Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What is a QR code anyway?

I excitedly posted this on our Yoder Concrete Construction, LLC Facebook fan page and waited for responses of how cool it was. I got nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. My husband suggested that I explain what it is and what to do with it because he really wasn't sure how to get whatever it was. I thought he was the only non-techy one looking at the post. However, after reading Why the QR code is failing, it made me realize that maybe only a small percentage of the population know what to do with this. And when you consider our target audience, many being the construction type, that percentage might drop even more. Or even if you know what it is, you may not have the technology to do anything with it. With it being posted on Facebook, you might want to click on it to see what happens. (Nothing. You need a smart phone.) I can see where this could be confusing.

For those of you who don't know, this is a QR code, or quick response code. If you have a smart phone, you can download an app that will read this code like a scanner reads a bar code. The first one I created takes your smart phone right to our website. (How cool is that!) My initial intent was to place the code on all of the work trucks and any new promotional literature. But I have struggled with this for the same reason as the writer of the blog stated. Why would you have it go to your website when you most likely have the URL spelled out in the same place anyway. Then I received a catalog of one of our suppliers, and on the back of the catalog was a QR code. It said to scan the code to download their contact information. (Way more cool!) So now, easy at that, I have that company's contact information in my Droid. That is much handier than sending me to a website that I don't have time to look at anyway. 

So now I am trying to decide if the QR code would be useful to our business. Am I too far ahead of my target audience? Or is the QR code even going to catch on as a good marketing tool? When it comes to concrete construction, what is a good use for the QR code?  If I owned a bed and breakfast, I could use it  to download my recipe for blueberry crunch muffins. If I had a restaurant, it could be a coupon for a free appetizer. Concrete? not so sure. 

Do you have any suggestions for me? I want to be on the cutting edge of marketing technology, but maybe that doesn't make sense in the construction industry. (I am looking for some encouragement here.) What do you think?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Concrete Finishing is a Craft

Are you a craftsman or crafter? Someone who takes various materials and makes them into a beautiful finished product? If you are, you realize that the quality of the products supplied by others and the skill of the craftsman are very important for the outcome of the final product. 

A concrete finisher is a craftsman. We start with a somewhat runny, slumpy mixture of water, cement, and stone, most often supplied and mixed by a ready mix plant using their special recipe for the type of project that is being done.  Chemical or mineral admixtures may be added to the concrete  to change the properties of the concrete as deemed appropriate for the conditions. Color may be added to the concrete mixture, either a powder or a liquid, often added by the ready mix plant. Synthetic fibers may be added to the mix to reduce plastic shrinkage cracks and provide shatter resistance.

An experienced craftsman has come across many things during his or her time doing their craft and have learned how to pre-plan or react to get the end result desired. However, there are times when it is beyond the control of the craftsman, and the end results are not as perfect as desired.

I want to share a specific project that we completed a few years ago that, although beautiful, did not turn out exactly as we desired. The project was a driveway with integral color and a stenciled brick border and a matching stenciled sidewalk. Heat was installed under the sidewalk to avoid shoveling and icing during the winter. It took two ready mix truck loads of concrete to place the driveway, so we placed the left half first, and then the right half with the second truck. The result was that one side was a little lighter in color than the other.

We struggled with what to do to make it right for the customer. In cases like this, we are at the mercy of the concrete ready mix plant to make sure that, in multiple loads of concrete, the color is exactly the same for the entire project. Our solution was to use a colored sealer to blend the colors over the entire project. Because the difference was subtle, and over time the color of concrete changes as it cures, the result was satisfactory.

Fast forward to 2011. We received a call from the homeowner who stated that a small area of the concrete had popped out. He was not complaining but wanted it patched so it wouldn't get worse. I explained to the homeowner that any patching would not match in color. The materials used to patch are different than the original materials, and as I mentioned earlier, the color of concrete changes over time. The homeowner understood and wanted the work done.  One of our craftsman went to the jobsite to do the repair and, in cleaning out the area, found a lump of integral color that had not mixed with the concrete. He continued to make the repair, but saved the color to show the customer.

Often times, we never get the answers to the difficulties we face each day. We have to realize that God is in control and learn from the challenges He throws our way. Funny how, in this case, seven years later, we find out why the color didn't match. Could we have prevented it? Maybe the drum needed to cycle around a few more times, or maybe the color clumped and wouldn't have dissolved anyway. We don't know. We will just continue to do our craft, learn from our mistakes and attend training opportunities when possible. We share a love of concrete and will continue to serve our customers the best we can.