Leaders come in different flavors. Some lead by personality and charisma, others dig in and get things done. Contractor Advocate Paul Albanelli, President, Albanelli Cement Contractors, Livonia , Mich. is very much in the latter category.

Take, for example, the joint National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA)/American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) Paving Committee. “I don’t do much of this type of work, but ASCC Executive Director Bev Garnant asked me to chair this committee so I did.” Under his leadership, the committee developed a paving toolkit with marketing tools, construction guides, and, the newest addition, a preconstruction checklist.

“With the price of asphalt lower now, we realized we had to give concrete contractors resources to compete. We developed a reference sheet that makes designing pavements easy and allows a fair comparison between concrete and asphalt. Then we looked at how lighting is better with concrete, and the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center at Iowa State developed the guide to concrete overlays of asphalt parking lots. All I did was try to make things move forward. If you’re trying to chair by committee, it doesn’t work.”

Paul and his cousin Wayne Albanelli bought out their fathers in 1993. You’d have no trouble telling who’s the operations side of the business (Paul in jeans and a button-down shirt) and who’s the sales guy (Wayne, a.k.a. Gino, in a bright plaid seersucker suit). When the industry nationwide was suffering 10 years ago, things in southeast Michigan were much worse. But they kept their company afloat and today the area is booming.

“We do floors and site concrete, all nonresidential, and a fair amount of decorative concrete within the concrete package,” says Albanelli. “I’m not interested in polishing floors, but we like to place the slab that gets polished. We also do lots of exterior exposed aggregate; GCP Applied Technologies’ Top-Cast surface retarders make it almost foolproof.”

Albanelli was the only floor installer considered on several recent Whole Foods projects that were to be polished, but that’s the exception. “We’d love to work as partners, but most of our projects are low bid. Our work is still a commodity, unfortunately.

One improvement Albanelli’s noticed over the last 25 years is the knowledge base available through professional organizations like ASCC. “In my dad’s time, there was no one to teach you anything. We have access to much more good information now.”

The other big change is moving to virtually paperless jobsites.

“We’ve used PlanGrid to handle documents almost since that company started. We instantly disseminate bulletins, requests for information, and change orders; and they’re never out of date. Employees can sit in their living rooms at night and review all the plans for upcoming jobs. PlanGrid gives us a completely different way of moving information between the field and the office and it’s easy for the field guys to learn.”

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