The importance of training

There are a lot of worried decorative concrete contractors out there.

While many still think of it as a niche market, decorative concrete has hit the mainstream. From cable television to The Wall Street Journal to books like Fu-Tung Cheng's new Concrete at Home, it's everywhere these days.

With that publicity has come the people looking for a quick buck, and that's got a lot of smart decorative contractors concerned. On both the manufacturer side and the contractor side, the market has been flooded with inexperienced people making mistakes. Whether because of inferior products, untrained installers or a combination of the two, a number of decorative projects are failing. That gives the entire industry a black eye and makes it that much harder for good companies to sell their services.

This month, on p. 32, we've got an article about Decorative Concrete Solutions, a Wilmington, N.C.-based company that's been doing reclamation projects to fix the mistakes made by other decorative contractors. In the project we profiled, the problems were caused by not using the right products and using poor installation techniques.

There are people trying to do something about it, though. In February, I attended a workshop on getting started in the field put on by Concrete Concepts columnist Bob Harris at the Decorative Concrete Institute. (For more on the workshop, see p. 50.) It's one of several seminars the Institute offers. After spending a week there, I may not be ready to run off and start my own business, but I've got a much better feel for the techniques. Unfortunately, that week is a lot more than some so-called decorative concrete contractors have.

There are several other people and companies offering decorative concrete training all around the country. The help is there if you want it.

Many of you are probably competing against these low-bid, untrained installers. If that's the case, it's important you do a good job of explaining to clients why they're the low bid. While there will always be people who will go with the lowest bidder no matter what, most will spend more money if they're given a good reason to. And make sure you take the same approach in buying your materials. Don't always focus on getting the best price from your decorative concrete suppliers. Think about things like service, reliability and reputation. It's a cliche, but you do get what you pay for.

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