In the increasingly competitive world that is the construction industry, to truly stand out from the crowd is rare. Allow me to introduce S&S Concrete Floors, a world leader in concrete construction.
Although S&S is headquartered in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, well-known companies such as Disney and Amazon vie for its services. This highly-innovative, award-winning firm prides itself on great customer service and quality offerings. We spoke to two of the family members that run S&S: David and Matthew Somero. The brothers purchased the company in 2001.
S&S Concrete Floors began in 1972, but the original owners sold the company in 1974 to the patriarch of the Somero family, David W. Somero. There are three brothers involved presently, along with one cousin.
The main business involves placing concrete slabs on the ground and on deck. S&S also performs specialty work such as tilt-up construction along with some foundations and footings. Its specialty division performs services that include joint filling, joint repair, polishing, sealers, and concrete replacement.
“It is not a stretch to say we are fully vertically integrated. But we don’t go above the clouds,” says David.
In 1984, David W. Somero launched an idea that he had been working on for some time. He built a prototype machine for placing concrete slabs with a laser-guided piece of equipment. The intent was to save people’s backs and make their jobs easier.
“Through that process, he learned he could do it to not only increase the health of his workers but also save on labor in general and improve the quality and productivity of a project. That turned into its own business and was built up, until about 2000, when that company was sold. The machine is called The Laser Screed,” says David.
The partners were later approached by an acquaintance of David, who asked if the company could help the military with some trailer technology. Work began with a defense contractor to make trailers for cargo handling and logistics as well as for vehicle recovery.
In 2008 that program ended, but it enabled the partners to learn a lot about trailers. They tried to commercialize some of what they had learned. That is how subsidiary company Davis Village Solutions came to be. Patents were applied for on the trailer and the technology behind it.
Just this past year, Davis Village Solutions received the patent on its utility trailer with a movable bed or live bed, as it is also known. It has multiple uses and can be used to haul equipment, loose material, and palletized material. The conveyor, powered by a gas engine, is operated via a wireless remote-controlled system.
This piece of machinery gets fought over by crews because of the unique features and ease of use. Every day it hauls equipment or materials to a job site and is appreciated for its simplicity and efficiency, saving at least one laborer per job site.
“We engineered it ourselves, and we also manufacture it. The retail list price is $21,500, and there are other add-on features complementing the base model. We have units across the U.S. and sell it to other companies,” says Matthew. It has now been available for close to six years, and owners are delighted with the product. Some companies have even bought multiple units.
“This came into play back in 2013, and now accounts for about two percent of the company’s overall business. We are also involved with a company in North Carolina through David, who is a part-owner. This has become a sister company to S&S and is another concrete construction firm, specializing in tilt-up contracts. It also performs excavations and has a specialty division,” says David.
Other vital tools in the S&S arsenal are the Laser Screeds of the company’s own design, and these can pour over fifty thousand square feet of concrete each day. Any time the company can apply technology to make things better, faster, and with less manpower, everybody wins.
The design was sold in 2000, and is now a publicly-traded company on the London Stock Exchange (SOM), but S&S still uses the same equipment with updated versions. “It is a fantastic company, and we still have a working relationship with them,” says David.
S&S also receives many calls for preliminary budgeting. “Any time we can get in early with the design firm or owner, that seems to help us integrate value engineering ideas and the latest, greatest technology to help make the project flow smoother and sometimes faster,” says Matthew.
Every year, Face Construction Technologies presents its Golden Trowel awards to, in its words, “recognize the flattest and most level floor slabs placed in the world in the previous contest year.” S&S has achieved several such awards for the world’s flattest slabs. It takes much hard work to get this award, with planning and executing quality projects and developing unique techniques and methods.
“It may sound like we are bragging, but these are pioneering efforts,” says Matthew.
The equipment and machines used are top-notch, but the skill of S&S workers is essential to accomplish the company’s results. The most crucial aspect is consistent technique. S&S has skilled teams working on this, and as Matthew says, it is all about the people.
On that front, S&S is always recruiting as well as developing talent from within the company. It is also reaching out to the community and trying to recruit some of the students coming out of school.
“Industry-wide, there certainly is a shortage of workers. We coach, train, and set goals for them if they are willing to work with us. We must look forward within the next ten to fifteen years, as a lot of us will retire. We all have expiration dates,” says Matthew.
Aside from its reputation for its concrete work, S&S also treats its employees well, and there are growth opportunities in this team-oriented company. Many workers started as laborers and, through training, both in-house and with outside courses, climbed up the corporate ladder.
“With a willingness to learn and better themselves, the employees are an integral part of this healthy company culture. There is a legitimate opportunity to move up in the company. We have second and third generations working here, which enables our company culture to be a family affair,” says David.
In this industry, smaller projects are extremely competitive. Companies with nowhere near the investment in equipment and training are still competitive on small scale projects. When entering the bigger and more demanding jobs, the competition is not as prevalent, but it is still a challenge.
A testament to the quality of the work S&S performs can be seen with a job it performed for Disney in California in 2015. It speaks to the crew and its capabilities to be called out to do that. “We made a new ride floor for them. The project needed twelve workers for close to three weeks. There were a lot of logistics involved, with the right equipment and people transported to work on it. We got this job on a referral, and it was an extremely technical project with a very high tolerance. We felt more confident in our abilities than what they could find locally,” says Matthew.
The goal moving forward is to continue improving processes and keep growing slowly but steadily while continuing to broaden its range of services. S&S Concrete Floors is always looking to implement new equipment and for new products to install on the specialty side to follow its customers’ needs.