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June 2009

Making the Grade

By J. David Holt

My oldest memory of Frank is from his junior year in high school,” says Victor Santillan, masonry instructor to Frank Martinez. “He had an old, beat-up car that he drove to school. He usually had a wheelbarrow sticking out of the trunk, because he would do some masonry jobs on his own after school.”

Frank Martinez enrolled in Santillan’s very first class. That was in 1991. The following year, Martinez participated in the SkillsUSA national masonry contest, held in Louisville, Ky. He took seventh place.

By then, Santillian says, “Frank had traded in his old car for an old truck. With room to carry more boards and scaffolds, he could do bigger masonry jobs.” Even some of the teachers at his school were hiring him for small jobs.  

Then, one day, while having his old truck inspected, Martinez met a man who owned a 10,000-square-foot warehouse. The man hired him to brick the whole building.

“This guy was an older, retired gentleman,” says Martinez. “I worked a lot of weekends to complete the job. I’ll never forget how almost every weekend he would sit in a chair, drink his iced tea and simply watch me work.”  

Following graduation from Harlingen High School in Harlingen, Texas, Martinez moved to Dallas. “My brother was working in construction,” he says. “He had work, and my work was slowing down in the Valley. I moved eight hours north and was soon making $8 per hour more.”

Martinez always had a notion that he could lead. He went from laborer, to lead man and then foreman. By age 21, he had started his own company, FM Masonry Inc., dba Frame and Masonry Construction. Based in Arlington, Texas, the company does concrete, frame and masonry work. With 10 full-time employees, Martinez adds contract laborers as the work requires.  

Frank Martinez is a hands-on person with an understanding of business.

“We try to adapt to the market,” Martinez says. “We go where the work is. That’s why we’re moving east.”

The company has long served north Texas and has, recently, added significant work in the Shreveport, La., area. Southern Homes in Louisiana is providing steady work.

Regarding the challenges of owning and growing a business, Martinez reflects on the challenges of taking on ever larger jobs. “Making the move from $100,000 contracts to $500,000 contracts requires changes in how we do business. The next step is $1 million jobs.”

Letting go was another challenge for Martinez. A self-described hands-on person, he learned the business as he grew it. He learned to do his own bookkeeping and took courses in business management and business law. Eventually, he knew he had to let go.

“It was challenging for me, to have been wearing so many hats, to have to let go of those hats,” Martinez says.

The secrets to his success were hard work and experience. He says experience had been his best teacher. Now billing $4 million to $5 million annually, Martinez has grown the business through word-of-mouth.

Like many formally trained masons, Martinez retains a relationship with his instructor. “Victor is my mentor,” he says. “We stay in touch. We’ve even surveyed jobs together.”

“Whenever our state contest is in the Dallas area, Frank usually volunteers to tour my students on some of the jobs his company is working on,” Santillian says. “I know that Frank is proud of his work and accomplishments, but it’s very educational for my students.”


Last Updated on Sunday, 31 May 2009 22:51