Training and Education is Good for One and All

For the decorative concrete industry to grow, we need to expand the decorative concrete pie so there is more of it being desired, specified and installed.
Photo courtesy of Greg Iannone

I saw a meme recently that goes something like this:

CFO asks CEO: What happens if we invest in training and developing our people and then they leave us?

CEO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?

I found this meme to be very telling as it relates to our industry. If you know me personally, or have read any article I’ve written pertaining to our industry, everything tends to come full circle and touches upon several themes — namely managed expectations and education/training.

For our industry to grow, we need to expand the decorative concrete pie so there is more of it being desired, specified and installed. How do we accomplish this? A marketing manager may say advertise nice pictures in a trade publication or other printed copy. Others may prefer social media marketing such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Pinterest. While both ways can have a positive effect, the marketing that has the most immediate and personal impact is “word-of-mouth” marketing.

Expanding the pie
Decorative concrete done well, and properly maintained, is long-term free advertising. It’s like having a huge billboard on the side of the road showcasing your work. Word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most effective ways to grow our industry. Conversely, poorly maintained or neglected decorative concrete is a black mark on the decorative industry. (Vol. 17, No. 3, April 2017, “In Search of New Revenue? Offer resealing option as part of your bid”)

With the recent Great Recession, the industry lost a lot of skilled labor. Hardworking, highly skilled craftsmen left the industry or, in many cases, the industry left them when the bottom fell out of the marketplace. Many were forced to find work in other industries.

Years ago, while living in Italy, I was fascinated by the craftsmen repairing and replacing the cobblestone streets. I noticed it was always the older men, and I mean old, doing all the skilled labor and the younger men seemingly disinterested in the trade. Fast forward to 2017, with demand up but skilled labor still at a deficit, how can we as a whole enlarge the decorative pie within our industry?

We have advocated long and hard for manufacturers and construction material suppliers to get on the same page and ensure that education and training opportunities are taking place to keep the decorative industry fully up to speed with changing regulations, new products and everchanging trends in the industry. Providing opportunities for contractors to learn a new skill or simply “up their game” is a key component to bettering our industry and “expanding the pie.”

Fair brought out the best
Having recently changed jobs, I personally had the opportunity to participate in my new employer’s, Solomon Colors/Brickform, Decorative Concrete Fair Aug. 17-19 in Springfield, Illinois.

The Decorative Concrete Fair brought together many of our industry’s leading contractors such as Bob Harris (acid staining); Paul Schneider, Mike Archambault and Tom Dombalis (stamped concrete); Lance Boyer (exposed aggregate); Rachel Knigge-Bruce (stains, dyes and stencils); Troy Lemon (vertical overlays); Keefe Duhon (microtopping overlays); and Cory and Justin Huber (sprayed-on deck overlays), to name a few. Bent Mikkelsen with this magazine and the Concrete Decor RoadShow was also there participating.

There were opportunities to observe, ask questions, interact and, in some cases, get “dirty” by working side by side with these industry leaders. The Decorative Concrete Fair was well attended by nearly 400 contractors, material suppliers and ready-mix producers from across the country and around the world including Asia, Europe, Central and South America. Other industry manufacturers, vendors and exhibitors included The Concrete Network, Concrete Contractor magazine, Kraft Tool, Blastrac, Pullman Ermator, Concrete Cares, Rattle Stick, Collomix, Floormaps Inc. and Decorative Surface Solutions Group.

Each evening culminated with the opportunity to attend an after-hours event and listen to industry experts such as Rocky Geans speak on helping contractors succeed in business. Concrete Decor’s Mikkelsen, who also organizes the Concrete Decor Show, gave a state of the industry address. Harlan Baldridge talked about effective troubleshooting and Ed Mclean presented on issues associated with secondary reinforcing fibers and plastic shrinkage cracking.

The Decorative Concrete Fair was a success in that it brought together multiple manufacturers from throughout the concrete industry and contractors from across the country. It provided the venue and opportunity for those in the industry to interact with each other and share stories and ideas about what each is seeing in their markets, what trends are evolving and what problems they are experiencing. It provided an atmosphere where education was provided, training given and networking across a large swath of our industry encouraged.

Education is the key
Training and education, whether done on a large scale such as the Decorative Concrete Fair or on a more local level by a single manufacturer’s representative, material supplier or contractor, can prove to be invaluable to our industry if it means we are providing knowledge and improving the skill level for the coming generation.

Providing training as a manufacturer and attending trainings and educational opportunities as a contractor are rarely convenient. It reminds me of a saying I heard the other day: “Training? I don’t have time for training.”

Training events and seminars cost money, and they take time away from “working.” There’s never really a good time to hold a training class or seminar. However, those who see the advantages, who take the time to learn a little more, who are willing to share their own knowledge and ideas with others — those are the people who help our industry grow. They provide value and are a key component in helping to grow, nourish and enlarge our decorative pie.

Remember the meme at the beginning of this article?

CFO asks CEO: What happens if we invest in training and developing our people and then they leave us?

CEO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?

Let us — as an industry — invest in each other as an effort to provide quality work that will cause our decorative pie to grow exponentially and become an ever-growing and sustainable piece of the construction marketplace.

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