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INTERCONNECTIONS: Leveraging relationships built by common interest

A new-member awareness series

A CFA Concrete Pro is a member of a our network, an employee working for an organization that chooses to be involved with this professional industry organization that represents its members’ interests. The Concrete Foundations Association continues to foster this sense of advanced relationship building and advocacy that cannot easily be replicated. For many, even recognizing people outside their company, beyond a few individuals here and there, is a challenge. For the lucky few who succeed in their efforts to connect with people outside of their organization, their investment pays off.

The following five #CFAConcretePros have shared a bit about their history, their passion, and their perspective on the future. Their stories show some of the common benefits you can experience when you put yourself into the network. Get to know them; find a way to meet up with them.

Believing In Who You Are To Become What You Can Be


Kay Lanahan, President
Advanced Concrete Foundations Inc 
Contractor Member
Louisa, Virginia

I BELIEVE IN THE MANTRA, “THINGS WORK OUT THE WAY THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO.” Married at 17, my husband and I had the typical very-young-marriage rough start, but we soon settled down into a career of construction. A general contracting business was started and went bust in the late 80s. This opened the door to the concrete industry, when an attorney friend approached us, asking if we’d like to buy out another client’s form inventory. These kinds of steps were always met by both of us together with, “I’m game.”

My husband started the first poured-wall business in Central Virginia: Advanced Concrete Foundations Inc. Having learned that many general contractors know very little about foundations, he saw the opportunity to offer this service in our area. I worked apart from our family business for the first 10 years, learning business management as controller for a property management firm. I then came back to work with my husband. We brought our son up in the business, and together my son and I took over management of the company when my husband’s health declined.

Having weathered the recession of 2008, we know how to run a lean business. It has been a wonderful partnership, where we each bring the best of our interests and passions. Like many colleagues I know, my passions are family, employees, friends, grandchildren, gardening, cooking, reading, knitting, the beach, and the mountains, along with business management. My son, following in his father’s footsteps, is very good at helping our customers with design issues and can help simplify designs to save the customers money. These are his own passions, in addition to sharing many of those in my list.

The Advanced Concrete way is to make sure every customer feels completely taken care of. We want to be sure they understand the process they will undertake with us, and be sure that they know we stand behind our work and will help them along the way with any problems they have.

Being members of an association of fellow business people is how you learn how to solve problems and avoid mistakes. We have met numerous colleagues who have years of experience and are willing to share and swap tricks of the trade. Looking back, I know our decision to participate in the CFA has been invaluable to the evolution of our company.

I look forward to what lies ahead. Through networking with colleagues, we will learn more about developing technology and about many exciting things coming to our industry — and we plan to incorporate those things into our business. For example, concrete design will be changing dramatically to save energy!

Applying an old-school relationship approach to modern sales


Lindsay Castles, President
GMX Inc.
National Associate Member
Indian Trails, North Carolina

WHAT MATTERS TO ME IN LIFE ARE RELATIONSHIPS. I’ve always made that my focus, creating relationships with people, listening and learning to what it is they want, or feel they need, and then finding out what they buy as well as why they buy it. Call it old school sales, although selling hasn’t really changed that much, at the end of the day sales is about relationships with people. Helping customers is more about making the right fit for them than it is about filling a quota for me (my company). With this approach, customers value my expertise and believe we truly can do business with a handshake.

Most of our clients have that special owner/operator approach to business; they are entrepreneurs, and there is a shared experience there, as I’ve started a company and sold it. Customers call me occasionally, comfortable enough simply to ask for business advice, not even dealing with anything specific to my expertise. It may be a legal issue or a complex client relationship, and I love being a resource for them. This is what I have found in the heart of the Concrete Foundations Association: care for the success of others’ business. It is not about believing I have a great wealth of knowledge, but rather, it is about realizing I have been around the block in several industries, enjoying the relationships and being interested in really listening so I can then help others.

I am a chemist by education (polymer science at Clemson University, ’97). After building a career with the multi-national German company, Henkel Corporation, I made my way into the waterproofing industry as a consultant in 2004. Through an interesting turn of events, I attended my first CFA Convention in 2006 (Wisconsin Dells) and have continued to play an increasingly involved role in learning and building relationships in this industry. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a board member for three years and continue to draw on that time for knowing the structure and goals of the Association.

My faith and family life are a big part of who I am. I am very involved with our local church and am a board member of a refugee ministry in Charlotte. I travel a lot, so spending time with our three kids is a priority, leaving little time for hobbies. Still, I enjoy working with my hands and could have considered becoming a builder. I do enjoy golf and the opportunity to build relationships while playing a round (though I’m not great). I am also very passionate about college football, having played at Clemson.

Giving back to build for the future


Tim Eckert, Business Manager
Weber Concrete
Contractor Member
Zionsville, Indiana

MY PASSION IS WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AND MENTORING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY. I work with associations and boards — local, regional, and national — to bring on new members, growing participation and sharing. In doing so, I place an emphasis on lifting them up; it is something that brings me to work every day.

Becoming an active member of an association, and specifically the CFA, brings a level of professionalization unattainable any other way. Peer relationships and education are worth the price of membership. Actively participating is the key. Every difficult issue I have brought before the CFA has been met by an answer through resources or training classes. The CFA can be said to function as our University of Concrete.

I graduated from Indiana University (’74) with a degree in secondary education with an emphasis on political science and forensic studies. Surprisingly, I ended up working as a construction manager national home builder before the opportunity came to be hired as operations manager for a concrete company in 1988. Having supervised more than 1,800 slabs, crawlspaces, and basements, I turned on-the-job training into a thorough understanding of the concrete industry’s importance. In 2002, Weber Concrete Construction offered me a position on their team, and I have been with them ever since.

I believe we will see the development of more optimism for our industry and country than what we see on the news. There are a lot of young men and women interested in construction and in being a part of something bigger than themselves. It is up to us to build them up on what we have, and we can be stronger together than we would be if we pushed them to go it alone.

The same should be said of our clients. When working with new or existing clients, I endeavor to empathize and put myself in their position. Why are they asking for what they want, the way they want it? Getting to know their motivation answers a lot of questions and minimizes misunderstandings.

The next few years are most likely going to be faster moving than we have seen in a couple decades. The virus, social evolutions, political changes — as members we are going to need to rely and depend on our colleagues for help in addressing all of this. More than ever, listening to folks from different regions of our country and applying their advice will strengthen our individual companies and, collectively, strengthen the CFA.

Willing to do what it takes to help drive success

VERY FEW BUSINESS IDEAS OR HURDLES ARE NEW. Someone out there has probably had a similar experience to what you are facing. Their knowledge and insight can help me make more informed decisions. I believe the more information you have, the better the chance of making a good decision. Gary Bromley (of ABI Corp) once told me, “Incomplete information is worse than no information at all.” It has been a great quote to live by.

Customer relationships matter intensely to me, and those take communication, integrity, and longevity. With all the ways to communicate, there should be zero calls from our customers saying no one has contacted them. Unfortunately, errors happen, and when they do, it is always better to call the customer before they call you. I manage with the principles: don’t try to cover it up; don’t try to sell it; just admit it, fix it, and move on. Knowing that we have been in business for over fifty years, our process, reputation, and history assures the customer that we will be there if they have a problem. We have freely fixed issues that really should have been charged.  Why? To maintain a great reputation and to keep that customer for years to come.

I have a background in business management and accounting. I owned a firearms and gunsmithing retail store in the 90s and was asked by a friend to help her for a couple of weeks. It was becoming clear that the time was right to make a change in my life. Although I knew nothing about the construction industry (let alone concrete construction), I did know people and how to manage relationships. I started as A/R clerk and grew with the company to be business manager and then chief operating officer. I run the business’s day-to-day operations, now 25 years later, and am not afraid to take on the job no one else wants.

If you ask me what I am about, it is faith, family, and integrity, in that order. I grew up learning those priorities. I learned to apply them and appreciate them, and so they have become my passion. They are reflected in my approach to business.

I see the face of our industry changing in the next few years as technology changes. Therefore, the endless access to information and to others’ experience, and the ability to share mine (ours), is at the heart of why I’m here. The CFA network is the hub where people share thoughts and the results of embracing change. There is endless information and experience here, all vetted through trusting relationships.

WHY I CONTINUE TO CHOOSE MEMBERSHIP

A member of multiple trade associations, it seems I am always asking when it comes time for renewal:

Dennis Purinton
Purinton Builders Inc.
East Granby CT
  1. Why, especially when times are lean? Can I afford this?
  2. What recent benefit can I identify to warrant another year?
  3. Is there a better use for these dollars?

Then, a situation like what we have endured these last six weeks (seems like much longer) proves to me why I am part of my trade associations and just how important they are. I can say with absolute certainty that the information they provided us with, in every facet of our business, was invaluable!

During COVID-19 alone, rules, mandates, and programs available to small businesses have seemed to change daily, sometimes hourly. The Association’s access to detailed and current information, and their advocacy elevated my confidence. I received timely email updates as detailed information became available to the CFA. Sometimes I receive updates and clarifications two or three times a day.  OSHA regulations; additional safety requirements for business operation; government mandates for construction as essential work; and, state and federal small business relief programs came in a timely manner.

We are a very small firm and time is not a luxury.  My wife, who is my technologically-challenged office manager, and I read the constant flow of changing information and were able to apply for and receive a small business PPP loan at the very end of the first round of funds available. Even though rumored the program had run out of money, we received word from our bank that we had been approved at the 11th hour prior to the money running out. The system was lacked sufficient information and the bank couldn’t help. The detail and clarity from organizations like the CFA, providing members with such exhaustive information, allowed us to forward it to our bank representative who, in turn, thanked her, as they hadn’t yet gotten that information. 

Like many, that loan has allowed us to pay rent, utilities, payroll, and medical insurance premiums during a time where work has been delayed substantially. Having this loan allowed us time to figure out what a bit of the near future and how we can change our business practices to obtain contracts, and maybe even find a new avenue for business we hadn’t previously thought about.

Where CFA membership becomes so valuable is the ease of communicating our experiences. How are we adapting to this new norm? How are we making changes to our business practices to create new opportunities? How are we adapting to new regulations? How we are dealing with encouraging employees to return to work, to wear a mask, or follow other requirements instituted by the federal and state governments? We will all need to follow new regulations not only at work, but at home and during any off time we have from work in order to keep not only ourselves safe, but to keep everyone else safe and well. How do we effectively communicate that concept? 

Every state will likely have some unique regulations to follow, so the CFA has ways of connecting members within each state to share these details effectively and efficiently with its networking. At the same time, members from around the country will be able to share experiences that may shed light on the evolving scenarios. Out of despair comes opportunity. You’ve heard it said, “When one door closes, another opens.” We just need to work together to find those opportunities and stay positive, believing that our workloads will increase, and we will make it through yet another of life’s challenges.

I am confident that even if this is the only benefit my company receives from our CFA membership dues this year it will be more than worth its weight in gold. I also know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all that the association continues to provide for me. This is when we truly need membership organizations and the participation of all members. The guidance of our trade organizations, peer networking, advocacy, perseverance, and persistence will be the driving forces of our success in the “new norm.”

Stay safe, and stay well!

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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