Milis Flatwork poured a concrete parking lot at American Paper Converting in Neenah, Wis.
Milis Flatwork Milis Flatwork poured a concrete parking lot at American Paper Converting in Neenah, Wis.

In the fall of 2013, an idea was hatched during a conversation with a major Midwest ready-mixed concrete producer, recalled Jon Hansen, senior vice president of local paving with the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

“We were creeping out of the economic slump of the great recession of 2009 and the producer was telling me he had 28 sales people and needed to find new markets or lay people off. I knew the concrete market share for parking lots in his area was in the low, single digits and suggested we try to convert some of those asphalt parking lots to concrete. We knew our biggest challenge would be the single source advantage the asphalt industry has in selling these projects: They not only produce the material but also install it. The consumer only deals with one person or company, writes one check, and gets the job done with little or no personal time involved. What if we could create the same model for concrete?”

That was the genesis of a course called Selling Concrete Parking Lots Boot Camp that has now been shortened to simply Concrete Parking Lot Boot Camp. But the concept remains the same: to put the concrete contractor and producer together as a team to pursue and win new concrete parking lots and to give the owner a choice when fixing their old asphalt parking with a concrete overlay option instead of the assumed asphalt-only overlay option.

“We knew we were wading in unknown waters with the Boot Camps,” Hansen says. “We needed to talk about cost of material, cost of placement, who takes what lead, and target markets. Strategies like this, with competing companies in the room, would put us into violation of anti-trust territory. So, from the beginning, Concrete Parking Lot Boot Camp is comprised of only one contractor and one ready mix producer, and other invited team members like cement, admixture, and fiber sales people of the contractor or producer’s choosing, who would be part of the team.”

During the 10-hour Boot Camp, participants learn about concrete parking lot design and thickness requirements using ACI 330R-08, Guide to the Design and Construction of Concrete Parking Lots, they learn about overlaying existing asphalt parking lots using the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center’s Guide to Concrete Overlays of Asphalt Parking Lots, they learn how to use the Concrete Pavement Analysis (CPA) software in preparing cost comparisons using actual dollar amounts the participants bring to the Camp. And lastly, they learn how to find local opportunities that they drive past every day.

“Dylan Milis, president of Milis Flatwork in Kaukauna, Wis., is a prime example of using the Boot Camp to put into action what he learned,” says Hansen. “Before we left the hotel where he hosted a Boot Camp in 2016, he was talking to the facilities people about overlaying or replacing their beat up, worn out asphalt parking lot.” Read sidebar by Dylan Milis.

Building Trust

But most of all, Concrete Parking Lot Boot Camp is about building team trust between contractor and producer in the pursuit of a common mission: Getting more parking lots projects done in concrete instead of asphalt. The trust building component is key in making these partnerships work. Producers must trust contractors and contractors must trust producers in a mutually beneficial approach.

Hansen provides an example. “This can be best shared by a Boot Camp in the Eastern U.S. in 2015. At hour 9.5 of a 10-hour Boot Camp, we had run all the data, done all the comparisons, and produced the results of competing with concrete in the market. The cost comparisons weren’t bad, but not outstanding, and we never judge because the results come from what the participants bring to the Camp.

“The Boot Camp team of myself and another NRMCA Local Paving Team member were wrapping up and asking if there were any last questions before we deleted all cost data collected during the Boot Camp. This is standard practice, NRMCA never carries any cost data out of the room.

When no questions came, I hit delete. As soon as I did, the owner of the concrete construction firm said, ‘wait a minute.’ Too late for me but fortunately his estimator was in the back of the room and had kept all the cost information. The contractor went on to say, ‘Now that I know where this is going, let me give you some real cost numbers to work with’ and for the next hour we reran all the examples using his real cost numbers.

“At the end of what was now a 10.5 hour Concrete Parking Lot Boot Camp, his last sentence of the day best summed up his entire boot camp experience: “This is a no brainer, why wouldn’t we do this?’”

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