Craig’s Concrete Inc.: Building Trust Through Excellence

Craig’s Concrete Inc. (CCI) is a commercial and residential concrete business specializing in applications for the agricultural industry. Craig Lemenager, owner and president of CCI, founded the company in 1980 with a single excavator and a strong will to succeed.

“I just sort of fell into it,” says Lemenager. “I guess it was fate. I’ve worked hard for years and I’m very dedicated to this business.”

CCI employs as many as 60 people during busy season, equipping the team to operate in several states doing excavation, site work and concrete structural projects. “Our office is located in Gilman Ill., but we work all over the Midwest,” says Lemenager.

The team has completed hundreds of projects in Indiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Nebraska and Iowa, among other states. “Most of my work is with repeat customers,” explains Lemenager. “I have a lot of customers who rely on me personally and there is a lot of trust in my relationships with clients.”

Projects and Services

According to Lemenager, 80 percent of CCI’s revenue comes from clients in the agriculture sector. “The grain industry is our basic market,” says Lemenager. “We do a lot of site construction and repairs.” Recent projects include new construction and repairs of grain storage facilities. “We build grain elevators, we pour foundations for grain bins, we do dump pits and tower foundations,” Lemenager elaborates.

“About 90 percent of our work is larger projects, but we’ll do all kinds of jobs from a few hundred to over a million dollars.”

In order to provide such clients with a quality end result, Lemenager employs a strong team of skilled craftsmen and laborers. “We self-perform everything,” he explains. “We don’t outsource.” In addition, for quality assurance CCI is very selective in the hiring process. The company’s customers can expect a team of experienced and knowledgeable professionals, working hard to offer efficient, durable solutions for any application.

A wide range of equipment magnifies CCI’s capabilities. The company owns and operates a fleet of late-model machinery, including equipment for excavation from construction and pouring concrete.

With its own trucks, CCI can easily transport machinery around the region, and efficiently. All machinery and trucks are frequently serviced and maintained to minimize downtime. In addition to the fleet, CCI keeps an inventory of over 9,000 Symons forms that the team utilizes on the job and rents out to other regional contractors.

Maintaining Growth

The recent recession in the United States has left many contractors fighting to get work, but CCI has survived through carving out a specialty niche serving a stable industry. “That niche was strong enough to keep us steady throughout the recession,” says Lemenager. “I’ve never taken work just to stay busy. We have tightened up a bit and I’d say I’m working harder now than I did when it was good.”

Lemenager is dealing with different struggles that have affected business more than the general state of the economy. Travel costs are on the rise with fuel prices, so jobs further away are subject to higher bids or slimmer profit margins. The company has also had trouble finding skilled labor as the industry improves. “My growth is limited to the employee base in this area,” says Lemenager. “It’s hard to get bigger when the manpower just isn’t as available.”

While growth for CCI has been gradual, it is sustainable. Lemenager emphasizes customer relationships, many of which he has maintained for decades with the same clients. He has built his business on trust and professionalism, two values he is passing on to the next generation of CCI.

“My son is currently a foreman,” says Lemenager. “When I retire, he will take over the company.” Until the time comes, the father and son are working together, building valuable experience and high-value projects. Genuine concern for customers, projects and the company doesn’t stop at the end of the workday. “I worry about the business all the time,” says Lemenager. “I question every bid I write. Is it too high? Is it too low?”

Lemenager, his son and the CCI team are wrapping up a busy 2012 season with many new major projects under the collective belt. “Our past projects are our greatest marketing tool,” says Lemenager.

With projects of varying size, CCI’s customers continue to come back and refer the company to colleagues and partners alike. Building relationships is at the heart of CCI and those relationships are carrying over smoothly to the next generation. Regardless of size, Craig’s Concrete Inc. continues to grow and succeed in the concrete industry with both expertise and integrity.