Concrete Construction has spoken with five successful concrete contractors and found that successful contractors are, indeed, all alike: they have enthusiasm for the work, they respect their customers and employees, and they aren't worried about sharing the keys to success.
But each of the five companies profiled is also unique. We purposely chose contractors in various sectors of the industry and in different locations across the country to try to determine what leads to success in each situation. But in the end we were left with remarkable similarities. All of these contractors have developed business practices that work for them and could work for companies of every size and specialty. Both the similarities and the differences are revealing, and we hope you are as inspired by their stories as we were.
The key to success, says Tommy Ruttura, is never to be afraid to invest in the business. Technology, he says, has drastically reduced labor costs and increased profits. Ruttura says he works personally with all of his customers. "I don't really have a favorite project. It's all part of building the American infrastructure. It's the best job in the world."
David Wittwer and Cindy Wittwer are a team in the truest sense, and together have guided The Wittwer Group, a concrete paving construction company started in 1992, into a company respected for its ability to manage details and install high quality pavement. During the past 7 years the company has earned 10 national paving awards. Each person and job position is respected at Wittwer. A primary company goal is to produce a quality of work that exceeds normal levels—which can happen only through the efforts of good employees. The Wittwer Group places high value on attention to detail in its quest to achieve new levels in paving quality.
Jill E. Glassgold is the third generation to operate Masonry Resurfacing & Construction Co. (MRCC), a concrete repair company built on a heritage of engineering expertise and integrity. Specializing in quality shotcrete repair of concrete structures for over 50 years, this Baltimore company, with its small office staff and field crews that range from 10 to 30 workers, has grown a reputation for flexibility and craftsmanship. Throughout the three generations, MRCC's primary objective has been to do a quality job at all times.
Clayco Construction Co., St. Louis, may be the fastest-growing concrete construction company in the United States. Bob Clark knew instantly that his company had to get involved in tilt-up. The first opportunity in St. Louis came in 1989, and until 1995, Clayco dominated the tilt-up market in the area. Another landmark on the critical path of his company's growth was the decision to become a design-build firm. He's convinced that the collective personality of the company accounts for its success. Clark thinks Clayco must be involved in helping to build stronger communities, so he encourages staff to be active in not-for-profit activities.
Founded as Van Heukelem Concrete in 1951 under Cal's father, Wendell, the name was changed in 1993 to Colorado Hardscapes. Starting in the decorative business as a Bomanite contractor providing stamped and colored flatwork, Colorado Hardscapes' seven divisions now can do everything from vertical stone imprinted walls to incredibly realistic simulated rock formations. A willingness to try whatever the customer wants is one of the traits that Van Heukelem feels has set the company apart. Over the past few years, Colorado Hardscapes deliberately has changed its customer base. "We prefer working with architects, developers, general contractors, and specifiers, rather than homeowners."
Cal Van Heukelem told us he learned long ago that one of the best ways to be successful is to find out who's doing the best work and to learn from them. These five companies are doing some of the best work in the concrete business—learn from them.