|Patterned Concrete Ontario Inc. built heated driveways for Markham (top) and Richmond Hill (bottom) homeowners.|
THE VALUE OF BRAND BACKING
With the economy improving, business is growing for residential and commercial concrete contractors who can deliver the quality required. Realtor.com’s 2016 forecast sees new construction driving the highest home sales since 2006, with 6 million transactions projected. A recent Forbes report forecasts that housing construction and home prices climbing in 2016 and 2017.
Opportunities abound in hardscaping—from residential pools, patios, floors, walkways, and concrete driveways to malls, event halls, waterfronts, sport courts, skate parks, theme parks, business parks, hotels and hospitality. However, decorative concrete projects increasingly need to meet architectural design specifications or aesthetically match existing work. Yet typical stamped concrete is not always up to the task, particularly when stamp quality is insufficient and finisher or drew training is limited to a one-day seminar.
“Starting with a quality stamp is crucial, and so is proper training,” says Darlene Rodriguez, co-owner of Patterned Concrete by Rey, a Plano, Texas-based full service provider of stamped concrete, resurfacing, overlays, staining, and scoring. “But many stamps look artificial, nothing like our rock, wood or natural patterns that people want today. What’s more, every job is challenging due to differences in location, layout and weather, as well as stamping pattern and stamping alignment used in the field.”
For contractors considering whether to work as low-cost bidders or become highly referred and compensated craftsmen, Rodriguez cautions, “If you sell only on price, anyone with a truck and some tools can replace you. If you sell top-notch quality with a trusted brand, your work will set the industry standard and [business] will come to you.”
To grow their businesses and take advantage of hardscaping opportunities, proactive concrete contractors are turning to Patterned Concrete, a name familiar for decades and often used interchangeably—incorrectly so—with the generic term stamped concrete. Patterned Concrete is actually a registered name and trademarked brand of stamped concrete with industry expertise that goes back to 1972. It has expanded throughout North America, affording franchisees exclusive branding, marketing, training, tooling, and support for a competitive edge.
“The Patterned Concrete brand helps us win jobs because everyone knows the name,” says Rodriguez. “Architectural designers are increasingly specifying Patterned Concrete in their plans, which helps us to secure the work and outmaneuver low-cost bidders.”
In the residential market, homeowners’ trust in the brand can be a deciding factor. “Not many people are installing plain white concrete these days; it is mostly stamped,” says Dino Padula, project manager at Patterned Concrete Mississauga Inc., an Ontario franchisee. “But architectural concrete is a permanent product and customers do not want to take chances with a fly-by-night contractor who will not return phone calls after payment.”
According to Padula, even though individual franchisees solicit sales in their designated territory, Patterned Concrete provides promotional support in various media as well as a healthy supply of sales leads from inquiries within their sales territory. This has helped to build Patterned Concrete Mississauga’s business much faster than he and his partners could have achieved on their own. “Even though we had decorative concrete experience before becoming a franchisee, the Patterned Concrete brand gave us the edge with customers because they knew we had been thoroughly trained, had a reputation to uphold, and would be held accountable for our work,” Padula affirms.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Unlike typical soft rubber stamps that lack sufficient detail, Patterned Concrete stamps are imprinted from true pieces of stone and other natural materials to produce a textured, authentic look. As such, the pattern for Old English Brick displays worn out identification stamps in the brick; Adoquin has a volcanic look with course ridges, chisel marks, and craters; and, Board comes complete with nail holes. Some patterns are deep enough to be grouted for an even more authentic look.
“Builders and stone masons have entered my showroom and tried to order pavers or stones, not knowing that our product is actually a trademarked, very aesthetic form of stamped concrete,” says Rodriguez. “It is nice to know that our product can pass the scrutiny of even some stone mason industry professionals.”
“The textures are seamless and we can give customers an authentic look in any style they want from wood, slate, and brick to cobblestone, herringbone, and random cut flag,” adds Padula.
|Patterned Concrete Ontario finished a pool deck in Hand Cut Stone style for a Markham homeowner, while putting its signature on a skateboard park.|
|Pattern Concrete’s Old English Brick, grouted, at an Ontario home.|
Because franchisees can rent stamps from Patterned Concrete corporate or fellow franchisees, they have full access to any style required without having to own every tool. Currently, the company offers over 30 unique styles in a number of sizes. When the need arises, the company will even create new custom patterns at a reasonable cost. “Recently, we had to match some old stone pavers in a big residential job,” says Rodriguez. “We sent a sample to our corporate office along with some photos. Within two weeks, they created a custom stamp that matched the existing home’s concrete driveway. With a minor change, we completed the job and the customer was happy.”
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
Though certain tool vendors’ typical training may be enough to get a contractor started, it is just as likely to get him in trouble, according to Rodriguez. “One-day classes often teach you on a 10- x 10-ft. slab. That’s easy—you just start in one corner and go,” she says. “But when you work in a backyard, you’re dealing with variables like weather, timing, and shape. That may include alcoves that require you to cut in the stamping work by hand.”
“We are often called in to correct the decorative concrete work of other contractors that have gone bad,” she adds. “One contractor had poured about 10,000 square feet of decorative concrete on a big residential project, but the work got away from him. He tried to overlay it, and now 5,000 sq. ft of it has to come out.”
While Rodriguez and her husband had almost two decades of textured concrete pool deck experience before becoming franchisees, they found the Patterned Concrete training they received invaluable for developing their business. “We were trained for four months on the job by a neighboring franchisee before we went out on our own,” she says. “Afterward, anytime we had a question we could call headquarters or a franchisee and someone had an answer.”
Because franchisees have exclusive territories and are routed sales leads, the relationship with other franchisees is cooperative rather than competitive. After decades in the business, a highlight of the year for Rodriguez is the annual Patterned Concrete convention, where she and other franchisees learn the latest slab-finishing techniques and share tried-and-true design and business tips.
Another advantage of working as a franchisee is that the corporate office tracks all jobs to ensure a consistent, quality match when future repair or renovation is required. Specs including footages, color and pattern used on the project are logged into a central database at company headquarters, allowing franchisees to match previous work at a later time.
“Any contractor that wants to take their business to the next level should look into becoming a Patterned Concrete franchisee,” concludes Padula. “It is the best investment my partners and I have made.”