Contractor to Contractor
MCAA member contractors respond
to the industry issues of the day.
L.F. Jennings, Inc.
Falls Church, Va.
L.F. Jennings, Inc., is a progressive leader in the world of masonry. This fact was proven once again by their Best of Show Brick win at the MCAA Masonry Showcase Excellence in Masonry Awards in March. We spoke with Rob Greer, estimator for L.F. Jennings and Certified Craft Trainer in Masonry. Most of you will recognize Greer's name through his tireless work in the industry, including positions as Regional Vice President of MCAA, President of the nation's capital chapter of MCAA, and co-executive director of the Masonry Institute of Washington. Here's what he had to say about L.F. Jennings and the industry as a whole:
Masonry: Since L.F. Jennings' beginning in 1952, what do you think has been the key to your company's growth and success over the years?
Greer: We always strive to exceed our clients' expectations for quality and service. The old adage of "on time and under budget" goes without saying with L.F. Jennings. I've been here for ten years now and we've made every schedule that we've taken on. The satisfaction of our clients has been the key to our success.
Masonry: L.F. Jennings won Best of Show - Brick and second place in the Commercial & Industry category at the MCAA International Excellence in Masonry Awards in March. Tell us more about this project and what you feel made it stand out as the overall winner.
Greer: The first impression you feel is the impressive design. The architecture combines face brick, splitfaced CMU, and pre-cast stone that work in harmony. The building colors and textures present a soft feel to the residential area while satisfying the business requisite of the client. There are special shapes that show the diversity of masonry materials. The flexibility of masonry is also demonstrated by the "barrel" feature, which incorporates compound radial arched soffits. The soffits seem to be floating in mid air. Hickok Warner Fox, the architect, has a real vision and imagination with masonry.
Also, the craftsmanship is one of the most superior works I've seen in the 28 years I have been in the masonry business. The honor it has received is well deserved. My hat's off to our foreman and his crew.
Masonry: I see that L.F. Jennings has worked with JDG Communications to create a corporate marketing and branding solution. How has this helped your business?
Greer: It provides a consistent platform for current and potential clients to see and hopefully understand our capabilities based on our reputation and the many award-winning completed projects.
Masonry: L.F. Jennings has an amazing website (www.lfjennings.com) that highlights a lot of its different projects and capabilities. How has it fit into your marketing campaign and what has it brought to your business that traditional marketing could not?
Greer: It's hard to stay out in front of all of your potential clients and keep them up-to-date on all of the types of projects and level of quality of the many projects we complete. The website helps us with this; it's always current and available to our clients who want to know our capabilities. Instead of the costly and time-consuming process of continuously printing and mailing updates, we can e-mail our latest web site to our clients and potential new clients.
Masonry: Rob, you are a Regional Vice President of MCAA and have participated at a higher level in the masonry world for sometime. What would you like to say to the masons who don't participate at all?
Greer: I look at it two ways: 1) they're getting a free ride, but 2) they're missing out on all of the opportunities for further education and networking with the industry as a whole.
There are people out there who are paying their dues for the promotion of the product that they make their living at, meanwhile the non-members are benefiting from someone else's sweat. Moreover, the ones who don't participate or contribute, monetarily or by committee involvement are missing a tremendous asset to their company. Contractors need to be involved in the associations to maintain and increase the level of product being used. The more mason contractors that participate, the more masonry materials will be utilized in buildings in the future. Everyone connected with masonry should participate in the promotion of masonry.
Masonry: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the masonry industry?
Greer: The biggest misconception about the masonry industry right now is manpower that there aren't enough skilled craftsmen to complete projects. From a general contractor's or an owner's point of view, they think there's not enough man power to get their projects completed on time and done in a quality manner. If you look at the employment ads in the local newspaper, the average ratio of carpenters wanted are eight to one compared to bricklayers.
Masonry: What would you do to change that misconception?
Greer: That's a tough one. We need to go to our clients and the people that we bid with, give them schedules realistic ones and we just have to prove it to them time and time again. That's all we can do is keep proving ourselves repeatedly.
Masonry: What are your three biggest concerns in keeping your company successful?
Greer: Well, number one, of course, is the clients' satisfaction. L.F. Jennings is constantly getting information and feedback from the clients on our projects, their likes and, more importantly, their dislikes so we can always adapt to their wants and needs. The needs are always changing as the time goes on. For instance, you think you have a shopping center down pat and something new will come up. We need to know what they're thinking and deliver quality.
The second thing would be our employees. Our employees are our diplomats to our clients, of course. The attitude of the employee is always important and each employee is L.F. Jennings. Everyone is equal in that stand point. We function as a team!
Our mission statement is: 'L.F. Jennings, Inc., will be the leader in the construction industry by providing our clients with superior products and services while maintaining our financial strength. We value our clients and employees that are our greatest assets. Each employee's commitment to quality will continue to build our reputation as the preferred contractor.' And we do live by that statement. Like I said, the client is number one and the employees are not that far behind at number two.
The third biggest concern, is our reputation. We've been around for 50+ years and we're constantly reinforcing our reputation with the quality of our employees and work. We pride ourselves on client satisfaction. It is a driving force.
Masonry: What do you feel is the industry's biggest challenge in the near future?
Greer: I think it's the various kinds of wall constructions and man power. The tilt wall industry is probably our biggest competitor at this point, and the man power issue is a constant fight. We're constantly training and trying to get new blood into this industry. It's a tough business. With the computer age the way it is, most people don't want to go out and pick up brick and block. But, the satisfaction of seeing your work completed and people enjoying it is a feeling that stays with you.
Masonry: Where do you think the masonry industry is going to be 10 years from now?
Greer: I think it's going to be stronger than ever in ten years. I actually think that there's a resurgence of masonry products and wall systems, from the economic stand-point of heating and cooling buildings to the use of the material being more diverse than any other. Things are cyclical. You can only go so far with tilt wall, but masonry is constantly constantly changing. It's an art, not a science. You cannot paint all of the pictures that can be painted, is the way I look at brick. If you can see it in your mind, you can build it with brick.
Masonry: Which group do you feel has the bigger impact on masonry's future: architects, engineers or general contractors?
Greer: I believe engineers will have the largest impact, but they go hand-in-hand with architects. The engineers know the enormous capabilities of masonry that they design. In this era, masonry is a superior product for protecting you and your family. Architects know what masonry can do aesthetically and they are the 'Rembrandt's.' The two need to work together to make sure that the material will function to its fullest capacity.
Masonry: What do you like most about being a member of MCAA?
Greer: The fact that I have an open line of communication to every part of the country and receive information from masons and manufacturers on their practices and methods from the different areas is a tremendous asset. For the five years that I've been a member of the MCAA, the information that I have gathered just from networking with people is something that I just would not have gotten from being involved with the local associations. The information available is invaluable and has helped L.F. Jennings stay on the leading edge of the construction industry.
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