The majority of our work is residential, although the commercial market is better in Sacramento today so we are doing more commercial work. By next year we will about 50-50 residential-commercial. W expected to grow the commercial side, but I didn't expect the residential to go down 40 to 45%.
We have crews that have done residential for years that we have now moved to the commercial side. Sure there's always a learning curve and we may have a little extra labor on a job to bring the guys up to speed, but if you can set a house foundation, you can set panels.
When I started in California almost everything in residential concrete construction except the pouring of the concrete was pieced out—almost the only thing we did was place and finish. But I couldn't control the schedule so I started bringing everything in-house. What we do well is manage labor, so we try to take any of the subcontractors we can out of the schedule so we can cut days out of the schedule.
I was a farm kid and then I went to Colorado to work for my brother who had a concrete company. Eventually I became a partner in a concrete company in Colorado, but business got bad there. I had some good guys and crews and we felt Sacramento had lots of opportunity. So Cedar Valley started in Sacramento in 1990 but it wasn't until 1995 that we really started to grow. From 1990 to today we have been averaging about 23% a year growth. We just got better as we grew.
We haven't had too much trouble getting labor. I think we do a great job of valuing the people who work here so we always had people ready to work for us. We tried to find people who fit our culture. If they are here after six months, then they are still here after 10 years. We just take care of them and value them. That's what makes Cedar Valley such a great place to work.
When we are not successful bringing someone along, it's usually because we didn't get them with the right mentor. Even a laborer, we get them a mentor—and not a foreman but another laborer, someone who is willing to train them, show them how things are done and get them off on the right foot.
I've built this company on a policy I call “replace me.” The idea is that foremen or superintendents, clear up to me, say to their guys, if you can learn to do my job better than I do it and you train someone to do your job better than you do it then you can have my job. If a foreman wants to be a supervisor, he's got to train someone to replace him.
We've tried to make the paperwork as simple as possible. We've built a scanning system that hooks onto the phone. Every employee has a bar code and the foreman scans in their starting and quitting time and then scans in the lots they worked on or the job code number. At the end of the day they punch in percentage complete on a task so we can manage each job. We put things in place so it's easy for the guys.
We rarely have the lowest price but always provide the best value. We have to be competitive, but we don't have to be bottom dollar. We stress quality and service. The average to get a foundation in this town is 30 days, our average is never over 17 days. We will help the builders get things done. We will do excavation and underground plumbing and even framing on certain jobs and for certain builders.
We have systems in place where we have a production line that comes in and some guys specialize in form setting and some guys in tying steel and some in pouring footings and some just pour. So we've put this production line in place to make that flow happen. It creates efficiency so that the guys are really good at what they do. I'd like to see some of the guys cross trained, but the production line approach is the most economical and brings the best value to the builder.
To be successful in this business, you need to decide it's a career. If you're going to be successful in this business, you have to be committed to it and find a company that is committed to you and that you can commit to. Find someone whose culture fits your beliefs.