In 1986, Julio Hallack was laid off from a construction supervisor position in Texas. After a move to California he found himself without a job but with a pressing need to provide for his family. He started doing landscape work and found himself on the road to finding his true calling in life. "I found out that I like working outside and wearing blue jeans instead of being inside and wearing a suit. I like reading blueprints instead of telling people what to do. I like being in contact with Mother Nature. I felt that working outside was what I wanted to do," Hallack remembers.
Soon after, Hallack became a licensed contractor and started his own landscaping business where he worked closely with landscape architects and designers. From the beginning, Hallack implemented ways to establish a strong business. He put his company name and phone number on both sides and the back of his truck, and his employees wore uniforms sporting the company name and phone number. A few years later he was introduced to colored concrete and found another way to strengthen his growing company - through diversification.
During the 1990s, Hallack's decorative concrete jobs increased, and in 1998 he decided to close the landscaping portion of his company and focus solely on decorative work. Today Concrete Innovations by Hallack in Turlock, Calif., performs concrete restoration, decorative countertops, pool decks, stamping, staining and intricate artwork. Hallack has nine employees and performs just under $1 million in annual sales. Currently, 70 percent of his business is commercial work and the remaining 30 percent residential.
Staying ahead of trends
Concrete Innovations by Hallack continues to thrive because of Hallack's dedication to the craft and his endless effort to stay on top of industry trends. "Every time I travel with my wife I've got my eyes on the ground, looking at the different styles of concrete floors at the resorts and other places we visit," he says. "I take my camera with me and come back home with more ideas."
In 1991 Hallack purchased a 3-acre estate for his residence and business. It houses an 8,000-sq.-ft. showroom and mark-up samples for customers. It also serves as Hallack's testing facility.
"When I got involved with coatings I started out by mixing formulas, splashing and spraying, coming up with my own creations," he explains of his artistic process. "Suppliers send me products to try out and I like to use them to extremes. I get a lot of my ideas by not being afraid to experiment with products. I add a bit of this and that to see what it will give me."
One unique project he has been experimenting with is decorative shower stalls. Hallack says a cement finish can provide a more desirable look than the usual tile. "Our company will install hardibaker, followed by a waterproof membrane and several thin coats of microcoatings to a smooth finish. Stains are applied using rags to create a Tuscan look. A good quality sealer follows," he explains.
The importance of education
Hallack doesn't just take his personal education seriously, he believes in teaching all his employees everything he knows. Over the years Hallack has assembled a talented crew of employees and keeps his turnover low by paying top wages for the industry, offering paid holidays and giving bonuses based on company performance. "If the company does well, everyone gets a bonus. If the company doesn't do well, no one gets a bonus. This way employees take care of each other," he explains.
Hallack doesn't allow smoking or alcohol on the job, requires drug tests, and expects his employees to maintain a high level of professionalism. "If someone has tattoos, they have to be covered on the job. If someone has piercings, they need to come out on the job. I want to build confidence with the customer," he says.