The personnel of our technical department are in continuous contact with contractors to attend to all of their needs.

  • We have a big lab in Tampa where we centralize all of the research and the studies we do on the relationships between admixtures, additives, aggregates, and cement products, to help our customers do a better job. They need us and we are there in every region to work with contractors. Having a big presence in the ready mix side has helped us understand the market better and that's why we created the technical department.
  • We not only have technical support, we have a large promotion department in every region dedicated to working with our customers to help them win projects, especially parking lots, to win jobs over asphalt, and in the residential market to try to get a larger share there. So we not only help technically, but we go hand in hand with contractors to talk to decision makers.
  • We have a toll-free customer support number that is currently a pilot program in Texas—a single customer service center. We are completing the pilot and expect to launch it next year for the whole country. For any technical or construction issues anywhere in the U.S. you can call this number. We also are implementing a revolutionary concept called “Ready Slump.” We put a patented device into the drum that is connected by satellite to our dispatch centers and it tells us what the slump of the concrete is, so that when it gets to the site there's no need to measure it. It's working really well on pilot studies in Florida and Northern California and soon we will introduce it to the entire country.
  • We are supporting the P2P movement and I think it's one of the most important issues that the industry is facing today. I hope that one day we can get to performance-based concrete rather than prescriptive. We have to convince contractors little by little by showing them that what they are getting from us is what they need and that they can rely on our products to have the quality they are asking for. It won't be easy to change, but it's a matter of trust and it's a matter of working diligently to convince contractors that we will take care of their business.
  • The most important issues the industry is facing today are P2P, being attractive enough to attract and retain talent, and doing a better job with our drivers. Drivers need to be trained and if we don't have good drivers we will suffer. It's not only expensive to have turnover and have to train new drivers, but it diminishes the faith we have with our customers. At the end of the day, the drivers are the ones who face the customers so we need to retain the good ones.
  • Managing sustainability is one of the greatest challenges the cement manufacturing industry faces all over the world. It's a balance between the cheapest sources of fuel and production of CO2, SOX, and NOX. Obviously we always comply with the law, but even more than that we are always looking for alternative fuel sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are now working on certifying all our plants under ISO 14000, which is the ISO environmental standard, and we expect to have all our plants certified by the end of 2007 which will allow us to have all the systems in place to have complete control over our emissions. We aren't required to do that but we think it's important. This is unilateral, we are not required to so this but we believe in sustainability and we believe that we need to work in harmony with nature. Our relationship with the communities is important and so is our relationship with regulatory agencies. At the end of the day we need to be conscious of sustainability. All of us are environmentalists and we are living for our planet and for our children and grandchildren.
  • The trend towards vertical integration is going to continue and will include retail-construction supplies—and the whole industry needs to be more conscious of the needs that our communities have. A lot of the changes that this industry is going to face will come as a result of the changes that communities demand from every industry. I think we have the responsibility to be ahead of those demands. Our long-term vision in the United States is for CEMEX to be a big part of the consolidation of the industry.
  • We have a weekly leadership meeting every Monday morning with five to 10 people. The first thing on the agenda is safety. Then we talk about major jobs that are underway and whether there are any issues: receivables, schedule, manpower. We then discuss upcoming projects and which we want to pursue. There are limited resources: cash, bonding, people. Given those three restraints, we look for the best return for the organization. Why take a job where there's no margin when there's work in other areas that offer more opportunity?
  • Baker started as an entrepreneurial company but at some point you have to combine the entrepreneurial spirit with sound business practice. That's where a lot of companies fall by the wayside. They never make that shift. We go through once a month and review every project from a financial standpoint. Once one of our guys asked why we spent so much time reviewing this when we could be building. I told him we are business people, and we have to make decisions from a sound business strategy rather than getting emotionally attached.
  • Our ideal project is working for a construction manager who has put a concrete package out for bid. When a GC takes a lump sum job, we need to beat the GC's estimate. In these bigger jobs, the air gets thin. There aren't that many companies that can bond a $10 million job. But that's the sweetest part of the bat for us—those major jobs. Our forte has evolved over the years. We started with slabs then eventually got into concrete frame and other kinds of work. Today, what we do best is manage and execute large concrete projects—the whole package. There are lots of contractors who can do just slabs or just site work but not many that can do all the concrete work on a big job. Because of the size of our company, we can transfer resources to achieve the most efficiency. We look for the higher risk/higher reward jobs—at least higher rewards in theory!
  • During my junior and senior years of college, I was working as a laborer for a contractor. When I graduated from college in 1974, it was a tough time so I went back to the contractor as a management trainee doing cost accounting. I ended up as an estimator. I met Dan Baker when he was just getting started. In 1978, I was doing some fundraising for the Boy Scouts and approached Dan for a contribution. I went to have lunch with him and walked away with a check for $500 and a job offer. I've been there ever since.
  • There was talk as the company was growing that we could market from the outside or inside. I was approached in 1987 to do the marketing, and I said no since Baker was an operations-based company and there was the perception that marketing was an overhead item. Carl Bimel convinced me that the business development and marketing work was important. I did that until 1992.
  • In April 2003, I was put back in charge of all the operations in Cincinnati. I had come full circle since that's what I did when I first started with Baker.
  • A year and a half ago, I also became the chief people officer—the HR department reports to me. People are our No. 1 asset. The only thing that limits our growth is qualified people. If you have good people, the financial side will take care of itself because you'll have successful projects.
  • We don't mind good competition; it's naive competition that we can't take. There are lots of hard-working people in this business, but many are not very good business people. So educating and raising the bar is important, and that's part of why I have been involved with ASCC—and many other organizations. We definitely feel we get something back, although there is certainly an investment. I figured once that I spent almost two months of the year at association meetings. But I do think there's a direct return. First is the network you develop. We've done several joint ventures with people we met at ASCC. You get out of something what you put into it. We believe that if you're there and spend the time, you'll get something out of it. We've made about every mistake in the book, and we're not afraid to share what we've learned.