Birdwell, part owner, talks about the transition from general contracting to a focus on concrete when he came into the family business in the mid-1990s. This transition has led to Birdwell & Assoc. establishing its expertise in producing the flattest, most level concrete floors in the world. It has been proven with 23 Golden Trowel Awards in the past eight years, of which three were world records. “We know quality concrete slabs are a process, not a product,” says Birdwell.
Bryan Birdwell grew up learning about concrete by watching his father’s passion for it take life. He spent most of his youth volunteering his time pouring sidewalks and slabs for community projects. Stepping into the family business full time and helping to take it to the next level was a natural transition after completing high school.
Today, the company has 20-plus employees, all highly trained and focused on commitment to quality. Birdwell has a personal stake in his staff’s knowledge of concrete and its ability to work with safety in mind. He conducts in-house training, sharing a hands-on, common-sense approach to concrete. He teaches the fundamentals; training employees step-by-step so they understand the characteristics of the material. “We are constantly educating and reeducating ourselves about all aspects of our trade, including things as simple as fundamentals to as complex as mix designs,” says Birdwell.
Finances are a struggle in every small business and Birdwell & Assoc. has been no exception, but Birdwell says they’ve had success focusing on their proprietary “jointless/reduced joints” floor system that works well in random and defined traffic, and even pavement applications, and in consulting with engineers, architects, and other contractors. “We see a real future in our FAST Floor System.”
Even with the success of his company, Birdwell hasn’t forgotten his roots. When asked about the most exciting project he’s worked on, he talked about volunteering and working alongside other volunteers on the construction of a number of Assembly Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses which won FACE Golden Trowel awards.
Birdwell & Assoc. is set apart from its competitors. “We’re not afraid to fail, but we make sure we plan not to,” says Birdwell.
Tradesman vs Craftsman
Bryan Birdwell is very passionate about his involvement in concrete construction and the process that is needed to work with the material. “I see a real need in educating the fundamentals or basics within the concrete industry,” he says. “As an industry, I feel we have lost the craftsman. We still have to know why, when, and how to perform with the tools of our trade.”
Birdwell’s passion for concrete is evident as he explains that it’s about building a process or creating an assembly line for concrete construction. “The practice of moving the work from one worker to another until it becomes a complete unit,” he says, “then arranging the flow of these units at the right time and the right place, creating a process from which becomes the finished product. I refer to these as the basic’s—A,B,C’s and 1,2,3’s of concrete construction.”
It’s a difficult market with stiff competition. For Birdwell & Assoc, stepping ahead of the competition involves educating its employees on construction practices. “The average tradesman has the ability to see 3-D but only can grasp 1-D and at best 2-D,” says Birdwell. “So each tradesman might not be able to grasp or see the same thing, especially how their scope interfaces/impacts another. This is the difference between tradesman and craftsman.”
Birdwell’s goal has always been to capture and teach from the 4-D prospective, which will allow the contractor to grasp, turn, twist, and examine the overall project per trade and scope; inside-out prior to, during, and following the constructed element through good planning and communication. “Anything is possible if you have a strong desire to succeed. I have been told so many times that there is no reason to make it flatter or all concrete will shrink and crack. The poor souls that say that will be learning one day that they lacked both the heart and will to succeed. Always recognize that many established standards in the concrete industry are the results of someone else’s plateau.”