How can we help the concrete industry thrive?

Work done well is free advertising, while work done poorly is a black mark on the entire industry.
Work done well is free advertising, while work done poorly is a black mark on the entire industry. Photo courtesy of Greg Iannone

Years ago, there was a Kevin Costner movie, “Field of Dreams,” which has now become a classic. While this movie was full of overarching plots and subplots, the main takeaway was: “If you build it, they will come.”

If the main character, Ray Kinsella, a novice Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner, built a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield, people would come. They would come by the carload and willingly pay money for a chance to watch the legendary greats of an era gone by play America’s favorite pastime — baseball.

Looking ahead in 2018, one of the main focuses of the decorative concrete industry should be: How can we build our industry so it will grow and be strong and sustainable, a decorative marketplace that everyone will want to be a part of? A marketplace where building owners and homeowners alike will come from far and wide in search of just the right contractor to construct their own “field of dreams,” so to speak?

We all play a role in the success of the decorative concrete industry — architects, contractors, material manufacturers, suppliers and publications such as this one — and can help to shine a light to promote our industry. Each plays a very significant role in the process.

Competition is good
Healthy competition is good for our industry. Competition brings out the best in us. It’s what forces us to “up our game” and produce our best work. More contractors doing quality work and more material manufacturers, not less, producing quality products keep the industry moving forward at a competitive rate. We have said for many years that work done well is free advertising. It’s like having a billboard on the side of the road that points people to you.

Just as the poem suggests: A tree that’s forced to fight for sunlight deep within the forest often becomes the strongest tree. Conversely, a tree growing alone in the middle of a field is often the weakest and can’t weather the storms that come along. So it is within our industry.

Strong competition in all aspects of our marketplace will ultimately grow the decorative pie by expanding its reach and providing a stronger decorative industry, whereas a lack of strong competition and choices will ultimately lead to the industry’s downfall during difficult times.

So, how do we expand the pie and provide healthy competition to move the industry forward? What are the roles of each of the players within our decorative marketplace?

Architects and manufacturers
Architects spend years in school, followed by years of supplemental training to become licensed in their profession. However, they spend very little time learning about products and product systems.

For architects to design and specify products and systems within the decorative concrete industry, they must first have a working knowledge of them or, at the very least, trusted sources they can ask to help them keep abreast with changing trends and regulations.

Next up: manufacturers. I have long believed that manufacturers within our industry must be aware of all aspects of the decorative market. Manufacturers must work in both directions.

First, they must work with the architectural community to educate its members and make them aware of new products, systems, trends and regulations, and to help them become a resource to this community. Second, they must work with material suppliers and contractors. Not only to make them aware, but to train and educate them on how to use these products and systems and to make themselves available to troubleshoot projects that may require additional attention.

Suppliers, manufacturers and contractors
Material suppliers are crucial to the success of growing our industry. Just as material manufacturers must work in both directions, so it is with suppliers. It’s imperative they develop the proper relationships with manufacturers, keep workable/smart inventories and work “hand in glove” with manufacturers when training contractors on new products and systems.

Further, by working closely with manufacturers and contractors, it brings the three principal parties on a project together. Suppliers have worked hard to develop a close working relationship with their contractors. It can be a lot like bowling. The supplier sets up the pins (has the relationship with the contractor), and the manufacturer helps knock down the pins (works together with the supplier and contractor to ensure success on any given project).

By working together, the decorative industry wins.

Contractors helping contractors
Contractors are the lynch pin not only to a successful project but to the success of our industry. Contractors who have developed strong ties to both the material supplier and manufacturer are more prone to having successful and profitable projects than those who don’t have that same access.

Further, contractors who are willing to aid fellow contractors by sharing ideas and experience to try to strengthen the industry will find greater success in the future on their own projects. As they reach out, the quality of the jobs in the marketplace will vastly improve, making it possible for the decorative industry to be both sustainable and highly profitable.

I know of a contractor in Idaho who, while driving to his own project, saw a homeowner struggling to apply an architectural sealer to his newly stamped driveway. He decided to pull over and offer his help. The homeowner explained that “his” contractor didn’t offer sealing as part of his bid. The contractor came to the homeowner’s aid for a couple of reasons. One, he knew that decorative concrete done well is free advertising. And two, decorative concrete done poorly is a black mark on the entire industry.

Publications such as this one are true advocates for the decorative industry. Concrete Decor can be a huge promoter, the megaphone of our industry. It can shine a spotlight on new trends, new challenges and showcase the amazing talents of the contractors that this industry has to offer.

If we realize we are all in this together, we can do great things. We all play a valuable role in building our own “Field of Dreams.” If we build it, they will come.

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