Anyone who follows the Concrete Foundations Association Project of the Year awards, affectionately known as “the basement from hell” awards, will recognize Ekedal Concrete’s name. The company won the “Single Family Residence over 5,000 Square Feet” award for six years running. Its work on these large, complex foundations that support multi-million dollar homes perched on cliffs overlooking the ocean throughout Southern California is unique because it can only be accomplished with cast-in-place concrete and by a business that employs talented and experienced craftsmen along with professional and innovative management staff.
But President Dave Ekedal knows building is only half the battle in running a construction business — the other half comes with understanding the importance of customer relationships. “I think whatever business you are in, what you are making is one half and the other half is the soft skills in business, and this is a lost art,” Dave Ekedal says. “You have to get along with people, you have to listen and at the end of the day you want to put a smile on someone’s face.”
Dave Ekedal and his wife, Cheri, started Ekedal Concrete in the mid-1970s, building masonry foundations in and around San Diego, Calif. In the 1980s, he saw engineers and homeowners turn toward poured wall foundations for their design flexibility and strength in earthquake-prone environments. As Ekedal Concrete’s work started to get more complex, the company settled into a niche as a foundations builder willing to take on the projects other concrete companies didn’t want to deal with.
In 1991, the Ekedals moved their business into Orange County, a place where they saw opportunities to bid jobs that utilized Dave’s hillside foundations expertise. Today Ekedal Concrete completes between 30 and 40 projects a year. That might not sound like a lot for a company that employees 80 to 100 people, but the size and complexity of the projects are plenty.
The company builds everything from slab-on-grade foundations to five-story, cast-in-place concrete homes. Their foundations are often the building blocks for $10 million to $40 million homes and include work on below sea level foundations and shoring and caisson work for hillside foundations. Structural decks and walls with 60 elevation changes and multiple block outs are common challenges. But it is these complex, mind-boggling structures that Ekedal Concrete loves to build.
A multi-generation business
Like a lot of construction businesses, Ekedal Concrete is a family affair. Dave and Cheri worked hard, long hours as they grew their business and raised a family in the early years of Ekedal Concrete. Dave and Cheri have two sons, Travis and Ryan. Ryan joined his parents in the family business 15 years ago, and Travis came on board 13 years ago. Both are vice presidents at Ekedal Concrete. Ryan handles the sales and field operations. Travis works payroll, human resources and accounting. Dave’s brother has been the head of superintendents with Ekedal Concrete for 25 years, and another brother has been the plan detailer for 30 years. A third brother has also been with the company for the last 10 years. Dave and Cheri continue to oversee the complete business operations. Some companies struggle with the challenges of working so closely with relatives. Not the Ekedal family.
“I get to talk to my brother every day, and see my father and mother every day. We can brainstorm and work out problems together. Because we have so many family members working in management, it gives us a staff we can totally trust is looking out for the benefit of the company,” Vice President Ryan Ekedal says.
The company also benefits from the strengths each generation brings to the business. “After so many years working together, there is a level of expertise each family member brings to his or her role. We respect each others’ opinions and contributions. We are known for being perfectionists. Our philosophy is to treat each project as if we are building our own home,” Vice President Travis Ekedal added.