Bruce Neale got his start in the construction business in the 1970s at his father’s carpentry and general contracting firm. Spawned by a customer’s request for a cast-in-place basement, Bruce’s father bought a set of aluminum wall forms and told Bruce to run a walls division of the business and find a way to pay for those forms.
Finding work wasn’t always an easy task since at that time the area around Baltimore, Md., was CMU country. But the cast-in-place concrete market’s reputation was growing and the product’s strength and quality helped Bruce build a network of customers. “After a year, those forms were paid for,” Bruce says.
When Bruce wanted to take the foundation business to the next level, his father agreed to sell him the forms. In 1981, Bruce started Modern Foundations in Woodbine, Md.
It wasn’t long after starting Modern Foundations that Bruce realized the benefits of diversification. Frustrated by scheduling problems and poor workmanship, he added excavation to his lineup of services. “In-house excavation was a way for us to offer expertise to our customers and get rid of any headaches associated with that step,” Bruce says. “We could dig the hole level and with the proper overdig needed for safe construction with our forming system; this was very different from excavating for block construction.”
In addition to simplifying project management for the customer, diversification also gave Modern Foundations the opportunity to gain more gross sales on each job. Expansion for both the benefit of the customer and Modern Foundations is a philosophy Bruce has run his company by for the last 30 years. “I know time is very important to people,” Bruce says. “I knew the quicker we could make the construction process go, the better it would be for our customers.”
Since getting into excavation, Modern Foundations has also added residential flatwork and waterproofing to its lineup of services. The company even offers two retaining walls systems — Stone Strong Gravity Walls System and more recently Smart Slope Living Retaining Walls, a hand-set retaining wall system designed to let plants and grass grow between the blocks.
A family of companies
While busy building his foundations company, Bruce helped his sons find their own opportunities in concrete. In 1997, Bruce and his son Jason started Stone Shooters, Inc., a stone placement company. “This was a hard sell to many customers,” Bruce admits. “Some people thought we were just charging more for the stone delivery. Eventually customers realized that after the dirt was graded in the basement they could leave and do other work while we placed the stone in the basement. That’s when they realized the labor and material savings.”
Customers, including Modern Foundations, saw the benefits in Stone Shooters being able to take an all-day job and reduce it to a few hours of work. Today Stone Shooters has nine slinger trucks, a Putzmeister 110 Telebelt and 40-meter pump, and a 28-meter Schwing pump. About 15 percent of Stone Shooters’ sales is with Modern Foundations.
Ten years ago, Modern Foundations was using 30,000 yards of concrete a year. Bruce thought a close relationship with a ready-mix company would be a way to eliminate the pouring schedule issues he often had and better ensure mix quality. In 2002, Bruce and his son Michael started MFI Concrete with four mobile mix trucks. In less than a year, they changed their focus and purchased a used ready-mix plant and five front discharge trucks.
Today MFI Concrete has 11 front discharge trucks. Michael, president of MFI Concrete, keeps his customers’ needs a top priority, just as his father does. “We went with front discharge trucks in an area that only had rear discharge trucks,” Michael says. “I felt the other ready-mix trucks were not servicing the contractor.”
Today, about 45 percent of MFI Concrete’s business is with Modern Foundations. The company services contractors all over the area and has certified pervious technicians on staff.