Engelman Construction's broad range of concrete services can look like an overwhelming amount of projects to juggle with training, experience, contract negotiations and marketing efforts, but the family business pulls it off with its organization and years of experience in the industry. And with the current market situation, that diversity has helped the company. "People who specialize can streamline operations," says Jim Engelman, vice president at Engelman Construction. "We can't do that so much, but in a big downturn like the industry is experiencing now it really helps that we're so diverse."
Engelman Construction is a full service concrete contractor located in Macungie, Pa. It serves eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey, Maryland and southern New York. Today it's run by six Engelman siblings. Their father, the late Al Engelman, started the business in 1974 as a residential concrete company. Over the years, he moved his children into key positions in the company and together the family added services and developed the firm into the full service concrete construction company it is today.
Engelman Construction offers a broad range of concrete services in commercial, residential, public and government applications including tilt-up, decorative concrete, superflat floors, roller compacted concrete and pervious concrete. In 1980, the Engelmans acquired a sister company with Bethlehem Precast, a specialty precast company that takes on small custom jobs for the residential and light commercial industries.
Owning and running a business with six family members might seem like a difficult situation for some people, but at Engelman Construction the family has found a way to work together effectively. For the four brothers and two sisters, the family dynamic works, mostly because they treat the company like any other job.
"Everyone has a job to do,"
Engelman says. "We each have a specific area within the company to oversee. We all found an area we excelled at and fell into that niche."
Joe serves as president and handles estimating and contracts on large jobs. Tom manages the precast facility while Bob handles scheduling, estimating and site work. Jim focuses on the decorative operations, jobsite troubleshooting and association liaison. Kathy manages marketing and health insurance while Mary handles payroll, 401K and other insurance issues. Two brothers-in-law have found rolls as accountant and human resources and safety officer. Mom is there for support in the office when they need it.
"Our father was very family oriented," Engelman says. "His greatest challenge was keeping us on the same page. He made sure we were always going forward together, and that can be hard with six people. He left a footprint of how to run a business, and it's up to us to keep it going and remain proactive and on the cutting edge of the industry."
The brothers spend much of their days on the jobsite. "It's important to keep the Engelman presence in the field, so our employees don't think we're just sitting around in the office collecting money," Engelman says. "We're out there working and letting our employees know we're there supporting them."
The family theme in the business doesn't stop with the siblings. Engelman Construction has company-wide picnics for employees and their families, and organizes outings such as baseball games at the local Iron Pigs field where the company did some concrete work.
Dealing with today's market
Engelman Construction works in and around Allentown, Pa., an area of northeast Pennsylvania that saw a unique twist during the housing boom. It's only an hour's commute into New York City, which increased the area's demand for high-end homes. Residential business was booming for several years, along with a strong commercial market. The area saw its first decline in the residential market when the national housing situation took a downturn, and a deeper decline when gas prices rose, making the area less desirable to people commuting into New York City.