Taking on Tilt-up

A merger between a Canadian general construction company with 35 years of tilt-up experience and a Massachusetts concrete business with a background in foundations and flatwork has allowed the newly formed Lindsay Lampasona to combine their strengths and introduce tilt-up to a largely untapped Northeastern U.S. market.

In the business world, a merger can be seen in two different lights - some see it as a dilution of power while others see it as an opportunity to bring together the best of two worlds. When Tony Lampasona and PJ Lampasona, cousins and co-owners of a concrete contracting firm in Norfolk, Mass., were approached by Canadian general contractor J.W. Lindsay about forming a partnership to bring tilt-up construction to the Northeast, at first they were hesitant. But it didn't take long for Tony and PJ to see the benefits.

"We looked at the big picture and saw it as a great opportunity. We didn't feel like we were giving up anything, but felt like we were gaining a lot," Tony says.

"They had knowledge of the tilt-up industry and management skills, and we brought a labor force and equipment. Together we had the capabilities to get to work in the tilt-up market right away," PJ says.

The partnership was the right move for Lampasona Concrete. Since the merger in July 2008, the newly formed Lindsay Lampasona has seen business up 50 percent from Lampasona Concrete's average annual sales.

Setting the ground work

Tony and PJ started Lampasona Concrete with a $1,500 dollar pickup truck in 1995. The two learned the concrete trade from Tony's father working in the commercial and industrial flooring realm. Breaking out on their own, they found basement flooring jobs during their college years by driving around housing sites and introducing themselves to homebuilders or stapling their cards to the outsides of buildings when no one was around. Quality work and determination helped them convince a general contractor to hire them for a commercial flooring job, and eventually they were performing all that company's floors and working concrete full time.

As Lampasona Concrete acquired equipment, moved into an office and expanded its employee base, Tony and PJ moved their business away from the residential realm to focus strictly on commercial and industrial projects. A few years later they found a new way to diversify their company.

"PJ and I are concrete finishers by trade - we always did flatwork. About six years ago, we started losing projects to contractors who offered flatwork and foundations so we started using subs for foundations. We had some bad experiences with some subs that didn't provide the quality we wanted, didn't follow safety practices to our standards and had a mess with scheduling," Tony explains. This led the company to expand its in-house offerings.

"We saw foundations as a good way to become a full-service concrete company," PJ recalls. "We hired some people who knew forming and foundations and bought forms and trucks. There was a bit of a learning curve, but we figured it out."

Lampasona Concrete eased into foundations with some of its regular customers in the flatwork realm, and within a few years about one-third of the company's sales stemmed from foundations.

While Tony and PJ were building their full-service concrete company, J.W. Lindsay was looking for a way to expand. An engineer with the company, Devin Hartnell, saw an opportunity for tilt-up in the Northeastern United States. His research found there were no contractors in the market offering the service, but there were customers willing to consider the system.

Seizing the opportunity to expand its tilt-up offerings, J.W. Lindsay opened an office in West Hartford, Conn., in 2007. The large general contractor set out to identify a specialty concrete contracting firm that could build the foundations, floors and walls that make up the tilt-up system; J.W. Lindsay would supply in-house design and engineering. It wasn't long before they approached Lampasona Concrete.

"We recognized early on that Lampasona Concrete fit well with the business plan of J.W. Lindsay with their honesty, integrity and quality of work," says Hartnell, now CEO of Lindsay Lampasona. "They had a large staff to cover the region we wanted to cover, the ability to place large, flat slabs and the equipment needed to perform work for large tilt-up projects like laser screeds, large ride-on trowels and pump trucks."

The benefits of a merger

The merger brought J.W. Lindsay's design side together with Lampasona's build abilities. It also brought an established construction firm together with a couple of young and ambitious entrepreneurs.

"The story is in the synergy created when both companies came together," Hartnell says. "Lampasona Concrete was a large concrete company built from the ground up by Tony and PJ. We took the personal, young, energetic qualities of their business and paired that with the systems and procedures of J.W. Lindsay. The two companies balanced out each other."

"J.W. Lindsay brought a new side of management to our company," PJ says. "Tony and I grew up in the field and picked up the business part along the way. J.W. Lindsay helped us get organized. They showed us how to put systems in place, get our pay scales in order, track jobs on a 'war board,' hold sales meetings, look at costs and overhead, perform post-mortems on jobs, and figure out the amount of money we make on each job."

In addition to bringing a labor force and equipment to the table, Lampasona Concrete also brought the customer relationships it built with general contractors throughout the Northeast. These relationships have helped Lindsay Lampasona connect with prospective tilt-up customers on sales calls as they approach prospective clients to educate them on tilt- up.

"We now have designers and structural engineers on staff, and that gives people a different view of us," Tony says. And when it comes to clients that aren't familiar with Lindsay Lampasona, Hartnell adds, "The designers and engineers differentiate us from the competition in a market that can be seen as a commodity in some ways."

Hartnell says much of the company's success in the tilt-up realm stems from its ability to get involved with a job from the beginning. Tilt-up construction is a process - walls are cast on site and tilted into place, then temporary braces hold the walls in position until the roof and structural steel is placed. These projects require an immense amount of planning and engineering, and subcontracting out the various steps is impractical. The ability to offer design, engineering and construction is key in a successful tilt-up operation.

"We seek out projects in their infancy so we can get in on the design phase. That way we can offer input on design renderings and budgets so as the project follows through to the construction phase we're so ingrained in the project we have a better chance of winning the job over our competitors," Hartnell explains.

Lindsay Lampasona's broad range of expertise in concrete work beyond the tilt-up system helps the company secure the total concrete package on nearly all its tilt-up projects. They can take on any type of concrete work, including flatwork, formwork, site work, decorative concrete and pre-stressed concrete.

Tony adds that the company's goal it to try to turn all it's work into a tilt-up project. "When we get a set of plans on a flatwork job we're bidding, we take a look at the structure being built and if we think it's a good fit for the tilt-up system, we'll try to flip the building to tilt-up," he says.

Lindsay Lampasona has a dedicated and driven management team in place to expand the possibilities of tilt-up concrete in the Northeast. Warehouses, churches, distribution centers and office buildings are only the beginning of what the company has in store. "Our goal is to establish ourselves as the premier tilt-up concrete company in the Northeast and continue to grow geographically throughout the country," Tony says.

Tony and PJ's decision to form a partnership with J.W. Lindsay allowed the two to have the concrete company they hoped for when they were riding around in that $1,500 pickup. "There were trying times -- we did this merger in a bad economy," Tony says. "But it's nice to come to the table with something new for people instead of just asking them when their next job is. We're doing 'lunch and learns' and showing customers what we're doing so when they do have work we'll have something new for them."

At A Glance

Company: Lindsay Lampasona, LLC
Norfolk, Mass. and West Hartford, Conn.
Management Team: Devin Hartnell, CEO; Tony Lampasona, president; PJ Lampasona, vice president; Brian Roddy and Ray Savard, operations managers; Kirby Putnam, business development
Employees: 150
Affiliations: ASCC, TCA, ACI
Services offered:
Tilt-up, flatwork, formwork, foundations and decorative.
Key products and equipment:
Schwing pumps; Wacker, Allen Engineering and Multiquip ride-on trowels; Wacker walk-behind trowels; Wagman Poly Blades; Kraft and Wagman trowel blades; Greenstreak and PNA Construction Technologies concrete products; Soff-Cut early entry saws; Tennant mechanical scrubber; Symons forms; Euclid Chemical Co. products; Nox-Crete chemical products; SpecChem E-Cure; Somero Laser Screeds, Mini Screeds and Power Rakes; Exaktime JobClock System; Rider Rover by S. Richer, Inc.; Allen Engineering Magic Screed; Kraft hand tools; Wyco concrete vibrators; Whiteman power buggies; Sprint/Nextel cellular phones; BlackBerry phones; GMC and Ford trucks; Nikon total stations; Trimble robotic total stations; Trimble data collectors; Hilti power tools.