EPISODE #9: NPCA 53RD ANNUAL CONVENTION WRAP-UP

November 16, 2018

Welcome to the Precast Podcast number nine. Here today with Greg Stratus company president. We’re going to be talking about the recent NCPA 53rd Annual Convention that took place in Providence, Rhode Island and make our way through various topics as we work through this podcast. Greg good afternoon. Good to have you hear.

Hi Hugh. How we doing today?

We’re doing great. A little rainy New England afternoon but based on what other parts of the country are getting we are very fortunate.

I agree, yep.

Greg we just finished up last week through this past weekend the NPCA 53rd Annual Convention and we’ve talked about it in previous episodes but one of the nice things it hasn’t been here in approximately a quarter of a century.

Right. It’s always here 26, 27 years ago and they … I remember it because they came to Shea Concrete Willmington. I wasn’t part of the association but I was married. I wasn’t part of Shea Concrete either but I was married into Shea so I happened to be there the day that they were doing it. It was probably 26, 27 years ago, yeah. It was great to have them back. Matter of fact I didn’t hear the final numbers but supposedly it was the second largest convention that NPCAs had in 53 years.

That’s great.

Number one was in as far as attendance goes the number one was in Hawaii.

The number two’s in Providence, Rhode Island.

Exactly.

I mean there was some decent weather. A little bit of rain or whatnot but some nice fall weather as well.

I think it was great weather actually.

Good. Good. From a standpoint of participation, Shea Concrete Products was very involved from a standpoint of attendance. A standpoint of providing a presentation. Right.

Hugh did a nice presentation.

It was a great experience.

I wish I didn’t miss it but I was doing a plant tours, you know.

To that point we had three plant tours. One on Thursday, two on Friday and then some different things. We’ll talk about different things that you’re currently doing now within NPCA but obviously coming off the official board as the past chairman.

I got my plaque 2011 to 2018 was the years I was on the board.

Awesome.

I’m all done with that.

Awesome. Now is there an opportunity to potentially go back on the board? Is that ever something that occurs within …?

I don’t think anybody who has been chair has gone back on the board again but there has definitely been people who have gone back on a second time after a few years. They do a three year term and some people have gone back on. I can’t imagine I’d go back on. There’s other things that I could do there as a foundation board. There’s scholarships and stuff like that. That’s something I’d probably be interested in.

Nice. Nice. From a standpoint let’s talk about the three plant tours. A well attended convention. I guess it officially started Wednesday with various meetings. Plant tours kicked off Thursday morning and one of the four planned tours Wednesday morning was our Rochester, Massachusetts facility that has recently been certified through NCPAs Plant Certification Program. You were at that plant tour. I was prepping for that presentation. How did that planned tour go? Maybe some thoughts, some highlights.

We all went in different stages. The way the tours work is that there’s almost 200 people that went. I think it was 180 or 90 people that actually did the tour and they come in different buses. That’s how NPCA does it to kind of spread it out a little bit. I was there for a short window out of all those buses and it was fantastic. They did a great job in Rochester. Each location we tried to do something creative and that location we did cranberry muffins. When people came in right near the cranberry bogs. If they ate cranberry muffins it would a cool idea but the plant itself, people were thoroughly impressed about it. Matter of fact NPCA just called me right before you and I sat down here and they want to interview Mike the production manager down there about cleanliness of the plant and housekeeping and that kind of stuff because there were a lot of discussion about how great it was there with people and stuff like that. They thought it would be a good story to write about in their Precasting magazine.

Oh. There will be a Precasting publication. Awesome. Awesome. I think the … maybe not the official name of the road that the facility’s on but I believe it is the Cranberry Highway, right?

That’s the official name, yeah.

Awesome. Awesome. No that’s great. That facility primarily supporting the utility space. We’ve talked about that in past Pre Podcast and then on Thursday afternoon they had the presentations for attendees going through … it seemed like a pretty similar group of topics that was being focused on for this convention. The idea of looking ahead, how’s the construction industry doing, a lot of focus on marketing and sales as well as doing various marketing through video and then there was one presentation on motivating millennials, gen z workers, as well as one that was focused on, building a better life, concrete steps for success. One of the things I heard throughout the convention just talking about how everything’s going at various plants, various challenges that are being worked through and a lot of those challenges focus on just keeping a quality work force.

I guess I didn’t realize that like I said I kind of read a definition of what millennials and gen z workers are. It focuses on kind of it’s broken down into gen y and gen z is at least kind of what I’m looking at on the internet here where it’s gen y is 81 to 91 in terms of being bored. Gen z 91 to 2001 and maybe gen z goes into the 2005 or closer to 2010. I wasn’t able to attend that presentation but it’s just interesting. That’s just a constant topic that people have and I don’t only hear about it in the Precast Concrete space but I hear it throughout almost every industry.

It makes you wonder. There’s always been generations. I mean that’s right. Generational gaps and stuff like that. Now I find it odd that it’s not new. I feel like there always had to be issues that you had with the younger generation or older generation. You think we’re just labeling it now and making more of a big deal out of it? Is it really an issue? Is it as you get older you think, I can’t believe that those young people think that way. I’m sure when I was their age people were pointing at me that were 50, 60 years old and saying, “I can’t believe he’s thinking that way.” Is it really much different or are we just making a big deal out of it or …?

One example that I always find funny. I just turned 40 in August and both of my parents, now my father will turn 70 in November, my mother turned 70 this past May. Not necessarily my mother but my father in the past years had been fairly negative on smart phones. I’ve got two younger nieces. They both have phones and do they spend a lot of times on their phones? At times for sure and at times I do as well. He would always throw some little criticisms. His comments kind of out there. My folks now both have iPhones and it’s funny that as they get to know how to use them more and more, they love them.

They’re the same way, right. They’re on it and stuff like that.

At times more than my two nieces who are … my oldest niece is, she’s going to be getting her driving permit soon. They’re on it doing social media and playing games and looking at the news but until they actually got them, maybe it’s fear of really not knowing what’s going on, they’re missing out whatever it may be, that they would criticize. Now that they have them and I criticize them sometimes. They’ll look up and give me a face and it’s just interesting.

I think my point is is that your always going to have to worry about the younger generation. When I say worry about it, is what their interests are, what do they like to do and make sure you adapt to it because that’s your next group of customers or your next group of people that are going to be running businesses and things like that. I think it’s a constant evolve. You’re constantly evolving to try to … because the next generation has fresh ideas, new concepts, new inventions that come out and so I think you just need to keep up with that. I don’t think the idea behind the next generation is foreign, I just think that the things that you have to do for the next generation may be different than the generation had to do prior.

One of the common threads that got talked about was the idea of being able to hold their attention. The longevity of how long they’ll stay and actually work for one company vs finding something else to do or whatnot. That came up quite a bit. The topics of social media, what different companies are doing to try to “stay current.” I just found that interesting. Again we’ve talked a lot about in Shea Concrete Products we have people with 50 plus year plaques in terms of anniversaries. The idea of someone who is now entering the workforce thinking about whether it’s 18, 21, 25 whatever it is, 50 years down the road being at the same company. It’s just not something that’s as common as it had been.

Right and they’re not interested in even considering a ten-year program with a company. Never mind 50 or anything like that.

We live in a society where people don’t want to be labeled. Don’t you agree?

I totally agree with that.

We work so hard in giving these age groups names and definitions. I just find that interesting. I mean you got to understand the next generation in order to be able to be in business and live life even. You got to understand that other generation but I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see. The generation definitions over the years have always been bigger groups and it seem like over the past say 30, 50 years those groups of age groups if you want to call it that are getting smaller and smaller. I think that’s part of the thing is I think things are just changing so quickly that the generation y the generation z stuff like that, you’re only talking 10 year groups, 20 year groups.

It’s interesting, one of the things during the presentation that we did we talked about specifically social media and as we got into that, some basic slides getting into it but if you really look at how many folks are in some way associated with social media, it’s almost half the population of the world. We talked a lot about the ability to engage with new customers, again attention to your company, things of that nature and when we got to the social media aspects of it a lot of people were surprised at how many folks actually take advantage of it.

The other thing that we found as we worked through different things you can utilize, we focus on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn was the fact that a lot companies are fairly nervous about letting their employees have flexibility in posting work specific events through their own personal profiles vs having everything go through the company profiles. One thing that came out about it was smaller, privately owned, family owned companies can typically get information out quickly whereas the larger companies that have multiple layers or may in some way be publicly traded, you could have a great project that got installed on Monday, those posts may not be seen for a couple of weeks because everything has to go through such a process to make sure that it’s going to be professionally done. That was interesting.

I agree. It’s nice to get the information raw. I just looked up really quick. Facebook was founded or came out in 2004.

2004 wow.

It’s only been 14 years since Facebook came out and look how much social media has changed in 14 years. I mean it’s unbelievable. Facebook it old now.

That’s the funny part.

Within 14 years generation z there that you just mentioned, they don’t use Facebook. That’s obsolete. It’s obsolete in 14 years. We live in a throw away society right now and Facebook is getting thrown away.

That came up during the presentation. A lot of folks talked about how their children will look at them and say, “Hey, you’re old. Facebook’s old. What are you doing on Facebook. You know, we’re doing Snapchat and all these other things.” One of the things we talked about was Instagram which is kind of a tell your story by photos primarily. It’s a subsidiary of Facebook. With that I think Facebook, they’re obviously a very successful company and are doing great things from the standpoint of social media. I think there even have the foresight to see that if they can grab many of these newer social media platforms and put them under their umbrella because Instagram is growing at a extremely fast pace.

There’s a perfect example of a company looking at the next generation, what their interests are and how to adapt to get more business or whatever the case might be.

Yeah. Sure.

That’s perfect.

That’s a great example.

That’s what we all should be doing. Back to your original question about our comment was getting help. How are these generations affecting getting good quality help? I think part of it is understanding the generation, doing things that interest them but also part of it is the economy’s doing so well, it’s tuff to get a good pool of people because everybody’s busy.

One of the things that came up as well … most folks in the presentation were open to the idea of social media and utilizing it. Some folks use specific platforms. Not all folks use all the platforms we talked about but the one thing we did bring up was the idea of if you use them for nothing else, the idea of uniting your company.

One thing that we do primarily that we discussed was celebrating anniversary’s. People will chime into the Facebook or Instagram and say, “Hey Mark, great job. Hey Bob I remember 10 years ago when you started. Remember when we did this?” It’s a great way to have again, we’ve talked about how with four facility you don’t always get to see people you started with so it’s just a great way to keep everything bound together, keep morale high, all of those types of things. That was one thing a lot of folks took away from it was, if you’re not comfortable putting yourself out there, just start small. Start internal, then start to build it. Then once all of you’re workforce are subscribers or like or are part of your platforms that pyramid starts to grow very very quickly. Start small, thing big, make is scalable but at the very least celebration your wins internally is a great thing to do on your company accounts. Let’s take a little bit of detour. Let’s talk about Top Gun Awards.

Yes. NPCA gives Top Gun Awards based on how many members you’ve sponsored that are new to the association. If you sponsor someone, they have different levels, I forget technically what those levels are. I don’t know if you have it there in front of you but it’s based on how many people you’ve sponsored for the association and at 20 or more people … at each level they give you either a plaque or a pen or whatever it is but once you get to 20 people that you’ve sponsored they give you a nice bombardier leather jacket.

This year, I’m just over 20 people, so they gave me a leather jacket. I put the leather jacket on. It’s comfortable and everything but I realized I need to lose some weight because my belly shows. It’s incentive for me now to go on a diet.

There you go. There you go. I believe you were … you’re now on the presidential merit level.

Based on getting that bomber jacket. I’m not sure how long that program has been going on for.

I think quite some time. I’ve heard about it for a long time. I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.

It’s a great thing to celebrate and to motivate people to continue bringing new members in and then being able to advance yourself, new members. I think with the eventual goal of getting people into the national leadership roles. Really spreading your wings and probably getting out of your comfort zone and doing things that maybe you never thought you would do but I think if you speak on it a little bit your process of getting onto the board becoming chair. The ability to get to know and to meet people that you may have never met.

I definitely met great people and consider a lot of them my friends now because of my involvement in the association. That’s even at the committee level that starts to happen. Even before you’re a board member if you do committees you start to build those relationships. We’re always looking for producer members in the association to help out on committees and all. Then hopefully on the board.

That’s great. That’s great. In terms of there was eight plant tours total, maybe talk about a couple things that Shea Concrete Products as a company took away while attending some of those plant tours that we can bring back and utilize at our facilities.

I think I love going to see plant tours. Matter of fact when it comes to NPCA, any time we have a convention or the Precast Show we always have planned tours at that time and there’s a group of us who have become friends over the years because we’re commitment to NPCA. We actually end up renting our own bus and going around and touring the same plants but usually we leave a little earlier and squeeze in a couple more plants. On Thursday I did that. I rode with them and we toured a couple extra plants that weren’t a part of the planned tour but the things that I saw could be simple things.

It doesn’t have to be this multimillion dollar savings or whatever. It could be little things that can make a job better in the precast industry. Acme-Shorey for instance, they had a flipping mechanism that we all use that flips tanks or some type of structures over. It’s hooked up to the bridge crane and you flip it over and they had this breaking system. They just basically took a breaking system off a Ford truck and added it to this mechanism. The mechanism uses a lot of times is free spins. You try to pick it up just outside of center of gravity and then the thing flips. Well sometimes it’s hard to do that, figure out center of gravity or to make sure that you’re in the right spot. They actually put a breaking system with a disc break from Ford truck on their rig that ads break pressure so that it doesn’t flip too erratic. It flips nice and slow. They just took a standard master cylinder and all that and put it on there and it worked awesome. That was a simple thing.

It’s nothing difficult to do and I thought that was a great idea. They had a great plant there. The way their bridge cranes go outside and in-and-out of the building and the way they have a door that opens and closes a special way in order for the bridge crane to leave and then closes so that it stays tight so you don’t have loss of heat and stuff like that. Another great setup. Scituate, we went to their plant. They were using a platform stepladder it’s called. It’s a stepladder that everybody’s familiar with but this stepladder had this whole rail system at the top of it and they called it a platform stepladder which is awesome. You can fold it up, move it, set it back up and it’s got this full platform at the very top with a rail around it so that your safe. Even using that on tall structures or tall forms that you need to set up. That was perfect for something like that. You’re always learning these little things that you see at different plants. No matter where you go. Small plants, big plants, you always have some great ideas.

Then on Friday I just stayed at Amesbury, so I didn’t get to tour around it myself to see what was the other plants were like.

How many times on a Friday were you asked to say the word chowder?

They actually Gaines out of Louisiana recorded me saying chowder so that they could put it on their Facebook. Everybody’s getting a kick out of me up there with my headset which everybody loved. I had that thing clipped to my belt and everybody kept taking pictures of it because they couldn’t get over how well that thing worked. [Sha doo 00:24:41] whatever it was. I forget what model number but they worked awesome for doing public speaking. Nice speaker system but we got so many compliments. Friday night when we went back to the show and Saturday throughout the show people came up to me and told me that all three plants that they visited were great. Matter of fact that bus that I go on with my friends, I wasn’t able to go on it Friday because I wanted to be at this plant. They actually stopped by our Nottingham plant and took a tour of that.

Nottingham had 30 or so people go by their plant on that special bus and they got to tour that but everybody came up to me constantly and said they loved our plants, the cleanliness. We were still doing production, pouring product, which a lot times precasters won’t be doing pouring. They got to see precast being poured. They saw the flying bucket up in Amesbury, things like that. They were just amazed at our four locations and very grateful that went up three of them to NCPA. I would have opened up Nottingham to NCPA but they couldn’t fit it in. They said they were going to be tight on time as it was, which they were.

That’s interesting too, talking to Dave DeRose, who runs production in Amesbury. The idea of having the plant tour obviously, there’s things you do to prepare but the idea of having full production running while people are here to be able to see how the full aspect of things that are done. Everything from the mixing of batching system … I’m sure a lot of folks enjoyed the flying bucket, seeing that mechanism work and then how the concrete placed, how everything’s finished. I think also products were being stripped as well and then palletized or brought outside or whatnot. It was a nice way to show off how everything runs.

Some comments I heard are that some facilities will almost vacuum their facilities so that when you show up everything is perfect, like pristine perfect, which is great. Takes a lot time and care to do that but everyone primarily at the convention either are producer members or associates. They’ve been in and around precast concrete facilities for a long time and obviously as things are being produced and products are being made. It’s not necessarily going to be pristinely clean or whatnot. I think it was great that we had production running at the Wilmington facility. A lot of DO2 barrier was being made. Different folks that were putting the epoxy coated cages together and then pouring the barrier some. There was a lot of folks around watching them and the process they use to do it. That was exciting. They were just excited to have as you said hundreds of people at their facility watching them work. They were excited about that. It was great.

One of the other aspects of the event was, I’ll say was passing the torch. At this time Ashley Smith was the outgoing chairman. You now pass chair and then Mike Hoffman now is the chairman of the board. I thought that was very well done. Very well celebrated and I’ve also seen a lot good social media pictures and congratulations looking forward to serving on the board this year. Just a lot of great morale. A lot of collaboration. A lot of great teamwork. I found that to be true in other industries I’ve worked in. You don’t always get that. At these national events sometimes the competition leads the way vs the collaboration. I think that’s a constant theme in something that really continues to work well.

That’s something that the association looks at all the time when we meet is to make sure it’s a collaboration and not larger members or anything like that running the show.

Interestingly enough one of the topics we discussed in marketing and sales was the idea of mission statements, core values. One thing that the attendees really enjoyed … there’s five primary core values of the NPCA, collaboration, communication, advancement, integrity and service. Their ability to really hold that true I think is really a testament to their leadership as well because as you said the second most attended convention in the history of these occurring. That’s great.

It’s awesome.

Obviously a very active group right now. With that the next major event: The Precast Show 2019 brings us to Louisville. That will be exciting and the Precast Show and the convention are very similar in ways but also very different in ways. One being the exhibitor floor which is obviously very exciting at the Precast Show. Definitely –

I’m hoping we do a tour of some type of bat manufacturing company because I play baseball so I’m hoping I can go out there and get a nice deal on a bat.

There you go. Nice. Nice. Are any of the leagues you play in wooden bat leagues?

The two leagues I play in they have some games that are wooden bat. If you want to use a wooden bat you can all year long, which some people do. Kind of hoping we can squeeze in a tour of manufacturing of bats somewhere.

Well maybe if anyone from the NPCA is listening, start working on the agenda, they can try to tuck that in. Awesome. Greg, great episode.

Actually one thing I wanted to mention that I didn’t mention to you was I just before we’d started I got a phone call for a precaster in Canada, just north on Minnesota. He called the office and said, “I want to talk to Greg about precast building.” They were all confused when they answered the phone and actually put it through the easy set precast building division instead of me. The person started talking to who’s on the phone and then they realized he doesn’t want to talk about precast buildings, he wants a precast production building. He kept getting bounced around and finally he gets … I get a call from a receptionist saying, “Do you want to talk to this gentleman?” And I said, “Sure.” He say’s you listen to our podcast-“

You like the episode about efficiently and he wants to put up a new manufacturing plant. He wants some input on it. I was on the phone with the guy for 30 minutes. Mike I think his name was. I forget his name right now. On the phone with him for like 30 minutes and I’m going over stuff and I told him he should go see Wieser Concrete in Wisconsin which is four hours from where he was and he’d be able to show him … I told him it’d be a good idea to go visit a plant because he’s never had a good tour of a plant and I figured he would be a great place to start in Wisconsin. The reason he called is because he heard our podcast.

I should have asked him how he found out about our podcast but I didn’t. He’s says he’s been listening to them and so.

Episode nine, our goal is every two weeks. We’re now approaching our fifth month in terms of actual content and obviously we’re keeping a close eye on subscribers and how many listens do we get and whatnot. Again one of the themes for all of the sessions on Thursday afternoon was if you are consistent and disciplined and put out quality content your following of loyal subscribers and listeners will grow and you got to be patient. It takes time. Again it’s been a lot of fun. A lot of great episodes coming up. We’re going to focus on a lot more employee profiles and obviously continue to hit on different interesting topics as well. Episode nine wrapping up. Greg, great to have you. Thank you for your time with us.

Thank you.

Folks that listen, subscribers we appreciate it and we will look forward to posting more podcasts shortly. Goodbye now.

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