You probably won't have time to read this. If you are as busy as those who responded to our 2006 CC100 survey, you are working at such a breakneck pace that reading a magazine is a pretty low priority. Still, we got a good response to the survey this year and learned some interesting facts: revenues are up, demand is up, and, therefore, margins tend to be healthier. That's the good news.
As usual, though, the challenges remain. Competition is tough. Working fast is essential. But labor is the most common problem reported. “Recruiting qualified craft labor continues to be a defining factor for us,” said Dave Higgins, Concrete Services, Sacramento, Calif, “and the ability to attract good people is the key to our success.” That sentiment was echoed by Michael Mahre, president of SelectBuild, a huge new player in the concrete industry (see story, page 34), “The biggest controlling factor in today's market is the labor force. In certain markets, we see an abundance of work, but not enough labor to tackle it all. In other markets, there is a sizable labor force, but a softening number of housing starts.”
In times like these, is it easier or harder to make a living as a concrete contractor? We asked that question and here's what you said:
- Easier. As we've grown and established our reputation, we get a fairer shake from general contractors. Don Brown, Brown Contracting, Eugene, Ore.
- Harder. Controlling factors are competition and getting paid for work completed. Ronnie Urbanczyk, Urban Concrete Contractors, San Antonio
- Easier. Fear of the unknown in using ICFs is fading. We are doing a great job educating our commercial clients of the advantages of building with ICFs. Matt McCoy, South River Construction, Wimberly, Texas
- Harder. Less coordinated plans and specifications in a more litigious environment. Ross Edwards Jr., Webcor, San Mateo, Calif.
- Harder, with limited resources (labor, materials) and easier, to actually install the work with advances in materials and equipment. Paul Albanelli, Albanelli Cement Contractors, Livonia, Mich.
- Easier, but projects have become very fast paced so to complete them on time you need a minimum of 100 employees. John Hoffschneider, All-Phase Concrete Construction, Englewood, Colo.
- Harder. There has been an increase in unqualified contractors, which has increased competition. They can't compete on reputation or quality, so they compete by pushing prices down. Archie Foor, Foor Concrete, Powell, Ohio
- Easier. An abundance of work and our margins are a little higher. Tony Bellisimo, Capform, Carrollton, Texas
- Harder. Lower margins, more claims, higher fuel prices. Bruce Higley, The Albert M. Higley Co., Cleveland, Ohio
So, as usual, it's a mixed bag. As the work itself gets easier, the business of being a contractor remains a challenge. Don't give up!