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My Key to Success -Tim Upton

CONTRACTOR OF THE YEAR, 2018

By Lindsey Bloomquist

The Contractor of the Year, presented annually by the Concrete Foundations Association (CFA), demonstrates the service, technology and knowledge needed to advance the use of poured wall construction. The recipient is acknowledged for unselfish commitment to peers, to the association and to the industry, both at their market level and on a national scale. This year’s Contractor of the Year was awarded to Tim Upton of Upton Construction, Inc. out of Gretna, Nebraska.

With little to no experience in poured walls, Upton’s journey began alongside three partners in 1998. “We all had various construction and concrete experience, but not with poured foundations,” said Upton. “The day our shipment of Western Forms arrived, I was humbled and intimidated, to say the least.”

From the beginning of his poured wall career, Upton had an unparalleled amount of respect for the trade. His passion and determination would not only allow him to start his own business, but also would be instrumental in overcoming challenges that could have been detrimental to his business, as well as to his life.

“We were successful and learned a lot along the way together,” said Upton. “Thankful for all my new knowledge and experience, I chose to start my own adventure in business in 2004.”

Upton started with one set of forms stacked on trailers and a skid loader to move them around. He quickly added more forms and a boom truck, and business progressed at a healthy pace. On October 27, 2007, Upton’s life was unexpectedly turned upside-down.

“While out archery-hunting deer, I suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm followed by two strokes,” said Upton. “After two weeks in a coma, I awoke to paralysis of my right side and cognitive deficiencies. I then spent a month in the hospital and underwent rehab for my ‘new normal life.’”

Unbeknown to Upton, this challenge was going to transform his outlook on life and change the way he looked at his own business. With the help of family, his team, and even competitors, Upton’s business was able to stay on track despite his absence. “I feel that EVERY company has dedicated and hard-working team members,” said Upton. “However, I am certain that we overachieve, day in and day out.”

Upton’s “new normal” required him to look at his business differently. “My new situation forced me to become a better businessman,” said Upton. “To this day, I am still hindered by right-side fine-motor skills and vision. I can no longer perform some of the physical aspects of the footings or walls as well. Before my aneurysm, I was out working side by side with my guys day in and day out, but this involuntarily required me to become more engaged with the business side of things, and I was able to see my company in a new light.”

Upon Upton’s recovery, he gratefully returned to his business and began introducing new tools, new equipment and new perks for his employees. “This is the key to success,” he said. “This is hard work – keep your team engaged and interested. Always be teaching and coaching.” One of Upton’s favorite quotes is: “The customer is not number one; they are number two, right behind your employees.” He strongly believes that a team-first mentality will show through their performance and work, and the customers will, ultimately, win.

This mentality emphasizes the importance of coaching and teaching work skills and ethics even more. “It is about a mindset that is not really talked about, but felt company wide,” said Upton. “We are always trying to think outside the box, innovating and shifting personnel throughout every day to maximize our efforts.”

Upton has been an active member of the CFA since 2011. Taking advantage of the numerous association resources has allowed Upton Construction, Inc. to excel in the forefront of the industry. Through education and invaluable strength and support from his peers, Upton continues to lead his company with pride, gratitude and respect. “We’ve been thriving every year since,” said Upton. “It seems every year is a record year. We are constantly learning, adding manpower, equipment and ideas to get us to that next level, and I’m thankful that we have the resources and the right team to effectively manage our growth.”

Past recipients of the Contractor of the Year award have been active, dedicated and well-known members of the association; Upton is no exception. The outlook he has on life and business has not gone unrecognized. Upton’s reputation goes far beyond this recognition, and greatly validates why he was named this year’s Contractor of the Year.

“Doing things the way they have always been done does little to help grow or improve, and Tim Upton knows that,” said an anonymous, longtime CFA member. “He is constantly looking for ways to improve his efficiency, quality, customer service, employee relationships, as well as advances in the industry.”

Upton’s team-first mentality is not only recognized within his company, but has been well-known and even contagious among the association. “Whether Tim is on the job or not, his crew gets along because he creates a positive environment in the workplace,” said anonymous. “He is quick to joke around with them and gives them space to be independent leaders. When Tim is on the job, he is right there helping and asking what else needs to be done.”

The work environment Upton has created extends far beyond the job site. Upton Construction, Inc. has a break room that includes a kitchenette, full bath, washer and dryer, and lockers for the crew. “This is just another small example of how he thinks about others,” said anonymous. “He makes sure they have the opportunity to leave their work outside of their home.”

Although Upton’s journey was not easy, it positioned him to put his energy into becoming a better businessman and an even better leader. “In the long run, I am thankful for what these challenges have taught me,” said Upton. “But I do not recommend it to anyone! My best advice, either personally or in business, is to always be coaching. As they say, ‘Don’t run people under the bus, get them on with you.’”

Tim was awarded the CFA’s prestigious Contractor of the Year in Midway, Utah during Concrete Foundations Convention 2018, where he was an attendance. On behalf of the CFA staff, membership and board of directors: congratulations, Tim!

For a full list of past Contractor of the Year recipients and to submit an award nomination, please visit www.cfawalls.org/recognition/associationawards.

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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