"If you're going to be pouring a lot of concrete every day, you've got to have the equipment to keep things rolling on the jobsite," Rice explains. He says the increased production required them to keep several ride-on trowels in their equipment line-up. Early-entry saws became another essential tool for these high-production jobs, allowing crews to cut as soon as the slab is finished on the same day of the pour and saving them from having to return the next day for saw cutting. Another piece of equipment Rice says is essential to keeping things productive on the jobsite is his laser grader attachments for his skid steers. Each crew has its own skid steer and laser grader attachment, which allows them to perform fine grading at the jobsite on their own schedule and to their specifications. It also helps them save on concrete because their base is on grade.
Ivan Rice & Sons is typically hired as a subcontractor on its jobs. The details of the work are usually determined by an architect or engineer and spelled out in the project plans. But Rice says it's important to maintain a strong relationship with these people, and never be afraid to approach them if something in the plans seems inaccurate or if you know of a more efficient product or better way of doing things. "If you approach them in the right way, an architect or designer will listen to what you have to say, and sometimes you can even show them how an alternative might work better," he explains.
Maintaining a good relationship with designers can also lead to them coming to you. "Sometimes people will call us and ask my advice about what I think will work better for a certain project," Rice says. This helps contractors win a bid in the end if you can suggest a technique or product you're especially familiar with.
Rice says he's been very fortunate in today's economy, with sales tracking as planned. He encourages carpooling to jobsites to save money on gas and adds allowments for steel price adjustments in his contracts, but he says the commercial flatwork business in his region is running on a pretty even keel.
Rice has seen some recent trends in the market that have put pressures on commercial concrete contractors in other ways, though. "Over the years owners and architects have demanded tighter specifications for their floors, and contractors need the equipment and knowledge to achieve these floors," he says. "Owners also want their jobs turned around faster and faster."
While Rice says equipment is important in achieving a good project that meets today's tight specifications, he emphasizes that his employees are his biggest asset. He sends his guys to laser screed training and has them certified for finishing through the American Concrete Institute (ACI). He also says he has a lot of talented guys with common sense.
As Rice looks toward the future for his second-generation concrete company, he's pleased with how far it has come and the pace at which his business is running. Over the course of Rice being involved in the company he saw it transform from a residential foundation company into the commercial flatwork business he has today. Rice's two sons are learning the ropes of the business now. Rice says he's keeping things in the company the way they are for them with no plans to change the direction or scope of the business, but down the road when the sons someday take over the reigns Rice recognizes they might see opportunities for the company just as he did when he took over for his father.