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A New Year Brings Forth New Leaders

Introducing the New Board Members for the Concrete Foundations Association

It is hard for many to believe how quickly the time flies, yet here we are in February with half the fiscal year already behind the Association and a race to the finish already in mind.  This race has more than one meaning and significant implications.  Behind is the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the globe.  Ahead is the promise of an end to the tumultuous time determining the best ways to protect crews and customers as well as vital office staff.  Behind is the first ever virtual convention that delivered a new description of what in-person means.  Ahead are the possibilities to use this expertise and experience to revise what it means to attend events like Concrete Foundations Convention and other related activities, like Foundations Academy this month, whether you can travel, or you must choose the convenient opportunity to arrive virtually.

These are among the ideas that have become the framework for the inauguration of the newest faces to the Concrete Foundations Association.  They are leaders in their respective companies from the largest geographic separation ever to take on the challenge of Board member of this organization.  They enter this arena with fresh perspectives, diverse backgrounds and engaging energy to be part of the present as well as the immediate future.  They have participated in the first strategic planning effort in nearly a decade followed by a month of intensive task force work to give the Board a wealth of goals to begin directing into motion to further the reason why each of you are #CFAConcretePros.

With a hard six months behind them, it is time for you to get to know these five new members of the CFA Board of Directors.  This is your opportunity to find out how much like you they really are and how they see themselves stepping into their roles so quickly.  Help me welcome Amanda Kurt of Kurk, Inc. (Union Grove, WI); Aaron Witmer of Gravel Conveyors, Inc. (Zionsville, IN); Mike Kana of Doggett Concrete (Charlotte, NC); Ryan Ekedal of Ekedal Concrete, Inc. (Irvine, CA) and Marty Paddock of Purdy Concrete, Inc. (Lafayette, IN).

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Vice President and Managing Partner
Kurk, Inc.
Certified Contractor – Member
Union Grove, Wisconsin

“we are committed to getting the job done, on time, within budget, and accurately – come hell or high water

Amanda Kurt

When asked how I arrived in the concrete industry, it is easy for me to respond, “I was born here…literally.” My dad, and now business partner, John started Kurk Concrete (now Kurk, Inc) in 1989 and I came into the world in 1990. Ultimately, I would say my dad got me into the concrete and construction industry unintentionally. Growing up, all three of us sisters would visit the office and different job sites with our dad. I’m the only one who was interested in construction. 

Originally, I never intended to join the business, instead I had intended to become a Structural Engineer, ideally getting my PE sometime around now. I went to school at Milwaukee School of Engineering, studying Structural. Comparing our senior design project and my internship with Veolia, I realized I didn’t want to be restricted to an office and desk and wanted to be on construction sites. After college, the job market was pretty grim. I don’t recall exactly what or why, but at that time there must of have been some sort of need and opening for me to come work in the office at Kurk. 

This decision was largely based on recognizing my life passions that were developing.  High on my professional list is providing and accommodating a work life balance. It is important for me to help maintain a work environment which allows employees to provide for their families and spend time with their families, including me.  Also, there is raising awareness about all careers in construction, specifically to the next generations of tradesworkers and minorities in construction. Finally, I believe in servant leadership – within the community, the business, and within my professional network. 

As I prepared to join my dad here at Kurk, Inc. it was important to put forth a consistent statement to our customers and our employees.  Officially, we say “we are here to partner with you and build a strong foundation together.”  What this means internally to us is that we are committed to getting the job done, on time, within budget, and accurately – come hell or high water. We’re here to work with you and partner to solve any problems that may arise. Beyond great employees, our assets include an array of concrete support equipment and excavation equipment. We’re happy to leverage these assets and our network to get the job completed in the most cost-efficient way possible.   This is our commitment to our mission.

I am ready to take on this role as a board member for this great Association.  When I think about becoming a member of any type of organization or association, I need a real answer to the question “Why is membership beneficial to me and Kurk Inc.?” That answer isn’t always tangible and obvious. I look to the CFA to advocate for concrete contractors across the country regarding building codes, guides, and standards of construction. Next, I look to programming and information including networking opportunities, certifications, and formal or informal courses.  Becoming a board member gives me a platform to find new ways to bring as much knowledge and information from my colleagues into my business while building on recent success to make it more viable to leverage the virtual side of the network—virtual professional groups, meetings, and education for even more interaction possibilities.

It is important for business owners to analyze what may be on the horizon.  I see some sort of disruptor entering the building industry, and ultimately the concrete industry, in the next few years. I’m not sure what it is, but I think we’re due for something big. The industry is teetering on the tipping point of millennials coming into decision making positions and I think it’s going to affect the industry immensely.

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Marty Paddock
Wall Manager
Purdy Concrete, Inc.
Contractor Member
Lafayette, Indiana

I see them as more than money, seeing them for who they really are

Many years ago, I was approached by a company that knew my reputation in the business that I had. They were hiring me to be a salesman. Fortunately, that was not what I thought they were hiring me for otherwise, I would have turned them down. But the LORD knew what HE was doing in blinding my eyes to that. I thought I was there to help the head man to do whatever he needed. When they Informed me six months later it was time to find business, I was shocked. I informed them I was not a salesman. They told me they weren’t looking for a “normal salesman,” just someone who would be a straight shooter, which was what they were convinced I was. Well, it worked. Which also meant I had to learn everything I could about the industry. This industry and Purdy Concrete, Inc. has been good to me.

I am confident that my abilities stem from what I’m most passionate about in life.  Firstly, my LORD JESUS CHRIST to Him I give all glory and honor and humble myself to His plans above mine.  Next, my wife and our six kids.  They give me the motivation to be a better husband, father and role model in this life.  Finally, softball.  The passion I play with and the competitive nature that comes from being on the field of play is a natural parallel to the effort I put forth in business.  On the softball field you are alone and with a team.  Your mistakes are clearly visible and yet there are others there to support you through them with and vice versa you for them…all working toward a common goal to achieve while enjoying being together for the effort.

Ever since that aha moment here at Purdy, my approach to business has been a constant I’ve maintained.  I have a straight-forward approach and never lie at any time. When asked a question, it is important for me to inform them “I don’t know,” if I don’t know. Then, I seek resources to help me find out what I don’t know and why I don’t know it. Our customers, I see them as more than money, seeing them for who they really are. That also means I will not do business with some because of who they are. Above all to know I stand in front of my LORD for what I do.

I have been connected with the CFA for a lot of years, though rarely taking the time to see how much I could truly benefit from it.  Convention a few years ago in Williamsburg, VA was a pivotal moment for me where I was on the verge of being done, tired, worn out and convinced I may be outdated.  That event reinvigorated me as I looked around and met a bunch of people with the same problems that I have. Even more importantly, they were all willing to share how they have dealt with some of those problems.  The opportunity to join the Board of Directors here is to participate in that more fully and build ways for others to have this same experience more intentionally.

This is networking at its finest.  It doesn’t come easy and it isn’t natural for most.  However, when you take the chance, accept the risk and be present in the commitment, you begin finding nuggets.  I have come to know these that make my life easier so that when I am with my family, I am not thinking about work.

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Aaron Witmer
Chief Operating Officer
Gravel Conveyors, Inc.
National Associate Member
Zionsville, Indiana

I treat customers as if we were put on this earth to serve them

The grandson of a contractor, I grew up in construction.  I was climbing footers before I started school.  I have poured concrete in two countries and countless states.  I remember trying to move concrete panels before puberty, with little success, and by the end of high school I was a solid wall setter.  By the time I entered my college years I was running a crew and I continued to grow from there.  My entire professional career has been spent in construction, mainly concrete foundations.   

I was always the guy that said I would never leave the field for a desk.  Well, never say never because before I turned thirty, I found that my frustrations with how companies were run lead me to a desk in management.  Leaving the jobsite trailer for a brick-and-mortar office was truly a hard decision, but my background gave me such an advantage that it led to success.  Having worked in and with residential and commercial forms, from bridges and skyscrapers to every type of home has given me a unique and broad view of our entire industry, not just foundation walls, but the work that comes before, during and after.

I am not trying to sound cliche, but my passions are straight forward, God, Family, Country, and GCI and our customers.  My church and my relationship with the Creator are the foundation of my life.  I was raised in the Church, went to a Christian high school, Christian College, and married a woman of God.  Our four-month-old son, Odin, was just baptized and we celebrated the best we could.  My family is everything to me, they have afforded me the blessed life that I live.  GCI is my home, and its employees are my family.  From here, my work life takes off and is further refined by my private passions, which include grilling and smoking food, mostly meat, and handguns.   I spend countless hours in front of my grills, its therapeutic in contrast with the rest of my hectic life.   I am also a very avid handgun enthusiast, particularly Glock handguns and Glock shooting competitions.

When it comes to business, I have always known that to value and treat your customers right you must use servant leadership, it is my complete motto.  I treat customers as if we were put on this earth to serve them.  Obviously, this is easier said than done.   GCI has truly taken this to heart, except for those people that cannot be and should not be allowed to treat our team in any aggressive or negative manner.  Our industry allows for more than many, but other than completely rude or aggressive people, we tolerate anything to live our pledge to serve.

Community and growth are two characteristics I always look for in anything I give my time to.  As I responded to the nomination opportunity for Board service, I asked myself, is there a group of thriving like parts in the Association?  Can this Association help me grow, both in business and in education?  Finally, do I have anything to offer in return?  I have found time and time again that these can all be answered absolutely, YES.  This is a powerful network of colleagues.

Looking forward my goals are to form many new relationships, educate the industry about GCI’s role in the foundation business, and grow this community to the actual size that it should be.  As those of us in the industry know, the North American continent is covered by small foundation contractors that are a true backbone of an industry so necessary to the American way of life, but these contractors have a very small voice in an enormous and important industry.  It is a way of life, one I grew up in and love, and hope to move forward and improve upon.

If you ask my wife, her goals are for me to not work 75-hour weeks and spending more time with the family.  She understands my desires and needs to continue to grow GCI and improve upon my passion, the residential construction industry.  Together, we will give this team approach our all.

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Ryan Ekedal
President
Ekedal Concrete, Inc.
Contractor Member
Irvine, California

It is so important that each and every interaction is laser focused on providing quick responses

I am a second-generation contractor who was born into the concrete world and it’s been my life ever since.  My Father started Ekedal Concrete & Masonry back in 1980.  From a very young age, I was around the business and concrete, and exposed to the job sites, people, and life in general in the concrete industry.  I spent my early years as an apprentice carpenter, concrete pumper, and estimator before heading off to college.  I graduated Sum Cum Laude with my BS in Construction Management from Everglades University in Florida and added an MBA from Pepperdine University in 2019.

I am very passionate about health and fitness as well as self-improvement.  I am also passionate about anything and everything related to leadership.  I really enjoy coaching and giving back to people, especially children.  Managing the workforce is certainly included in this passion, seeing the opportunity to coach, train, educate, and help them advance their careers.

Customers also need educating. Without customers, though, there is no business!  I treat every client or customer as if they are the only one I have.  It is so important that each and every interaction is laser focused on providing quick responses to any questions, as well as making sure everyone leaves the conversation knowing they were heard and are being taken care of.  It is so hard to find the right client in a competitive market so when you do you must keep them!  That one client could very well be sending you repeat business over the next twenty years, or they may be the one that refers you to their neighbor or friend, your next “right” client.  I believe it is also very important to make sure you are transparent and approach their project with an open book, as it relates to their project.  This is especially true on the financial side. 

My dad had not joined our company to the CFA until I came on board full time.  What drew me to want to become a member of CFA was seeing so many similar companies from all over the country.  This diverse group of leaders were freely sharing their ideas and concerns as it relates to their businesses.  This was a major advantage to be able to learn from one another and help level each other up to be better business owners or managers.  Now, as a Board member, it is my goal to not just participate in that more fully but to help open opportunities for others not already members to find this benefit.  My main outlook for the next five years would be to have a handfull of companies that I have visited out of state in the hope of learning from one another.  This is the premise of CFA’s mixed networking groups and I look forward to becoming involved in one.

The next two to three years looks to be even busier than we currently are as it relates to concrete construction.  Housing permits and development in our market continue to race forward.  Our company needs to continue to be positioned as the leader and grow to accommodate the customer needs without risking a poor leverage position unnecessarily for the longer future.

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Vice President of Business Development
Doggett Concrete, Inc.
Certified Contractor – Member
Charlotte, North Carolina

Our people and reputation are our two greatest assets

Most of my professional career has been in the sales and business development arena working as a manufacturers’ representative along with management in the construction staffing industry.  Although not a ‘lifelong’ concrete purist, I have taken advantage of the experience we have in our company to understand construction concepts and how to best position our organization in the market.  I am surrounded by folks in our company that make it easy to learn about our craft.  Also, the professional experiences I have worked through in the past have helped me introduce growth strategies for our business allowing us to continually evolve and adapt to multiple markets. 

When considering how my career has progressed, I turn to passions I have built over this time.  The first is growing our safety & leadership culture, without it we put the greatest risks to business survival in play.  The second is continuing the growth our company has had over the past few years.  Finally, improving our efficiency in the field and office as today’s market is growing at such a rapid pace that we don’t have time to meet growth with growth.  We must first maximize our efficiency which will allow company growth to happen at a more reasonable pace.

Customer approach has always been a strength for me.  I have found that you must always listen first.  We try to understand what our clients want and need.  Each customer is different in how they approach their project, sometimes even their approach to different projects, and we need to understand what is most important to them.  We seek to answer Is it quality? Speed? Time? All the above? Our people and reputation are our two greatest assets, and these are the primary reasons we as a company continue to do repeat business with our customer base.  I feel our clients keep coming back to us because they know what they are going to get for we set the bar high for ourselves.  This type of performance allows us to grow with our customers and leverage our past.

Doggett Concrete has been a member for over twenty-five years now.  I have learned that the relationships we have with other members are invaluable.  The Association allows you to be “in the room” with top concrete professionals from across the country who have been there and done it and take the time to understand you issues and perspectives to carefully pass along their knowledge.  When you associate yourself with the right people, you put yourself in the driver’s seat for success.  You can learn from others those things will allow you to navigate through difficult decisions all while leaning on the membership base. This is extremely helpful whether you are a one-crew company or a multi-state organization.  There are countless resources inside the CFA family to help you succeed.

As our organization grows, I look to associate our group with people who our going through similar challenges.  In the Concrete Foundations Association, we are able to work with companies of similar size to help solve internal and external challenges; from safety concerns and regulations, to hiring challenges and workforce development.  Getting involved and plugging more of our team members will help our company and the CFA.  Having one person from our company is helpful; however, with multiple people participating in CFA meetings and education events, we will be set to grow even bigger and better from a leadership and cultural standpoint.

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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