BH: Is there currently a demand for decorative concrete?
ED: The demand is not as aggressive because of insurance problems that many homeowners and businesses are faced with.?Those jobs that would normally go with stamped concrete are looking for other options.?We have to look at our budgets. We are finding that the companies which have a great reputation are getting the work.
BH: Has your competition changed as a result of the storm compared to before?
ED: Shortly after the storm we had to deal with companies from out of town that came in to strike it rich. Those guys stayed around for about a year and have now gone back. There are some who have decided to take the plunge into decorative concrete after the storm (some had no other job to go to; they lost their jobs due to the storm).
That's when we had to really depend on the relationships we had developed with our customers over the years. Now, it's kind of?like it was before the storm - the same contractors (good competitors) are still around.
BH: What is your target market (residential, commercial), and is it different before and after the storm?
ED: Before the storm we did about 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial. We have two subdivisions for which we are stamping the driveways and patios.?The insurance and housing market has hurt the residential market to the point where we are forced to market commercially. The casinos and condominium projects are keeping us going.
BH: Where do you see your business going in the future?
ED: For 10 years, 95 percent of my business was decorative concrete, but since the storm I have learned to diversify my company.?Although my passion for decorative concrete will always be there, I have learned that the market can change at any moment and you and your staff have to be ready for it.
Katrina has really made us ask ourselves where do we want to be since the coast is going to build back bigger and better.?It will take some time, but we will come back. We have done some pervious concrete, and we like the concept of going green. We are in the process of redoing the showroom.?We know once the insurance crisis is over we will be busy.?I can see the company playing a major roll in the rebuilding efforts here on the coast.
Decorative Concrete Designs would like to thank all of the contractors and volunteers that have and are still helping us in our time of need.? May God Bless You.
After great conversation and a great meal that evening, there was one additional item that impressed me about Elliot. Each year since he started his business he gives a project away to an unsuspecting client as his way of giving back to his community!
The most recent was an older woman who had major storm damage and was upgrading to concrete floors instead of carpet. Once the job was complete he asked his client if she was satisfied and if there was anything else he could do for her. Her comment was, "I'm so satisfied. What do I owe you?" Elliot just smiled and replied, "This one is on us." As he put it, the smile and look on her face was worth a million bucks!
Bob Harris is the founder and president of the Decorative Concrete Institute, Temple, Ga., which provides hands-on training in architectural concrete. He has personally placed or supervised the placement of more than 3 million sq. ft. of decorative concrete and is the author of a best-selling series of decorative concrete books and DVDs. For more information, call (877) DCI-8080 or visit www.decorativeconcreteinstitute.com.