Q. From CC’s LinkedIn Group came these questions: How is your relationship with your ready-mix supplier? How many contractors view their ready-mix supplier relationship as “us against them”?

A. This question drew a series of responses.

From a decorative concrete contractor: My view of a ready-mix supplier is much different than that of a foundation contractor or paving contractor where yield and other factors are paramount. I look at it from a decorative standpoint: quality’s what I need. I expect my mud on time and at the mix design I called for. A few dollars a yard difference is not a big deal to me if the other requirements are met.

So, I made an appointment with my ready-mix supplier to introduce myself and show him my work. I went into how my goal is to partner with him and achieve the quality that my clients expect. I noticed from his body language that this was a different conversation than he normally has with contractors. We talked about mix designs and he kept referring to prices until I finally said, “I’m not here to discuss prices. I understand that prices are market driven.” He seemed to relax and told me all he hears are price complaints and mud complaints. I could tell from this conversation that decorative contractors cause a good portion of his headaches.

Try these three things:

  • Send a box of muffins to the ready-mix office you buy from.
  • Give one of your company shirts to the next few drivers you deal with.
  • Never take out on the driver your own issues like not being ready or risking a pour with possible rain coming.

From another contractor: It’s important that the ready-mix supplier have someone on staff who actually has been involved with placing concrete and not just someone who can quote prices. Having been on both sides, I can tell you that it all has to be orchestrated, almost like music. The loader operator at the plant needs to have experience in the trucks because many times they can affect the outcome of the mix by loading wet material then dry. The batch man needs to be aware of the moisture content; the batch plant sometimes loads in different amounts so the break (the amount loaded at a time into the truck) often is part of the problem. Then you have the driver and his or her mood, and the temperature and travel time, and so on. The best advice is to find a ready-mix guy who admits they don’t know everything and meet with the company, and include your field superintendent and foreman in the meeting, so everyone gets a better understanding of one another’s issues.

From a ready-mix supplier: If we didn’t have a good working relationship with our customers, we would have no business. Occasionally we do let people down but we try to make up for it. Good communication from a ready-mix concrete supplier’s point of view is essential. Good repeat business is essential. Chasing the next “big” contract is all well and good until the next “big” project doesn’t come through and you are left with nothing because all the small customers have deserted you. Ready-mixed concrete companies should look after all their customers big and small, regardless of the difficulties.