A quarter century ago, a discouraged Brian Cook sat slumped in a broker’s chair. He’d been managing production for a major soft drink bottler and wanted to buy a business in northwest Arkansas. He had learned the beverage industry sells quality and image in a variety of flavors, not beverages per se; and he figured the principle could be applied to any industry. But no one was selling a business.
Then another broker stuck his head in the door.
“What about the concrete business that came in last week?” he asked. The owner was unloading a trailer, a set of stamps, a couple bags of color, and some finishing tools because he had lost money on the only three jobs he’d done.
And that’s how Cook began selling quality and image, this time in a variety of textures and colors, as owner of Ozark Pattern Concrete Inc. (OPC) in Lowell, Ark.
Do one thing well
Since October 1990, Cook’s 22 employees have placed and finished 4 million square feet of colored and imprinted concrete. “I was fortunate because the crew that worked with Sam Walton at Walmart was retiring and developing a country club,” Cook says.
He’s a devotee of the Hedgehog Concept described in Good to Great, a 2001 book by management consultant Jim Collins. The philosophy emphasizes simplicity over sophistication: Figure out what you do better than anyone else, be passionate about it, and focus on the highest-profit activities.
“We are concrete finishers that provide colored and imprinted installation and stain work,” Cook says. “We don’t polish concrete, overlay concrete, or paint concrete.”
Sticking to his knitting pays off in projects like the award-winning Denise and Chad Bugos residence in Rogers, Ark.