The 21st century concrete contractor

The 21st century is only 11 years old, but those 11 years have already shown the construction industry the very good and the very bad in regard to the economy. Those 11 years have also given the industry an idea of what the successful 21st century concrete contractor is made of. These modern contractors need to know how to get the most profit out of ultra-tight margins, please clients and customers who seem to grow more demanding every day, and navigate the growing number of standards and regulations they encounter as a part of doing business in the United States.

Through my involvement in the concrete industry, I meet a lot of contractors. From cover story interviews to association meetings to industry trade shows, I have the opportunity to learn how contractors run their businesses, how they treat their employees, how they work with their customers and how they perform their jobs. That perspective — that bird's eye view of companies all over the country — has allowed me to recognize some characteristics that all successful contractors share. Some of these commonalities include:

  • A serious commitment to safety
  • A strong grasp on financials and knowledge of where every dollar in a business goes
  • Open communication with customers
  • The willingness to invest in technology
  • Organized jobsite management

Over and over I hear how these characteristics help contractors save money in the long run, increase productivity and help them do things right the first time.

Another characteristic I see is one I feel is a more recent phenomenon — something that has come about in the last decade or so. That is a scientific and educated approach to concrete on the contractor level. I'm talking about contractors who work with their ready-mix suppliers to develop mix designs, join American Concrete Institute (ACI) committees and read up on specifications, and test their own slabs for floor flatness and levelness then adjust their jobsite practices to improve their work.

This issue's cover story contractor is one of these contractors. Bryan Birdwell of Birdwell & Associates, LLC is both a student and teacher of the concrete industry. He takes a step-by-step craftsman approach to concrete while incorporating testing methods and technology on the job. But Bryan isn't alone — he is just one of a growing number of 21st century concrete contractors. I meet them at American Society of Concrete Contractor (ASCC) meetings, ACI conventions, Concrete Foundations Association (CFA) conferences and industry trade shows; I met Bryan at the awards ceremony for the 2010 Golden Trowel Awards. These contractors not only possess the classic characteristics of a successful construction business, but also the knowledge and wherewithal to compete in the 21st century.

You might be wondering how you can become a 21st century concrete contractor. That lies in your ability to present yourself that way to your clients and customers. Educate yourself not just as a tradesmen, but as a business owner, industry expert and concrete construction resource. When owners start coming to you with questions, you will know you are a modern contractor.