The largest expense for any business is labor. Reducing labor costs and improving efficiency is the best way to increase the bottom line. But that raises the question: “How do you decrease labor costs in a labor-intensive field like decorative concrete?” Here are four ways to decrease labor costs in decorative concrete and improve the bottom line.

 Projects large and small need careful management of labor, materials, and equipment to ensure efficiency.

Projects large and small need careful management of labor, materials, and equipment to ensure efficiency.

Manage Processes

Improving processes and creating efficiencies are the biggest ways to decrease your labor costs. By systematically studying business activities, ranging from administrative work to jobsite behavior, the average contractor can find dozens of ways to decrease costs. At the 2017 Decorative Concrete Fair, construction guru Rocky Geans covered this very subject. In his seminar, Geans discussed mobilization costs. He prompted attendees to start tracking the time (and cost) to get crews and equipment assembled and to the jobsite. Just by considering costs such as these, business owners can more effectively plan and schedule jobs for maximum efficiency.

Design for Efficiency

Especially when dealing in the residential market, the decorative concrete contractor has a surprising amount of influence over the design of the project. As the decorative concrete expert, it is possible to push the client towards finishes that demand less labor while still offering the desired appearance and performance. It is tempting, especially in the age of social media and sharing, to make every job a “showcase piece” and run wild with creativity. Quality and attention to detail should never be sacrificed as it can lose money and harm reputations. By determining and meeting clients’ needs, the efficient contractor leaves with a happy customer and avoids unnecessary work.

 Texture skins with decorative sawcuts allow you to stamp concrete with less time and labor expense. Photo courtesy of Power Concrete Construction & Design.

Texture skins with decorative sawcuts allow you to stamp concrete with less time and labor expense. Photo courtesy of Power Concrete Construction & Design.

 Surface Deactovator and Concrete Dimensions - two labor saving products - are demonstrated at the Decorative Concrete Fair. 

Surface Deactovator and Concrete Dimensions - two labor saving products - are demonstrated at the Decorative Concrete Fair. 

Labor Saving Materials

The marketplace is flooded with products that claim to save time and labor. Compare the potential labor savings versus the additional cost, if any, represented by the change in material. A prime example is a surface retarder for exposed aggregate finishes. Surface retarders, especially those with predetermined levels like Surface Deactivator, save time and effort when removing the surface for a decorative exposed aggregate finish. When compared to sandblasting, for example, this can save hours or days of labor and equipment rental (or depreciation).

 It may look simple, but jobs like this represent earning opportunities for many contractors due to their "quick in; quick out" nature. Courtesy of Huber Custom Coatings.

It may look simple, but jobs like this represent earning opportunities for many contractors due to their "quick in; quick out" nature. Courtesy of Huber Custom Coatings.

Focus on the Moneymakers       

It’s ok to say “no” to a job. The client’s budget might be too small. The job might be too small to bother with or too big to handle. Successful business owners know how much money they should be making on each sale or project. Even if a job would net a profit, if that dollar figure does not yield the desired level of income, it represents an opportunity loss. The time spent on the sub-par earner could be better spent on a more profitable job, finding more profitable jobs, or doing necessary upkeep and maintenance. This is not to say, however, that low-profit projects must be entirely avoided. They can be a good way to round out the schedule and continue earning when things slow down. If efficiency is the goal, prioritize the most profitable work.

Reducing labor costs is an excellent way to increase earnings. Lowering labor costs allows a decorative concrete contactor to increase profits, lower costs to become more competitive, or a combination of the two. Failing to maximize labor efficiency means money is left on the table and opportunities are missed.