Back in January, the Concrete Polishing Association of America (CPAA) elected Chad Gill, president of Concreate Inc. in Midlothian, Va., to serve as CPAA’s new president. July marked the beginning of his term. I’ve asked Gill a few questions about himself, the polishing industry, and the CPAA.
Q: How long have you been involved in concrete polishing?
A: This is Concreate’s eleventh year in business, and we’ve been polishing concrete for the last five years.
Q: You have a BS in mechanical engineering and you’re a licensed PE. So why polished concrete?
A: I was a robotics design engineer for a nuclear service company immediately after graduation from VMI (Virginia Military Institute). I worked there for five years and loved it. But I traveled six months out of each year, which was not conducive to starting a family.
I launched Concreate because I wanted to create concrete countertops. We did staining, sealing, and overlays. We named our website www.thisisconcrete.com because people checking out our countertops at home shows would say, “This is concrete?”
When I bought my first grinder to prep floors, the rep had diamonds with it and neither of us knew how to use them. At the time, I was on a residential job doing an epoxy floor. Out of curiosity, I polished a small area to see how it would work. The homeowner saw the sample area and had me do the rest of the project in polished concrete. Even though it opened the door to polishing for me, it’s not how I would recommend starting in this business. Some training would have been helpful.
Q: What are your goals as president?
A: My main goals are to increase member engagement, empower our committees, and expand participation in industry trade shows.
Member engagement: The CPAA is simply a focused front of the membership. Like any team, it requires the combined effort of all the players to accomplish its goals. Members have to be forthright and specific about what they want from their association. Vague statements like “make the industry better” won’t get the job done. Members also have to be a part of the team, join a committee, become a trainer, or contribute to research. Engagement, however, is a two-way street. The association has a responsibility to actively pursue the goals of the membership, and to interact with them to understand what they need and how the CPAA can help. The CPAA, starting with the president, has to keep the members informed about what it is doing, where it is headed, and how they can help. In this metaphor, though, I am not the coach; I am more like the athletic director. Committee chairs are the coaches, which leads to committee empowerment.
Committee empowerment: Our committees are the teams our members play on. It is in the committees where standards are written, and training and curriculum are developed. Committees, not the board, are where the rubber meets the road for generating solutions that make the CPAA valuable to its members and the industry. In some organizations, committees can become work pools with no autonomy while the board micromanages and hinders development. I intend for the board to be a summary set of membership views that prioritizes and delegates goals and tasks. The committees are meant to achieve those goals. For example, the board does not choose a gloss level for a specification, but rather asks for a specification and a committee develops and defines it. So if you want to effect change in our industry, join or head a committee.
Trade shows: The CPAA needs to be out and about representing and engaging with members and their customers. Trade shows are where we all meet, learn, train, and collect those embarrassing photos. This is where you can talk directly to the officers, board, and committee personnel.
Q: Does CPAA plan to work with ACI and PCA on creating performance standards concerning polished surfaces?
A: We do not currently have any plan to work with ACI or PCA on developing performance standards. This isn’t something we have explored.
Q: I hear that CPAA is planning outreach for specifiers and owners about the benefits of CPAA certification programs. How will CPAA accomplish this?
A: The CPAA is an AIA CES provider and has made numerous presentations to architects about polished concrete. Additionally, we will identify and participate in key trade shows that allow us to connect directly with the owner and specifier crowds. We’re working to create environments at these trade shows where contractors, suppliers, and potential specifiers all engage with one another.
Q: Where do you see the industry in 10 years?
A: Obviously, we’ll continue to see more efficient and environmentally friendly building products. This bodes well for the concrete polishing industry. I believe it will translate into increased use of polished concrete as a finished floor surface and continued integration of decorative aspects within it. Plus, in the last year alone we’ve seen great advances in stain-resistant products for polishing, and new approaches to abrasives and equipment automation. This will only increase. There will also be more focus on the science of measurement regarding our finished product and the slab before work. Most importantly, the industry will be driven by solid reference specifications.
Q: Where do you see CPAA in 10 years?
A: Five years is as far as I can focus. The CPAA will provide a broad spectrum of educational training programs with certification exams that reflect graduates’ knowledge and skill. We will be the provider and continuing developer of comprehensive guidelines and best practices for our members and the industry. The CPAA will be the voice of its growing and active membership.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not on the job?
A: Mountain biking, but a close second is calling my contractor friends who are on the job and gloating about my time off. Both are pretty fun.