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Recharging Your Leadership

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CFA Board of Directors adds four new faces for 2017-2020

By James Baty

Brian Cottom

Jay Middleton

Matt Van Wyk

Scott Renfroe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like most organizations, the Board of Directors is the governing body for the Concrete Foundations Association (CFA).  It consists of leaders volunteering their time, attention and financial resources in response to their pride and passion for this industry. As the CFA fiscal calendar turns each summer, one of the most apparent changes is that of participants on the Board of Directors. This is an exciting time that also comes with appreciation and melancholy.

At present, this Board consists of 20 individuals serving staggered three-year terms. Three seats represent the exclusive membership category of National Associates, manufacturing and supply companies that represent the top echelon of products, equipment and technology that shape the present and future of cast-in-place concrete. The remaining seventeen seats are at-large positions for contractor, professional, consultant and builder members of the Association.

Transitioning off of the Board this past July was a group of individuals who represent much of the time-honored history, current passion and on-going fabric defining the essence of this Association. Tom Brown, formerly of TJ Construction in Ely, Iowa served from 2008 until this year, participating through some of the most challenging times this Association has ever experienced. At the same time, these years evidenced the greatest expansion of benefits and programs ever achieved for Association members and the industry at large. Josh Esker of J.B. Esker & Sons in Teutopolis, Illinois served one term from 2014 to 2017 as a second-generation Board member, and joining him in that stretch of service was Dan Buser of Dandee Concrete Construction in Kearney, Nebraska. In addition to the service of these three contractor members, Lindsay Castles, president of GMX, Inc., completed his term on the Board as one of the most recently expanded positions in service for the National Associates. It is with great accolades and appreciation that the membership thanks the service of these four leaders.

Transition brings hope and promise for the future, for moving forward. The Board has added four individuals from diverse backgrounds and geographies, further evidence of the reach of this Association and its value to the industry. Joining the Board are Brian Cottom of Woodco, Inc., in Terre Haute, Indiana; Scott Renfroe of Foundation Builders, Inc., in Greeley, Colorado; Matt Van Wyk of Van Wyks, Inc., in Waldo, Wisconsin; and, filling the National Associate seat, Jay Middleton of Helix. Who are these individuals and how have they come to be part of the CFA Board? We turn to each of them in this article to find out a bit of their background for you and some insights to their leadership over the next three years.

Q:  What is your earliest memory of the concrete industry? (This question was asked as a way of connecting readers with the new members’ pasts to give a foundation for their future leadership. Renfroe and Van Wyk are second-generation CFA members, both having fathers who served on the Board.)

Scott:  My dad, Jack, started our foundation company in 1972. I can remember getting up early on Saturday mornings when I was about 7 or 8 and driving around with my dad to check on jobs. When we would stop at a job site I can remember climbing over the panels or climbing on the form trucks. I also remember getting to finish with a mag float if we were pouring a footing.

Matt:  A tough question, as I’ve been around this my entire life. I would say it was when I was 9 years old and my father started building our new shop. I had been off of school and I got to participate pouring and floating the edges. It was the first time I can say I did something with concrete other than writing my initials in fresh concrete.

Brian:  My grandfather was a union carpenter, so I was around construction from an early age. But when I was seven or eight years old, one day a crew of guys showed up at our house. Next thing I remember, several big trucks arrived and this “mud” started coming out the back. The following day I had an awesome basketball court. That was cool. I’ve been in love with concrete ever since!

Jay:  I watched as an additional section of basement was added to my childhood home.

Q:  Considering the background you each have and the length of time you’ve been around the business of concrete, what would you say is your biggest challenge faced in today’s construction market as a business owner/operator/manager?

Brian:  It has to be the workforce: finding and keeping dependable, drug free, qualified people.

Matt:  Definitely the demands of the workforce. That is, finding quality employees, keeping those employees and making each of their needs to be the priority.

Scott:  Every day has its challenges. Skilled labor shortages are always a challenge, especially trying to meet the needs and timelines of each builder we work for in a very busy market.

Jay:  My perspective is from dealing with new technologies.  There is a conflict between conservative evaluation and revenue generation.  This currently works to stagnate the migration of great ideas and proven concepts to successful implementation and integration.

Q:  Considering that running a business has such a challenge, what piece of wisdom do you recall from your mother and/or father that you put into practice in business today?

Scott:  My father would always say, “You must always take care of your employees and subcontractors. If they do not make money, they can’t help you make money.” The best compliment we can receive is for a friend or employee to want us to work for them. If they trust us with that job we have done our job correctly.

Q:  Matt, that sounds like it fits in with your previous response on honoring your workers. I wanted to ask you to expand that thought about making your employees’ needs a priority.

Matt:  Listen, I’ve learned that in order to keep good employees you have to show you care about them, hear them and try to honor them. The bigger you are, the harder this is, but all the more important so no one feels lost or devalued. As for advice, my father, whom I took over this business from would always tell me, “Do not keep your eggs in one basket.” His meaning was to be diverse. As markets change, you’ll need to change. Customers’ expectations are all different and therefore it is important to never have only one!

Jay:  Never give up. 

Brian:  I have to go with my grandma. She always said, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” This taught me from a young age that a person’s skin color, clothes or whether they had a roof over their head or not didn’t determine who they were.

Q:  It seems there is definite influence of the past on the ways you run your businesses and a great wealth of advice you’ve received and are passing on. If you had to convey what most interests you in serving as a CFA board member, what would that be?

Brian:  Giving back to an organization that tries to better my industry is simply my duty. And I’ve found that you will always learn something along the way.

Matt:  Being a servant to my peers. As I grew up, I got to know some of the most successful men in this industry and have been around them when they were leaders of their companies and as CFA board members. Listening to other members, learning what is important to them and finding out what they want from the CFA makes me better, my company better. This inspires me to bring my own knowledge to the table.

Scott:  I am interested in giving back to CFA and the members because of how much they have been there for our company when an issue or question has occurred. I am also interested in continuing the research into the captive insurance market for concrete contractors. I still think there is a better future for insuring our attention to quality and safety.

Q:  It is exciting to learn of your passion in this way. When you think of CFA, what is the first word that comes to your mind and why?

Matt:  Therapy . . . that is, group therapy for the contractor. We all have new problems we haven’t faced yet, and someone in this group already has and is willing to give you the information about what they have done about it in the past.

Jay:  Basement: My impression is the that building basement foundations is the core business of the majority of members. 

Scott:  Expertise. When you attend a meeting or talk with a member you will learn something.

Brian:  I have to agree, and my word would be “helpful.”  I haven’t met anyone from officers to suppliers to contractors that weren’t interested in sharing useful information. It makes me a better contractor every time I look to the CFA.

Q:  There are certainly a lot more contractors who will read this and are not members than there are reading this who are. As a challenge to someone whose company has not yet tried CFA membership or who has not yet been able to experience some of what you have described, what one piece of advice would you offer?

Jay:  I attended my first summer event in Santa Fe. Other than the beautiful scenery of the location I remember the discussions related to ACI332 the most.  What I found is that CFA is the least expensive access to the best industry-specific continuing education and business consultation available. It is commonplace to hear members say they learned something at an association meeting that saved them tens of thousands of dollars in the following months.

Scott:  About fifteen years ago we attended a meeting in Breckenridge, Colorado. I remember the high-quality speakers and the friendly, contractors from around the country who openly discussed current issues we all face. Every owner cares about their company and wants to strengthen their company in one way or another. The CFA and its members will provide the best technical information and access to successful concrete companies from around the country that can help with information about the best business practices for any situation, and you will be given the opportunity to share what makes your company great with others.

Matt:  I agree with Scott. In fact, my first meeting I remember was likely the same one he attended. My first time sitting in round tables was at Breckinridge CO; I was 16-ish, give or take. I sat listening to Greg Peacock talk about wall failures. Although Greg was from Atlanta and I did not expect to have the same relevance as where I am in Wisconsin, it was spot-on identical. We all had the same progressive quality issues and were perusing better training methods to the main issues. I’d recommend asking yourself, if you find your business struggling to be productive, have quality, or be profitable, how are you going to know if you are achieving your goals to their fullest potential? These peer relationships are easy and effective. I have found that comparing myself to others within the CFA is one of my most effective business tools.

Brian:  The first CFA event I can recall was in Nashville back in the 90s. What I remember learning the most was that everyone else had the same problems. Gave me some hope, I guess.  Just starting in business and dealing with all these issues back then, I thought I was doing everything wrong. Find a way to be part of this conversation. You won’t regret it.

Q:  Our last question for the contractor members was related to time management. Realizing they have all volunteered to give a portion of the next three years to this Association and indirectly to the industry at large, they have challenged you to see the value in personally getting involved and perhaps even getting to an event. Most will either try to dismiss their affordability or ask, how do they do it? Where does this time come from? We ask them to divide their time each week into the buckets based on percentages so you can perhaps relate more easily in line with your own commitments.

1 Scott manages several other companies, which are development opportunities, and has served in the Colorado State Senate

2 Brian commits a strong percentage of his time to his church

3 Matt offers that if you don’t find an outlet personally, you’ll go insane.

We look forward to learning more from these new board members, along with Jay Middleton, as the progress of managing this Association and this industry continues. To learn more about any of these gentlemen or to connect with a CFA board member directly, please contact CFA Staff or visit the Association website, www.cfawalls.org, and select from the “About” menu.

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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