It's unbelievable what is being done with concrete. Just look no further than this publication's ads and articles. We have staining over stamping, stamping over overlay, stamped walls, stained walls. It's crazy — who keeps raising the bar? The answer is THE MARKET. This explosion of decorative concrete is market-driven. Folks want it, and it's more than just a fad. It must be a little overwhelming to contractors just entering this exciting business.
That's why I'm writing this. It doesn't matter if you're just starting or have millions of square feet under your belt. The secret is to KEEP IT SIMPLE.
The goal in decorative contracting is to provide a service that meets the expectations of your client. That means the harder the job, the higher the expectations. Thankfully, the complexity of most jobs is decided by the pocketbook. Most jobs are kept simple because there are limited funds. Simply put, our clients get more for their money by keeping it simple. Let us look at some examples.
A prospective client asks about stained floors for their new office building currently under construction. After a few questions concerning colors, floor designs, etc., you realize your owner knows very little about concrete staining. They have noticed floors at their favorite restaurant or have been advised by a friend that concrete staining is the way to go. You quickly realize a floor design must be determined before an accurate bid can be provided. This is your best opportunity as a decorative contractor to design an affordable project, and more importantly, a project you are comfortable with and confident you can complete.
As tempted as you are to design a life-size bald eagle using all the stain colors known to man, you show the client pictures of a two-color checkerboard design. You explain how the checkerboarding will be separated by decorative saw cuts, colored grout, and then protected with sealer and wax. You have created a project that can be completed on time, on budget, and to all expectations.
Now let's try a stamping scenario
Your local pool company informs you of a client interested in stamping their deck. I will tell you this: Pool deck stamping with a coping edge is one of the most challenging of all decorative undertakings. Realizing this, you inform your client that an earth tone integrally colored (color in the ready mix) could easily be matched to their house trim color. You explain how a subtle, seamless texture stamp (no grout lines to contend with) with decorative deep scoring would provide the color and imprinting that makes stamped concrete so desirable. Everyone wins. Costs are kept within budget. Job difficulty is kept within limitations of a developing decorative crew.
Decorative contractors can control the simplicity in many more ways. Keeping control of the project from start to finish, using communication, repetition, and basic fundamentals, is key.
Organization, from selling the project to collecting a check, should not be overlooked. Paul, our customer representative, marks all color containers with the client's name as they enter the yard.
Frank, our foreman, matches colors with clients as materials are loaded for each project. This double-check system is a necessity in successful decorative projects. All control joints, saw cuts, slopes, ready mix access, washout area, are predetermined prior to placement of concrete. These repetitive fundamentals minimize mistakes and wasted time. You will notice these steps becoming second nature to your crew in no time.
Another way to keep things simple is to limit color and pattern selections. Pull out four different color charts during your tail-gate meeting with your prospective client and watch the confusion start. We show one color chart at a time. No more than two stamped samples per visit. You will be shocked at how many clients will pick from what is available.
Controlling the decorative project from the sales call to the final installation is our responsibility. Remember, building a successful and profitable decorative company always starts with a satisfied customer.