I started working during the summer for my grandfather's construction company when I was in the seventh grade and continued to do concrete work on the side as an adult. In August of 1992, I had enough work to start TK Concrete as a full-time business. With only $500 worth of tools and an old pickup truck, my business became a reality. Today, we have 28 employees and operate five full-time crews.
The customer is our No. 1 priority. With our estimates, we send every customer a background job and references. And we follow up on every estimate. Our philosophy is that if it takes a little longer to do the job right, then that's the way we do it. If we make a mistake, we handle it. We send out customer care instructions and customer response sheets with every completed job. We ask our customers to comment on the quality of our work and use the feedback as a learning tool for our foremen.
TK Concrete is currently implementing a decorative and colored concrete division. Lots of time will be spent this winter getting it in order and working on marketing. This division will be up and running by spring. One of the benefits of working on such projects is that a tremendous amount of manpower is not usually required since such jobs are often smaller and can be handled in smaller sections.
Finding the right employees and motivating them is always an issue, but I can remember my grandfather discussing some of the same problems I now face. I put a lot of responsibility on our lead people. Some people can handle that and some can't. We ask our employees if we can use them better in another position. We're probably more flexible than most companies. We want our employees to be comfortable in their positions. Also, if someone is obviously putting out the effort, really getting involved in this industry, and doing the best possible job, I will bump them up a couple of dollars per hour without their even knowing it. It's a nice surprise.
TK Concrete suffered a fire on Labor Day 2001 that took our entire shop. Fall is our busiest time of year so the damage was a major setback. It took close to a year to get back to normal working conditions. We didn't shut down for even one day, though, because of the help we received from our friends, family, and even competitors. We moved across the street and set up a makeshift office. The Tuesday after Labor Day was a regrouping period, but our crews were working that afternoon.
I attend the World of Concrete every year with at least one of my employees. We take advantage of the seminars so we stay on the cutting edge of the industry and the concrete market. We are always looking for suppliers with competitive prices to meet our needs
When we have to buy or trade, I do a lot of research on a piece of equipment. I get at least two prices and decide from there. We bought two work trucks off Ebay. There's also a live construction auction where we can bid online. We don't limit our buying to the Internet, but we've had good luck there.
In the 14 years we've been in business, each year we've beat our sales record from the year before, except once. Because this company believes it's important to have something to shoot for, we give the employees personal goal sheets at the beginning of the year.
We also do things together outside of work. Most of our employees are “55” fans. We race a “55” 410 sprint car at Knoxville Raceway on Saturday nights. We have a full-time crew chief, crew, and driver. They handle all of the day-to-day operations. I handle sponsorship responsibilities and promotions. We've had an excellent season this year!
I always stress communication. Nobody's perfect. I'm not perfect. I always say, “If you make a mistake, tell me; don't let our customers tell me.” I can handle honest mistakes.