Attracting small contractors to the trade associations

Guest Column

I have heard it said time and again that the DCC needs more members. I agree wholeheartedly. The industry needs an organization that can educate and even to some extent certify and regulate contractors and manufacturers.

However, I believe the DCC is failing to target for membership the people they need most. Most decorative concrete contractors are very small outfits, with one or possibly two crews in the field. They are guys working out of their homes and trucks, not a large office building. Most of these contractors are actually out in the field doing the installations themselves, as well as performing all the office duties, estimating and bidding.

The cost of joining the DCC vs. the benefits reaped is just not feasible for most of the people in this industry. A three--man company does not need or can't use the "Toolbox Safety Talks" and many of the other "benefits" of membership. They need training videos or DVDs, maybe a help desk, or their own online forum.

My own situation, as well as many others, is like this: If I go to a DCC event, I have to spend the money to travel, attend the meeting, get lodging, etc. In addition, I lose the money that I would have made if I stayed home and worked. Combined with the annual membership fee, I just can't afford to be an active member.

In the past, I have brought this up at DCC meetings. Some of the other meeting attendees said that they were small contractors too, and knew what I meant. They may perceive themselves small by some standards, but a truly small company does not do millions of dollars of work per year. Many of us would be thrilled beyond measure to generate $500,000 to $700,000 per year gross! Those others are not small contractors from a decorative concrete standpoint.

I think it is admirable what the DCC is trying to accomplish, but they need to have a realistic view of the industry. If they determine that a majority of decorative concrete contractors are in fact small, instead of being larger companies with several employees, they would do a lot better with membership. Here are a few ideas to swell DCC ranks:

1.)Make it less expensive to join. Have an introductory or trial membership that allows a company to join for less money and see what they get in return. If it is worthwhile, they will stay. If not, then like me they will let their membership lapse. Maybe the DCC could even have a sliding fee schedule that allows smaller companies to pay less than large ones.

2.)Advertise more. Do it anywhere you can. Online forums, trade magazines, through state ready--mix concrete associations, in supply warehouses, etc. I'm sure there are thousands of contractors who have never heard of the DCC.

3.)Develop some training videos/DVDs. They don't have to be extravagant productions. At the very least, videotape the World of Concrete Mega Demos. Do different DVDs on different aspects of decorative concrete such as stamping, staining, stenciling, overlays, countertops, engraving, etc.

4.)Develop some literature specific to decorative concrete.

5.)Create an online help desk/forum. The DCC needs this badly. On other forums, someone asks a question of the "experts"; then anyone with an opinion answers. The result is 10 different answers to the same question, all of them contradicting each other. The poor person with the question is now more confused than ever.

The DCC answer desk should be comprised of selected true professionals with real--world experience. DCC members could post questions, but only the DCC staff in charge of the online board could answer. The staff would be comprised of individuals who were confirmed experts in a given area such as "acid staining" or "stamping fresh concrete." Everyone would not agree with everything they said, but at least the petitioner would get knowledgeable answers and determine for himself if he wanted to follow that advice.

6.)When finances allow it, hold more demos in more locations. I can afford a day trip to Indianapolis or South Bend, because I can drive there. If I have to fly to North Carolina, it is out of reach financially. Do the demos at local or regional events, such as the individual state Ready Mix Association conventions.

The smaller companies, making up the vast majority of decorative concrete contractors, should be who the DCC is targeting for membership. The DCC needs to be more responsive to the needs of the smaller contractor, thereby making it more feasible for him to join their organization.

Steve VandeWater is the owner of ArtistiCrete, LLC, a decorative concrete company in Noblesville, Ind. He is a former member of the American Society of Concrete Contractors' Decorative Concrete Council, and is a past World of Concrete speaker. He has been active in the industry since 1993. His company is on the Web