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CFA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: What Comes Around Goes Around

ASK MOST ANY CONCRETE CONTRACTOR FOUND IN TODAY’S CAST- IN-PLACE CONCRETE INDUSTRY AND HE/SHE WILL TELL YOU THAT THEIR BUSINESS IS A GENERATIONAL AFFAIR…AFTER ALL, CONCRETE DOES GET IN YOUR BLOOD AND ONCE THERE, IT NEVER LEAVES.

Dennie and Kyle 12.2014

Ask most any concrete contractor found in today’s cast-in-place concrete industry and he/she will tell you that their business is a generational affair. There are few exceptions and if the company has changed ownership, chances are that generationally the new ownership has ties to a history of involvement with concrete. After all, concrete does get in your blood and once there, it never leaves.

Thirty seven years ago, Dennie Hill took an opportunity and an introduction to the concrete industry and began working as a laborer for a contractor. Fifteen years later he was given the chance to become an owner of a company and started Hill Construction located just north of Detroit, Michigan.

“I have a passion for pouring walls,” states Dennie. “I believe it was what I was put on earth to do. After starting my company I found out just how competitive this industry was but also how exhilarating it could be.”

Ten years ago, the northern Detroit, Michigan area had ten good poured wall companies. There was plenty of work and the industry was moving, even in Detroit, a regional market that had taken its fair share of economic hit. “Then the recession came and companies started dropping left and right,” describes Dennie. “When it was all said and done, only we and another good company some forty miles north were left.”

It is a scene all to familiar to some markets and then again, many others can be described by all ten companies hanging around and driving down the price points just to stay alive. When asked how they were part of the 20% that survived, Dennie stated, “I was raised to be frugal and fortunately was able to pay off our debt. The growth that we had enjoyed during the fruitful periods I kept working on to make sure it didn’t leverage us beyond our means. Things were also going well and I thought of our company as a leader, so I joined the CFA. Back then, however, we were so busy and I didn’t have the time to see what CFA was about and I certainly didn’t feel I could break away during the summer to attend an event, no matter how nice the location.”

The number of companies working in the northern Detroit market isn’t the only thing that has changed, so has the mindset for Hill Construction. “I picked up the phone toward the end of last year and called the CFA. I figured I had made it through the recession and considered myself secure and ready to help out. I felt I had a story to tell. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was just how much I would ended up learning in such a short time, the number of fantastic companies that are out there freely offering discussion of their past and their goals for the future. I’m really learning here now.”

Dennie was welcomed into the Association and connections began to happen immediately. After a couple of members reached out from seeing his member announcement, questions like what forms do you use, and what do you do in the winter months to keep busy, were immediate conversation topics that establish some exciting potential. “My son is getting involved today,” states Dennie, “and this makes my business one of those generational affairs. I’m really excited about that and want him to learn as much as he can. He needs to be able to surround himself with challenging conversations and peers rather than just seeing through my eyes. I need to give him the chance to learn how to do things differently.”

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. World of Concrete was right around the corner and the start that he experienced through a few email and telephone conversations was quickly expanded to several sit down meetings at the CFA booth and during specific networking events. Dennie Hill is convinced that he has hit the jackpot and connected his company to a vital resource for their future.

20150130_151344When asked about what he sees in the future, Dennie quickly responded, “I’ve experimented in the past with a lot of things including expensive liners to try and make concrete look certain ways or achieve an image that I wanted to see in the concrete. With time on my hands in the upper Midwest during these cold months, I’ve figured out a way to engrave concrete with some pretty detailed images. Being able to sit and talk about this product with some like-minded contractors is opening the doors to a much broader opportunity for us to add to our business.”

“Listen, we had started to get really big before the throws of recession, big at least for us. Today, I run a crew of six guys and I’m actively involved. I love it and couldn’t imagine being bigger than we are. We might have to, especially if that is a direction my son and I begin to sense, but right now, we are really happy and enjoying learning.”

Stories like the Hills’ are not surprising nor are they unique in this industry. They can be found and expanded upon every year at the watering hole many companies stop at during the summer at the CFA Summer Convention. It continues to grow as the largest annual gathering of the cast-in-place concrete contractor. Take some time to get the dates on your calendar so that you too can benefit from the conversations that Dennie and his son will participate in.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us