I started out working for a big general contractor who got bought out. That was in 1972. My three sons and I started out doing big custom homes, then went into multi-family and then commercial. We knew lots of people in the commercial business— architects and engineers— because we'd been in that business, so that's what got us moving. And every dollar we made we kept in the company. We started out on less than $50,000 and this year we will pour about 850,000 yards.
We've become pretty diversified. If it's got concrete we'll do it.
We buy a lot of equipment. Under the depreciation write-off we bought about $2 million worth of equipment. We own 11 pump trucks. That helps because we know the pumps will be there in the morning to get our work done. Also it's capturing another profit center.
The smartest thing we did was to start out small. We were able to make money so we invested our money in people. When you have 1200 guys, you've got to have a lot of good people among you and them.
We focus on safety so that we keep our Workman's Comp incredibly low. We have five full-time safety people that make the job sites safe. We make sure the guys have the right tools and equipment—we have a policy and we just don't vary from it.
You don't have the unions out here training people now, so you have to have supervision that is capable of doing that. We do all of our own training on safety and equipment. If we don't do it there's no one else.
We don't have too many problems getting paid. We have a lady working here who came from the general contracting side and she knows how to get the lien pen out real quick. This year we'll do about $190 million and we may lose only $25,000.
Lots of contracts have a pay-if-paid clause. But we watch that real close, and if we put in for a progress payment and we don't get it within 15 or 20 days, we say, hey, we're going to shut this thing down. They may have a pay-if-paid clause, but they can't make us do the work if we aren't getting paid.
We try to find work where we know they want high quality, like some of the big hospital jobs, because we know we can do it. That's what it really gets down to is quality and safety. If you don't know how to do quality and safety, you won't make money because you'll have someone on you all the time.
If you're going to get into the concrete business, you need to start off knowing the business. I advise against getting a partner who just brings money. It's got to be based on the money you can put into it. If you can afford only to build house slabs, then build house slabs. Then build your business up as you become more capable. That's how we were successful.
We don't sign just any contract they send us. We discuss it and cross things out and send it back. We tell them that if it has to be like that, then they'll have to find someone else.
Our workforce is about 90% Hispanic. And a lot of the supervisors are great about finding and training people. We take the young Spanish guys and give them the training they need and the encouragement—it takes a lot of encouragement in this business, but last year 35% of our people had been with us for over five years.
Cement is a big problem right now. We're on rationing, based on what we bought last year. If you didn't buy concrete last year, you're not going to get it this year. They can't supply everyone so they won't take on new customers, and if you don't pay they're going to drop you real quick.
I'm really optimistic about the business right now. I think the next five years are going to be record-breaking.