Success by Embracing Change: Keith Wayne, President of Wayne Brothers, doesn’t adopt new technology blindly. But he has been willing to move forward a little earlier than most contractors and that has been one secret to his company’s success. Taking risks is what contractors do—it’s how they make a living. Taking extra risk by adopting new technology and ideas, though, is something many contractors shy away from. Keith Wayne, president of Wayne Brothers in Kannapolis, N.C. doesn’t adopt new technology blindly, but he has been willing to move forward a little earlier than most contractors and that has been one secret to his company’s success. “I’m a pretty harsh critic and skeptic about new technology,” he says, “it must work well and consistently and be practical to use in a broad range of applications.
Today, Wayne Brothers is heavily into technology and new approaches, including building information modeling (BIM), self-consolidating concrete, laser-guided equipment, modular European formwork, and Ductilcrete floor slabs. “Ductilcrete is becoming more and more useful and accepted as the slab-on-grade of choice because of its ability to maintain its flatness over time, which a conventional slab doesn’t, and to eliminate 70 to 75% of the joints, which minimizes the maintenance program since it’s the joints that create the problems. I’m pretty pumped up about Ductilcrete.”
On the strength of that new business and a diversified approach, including site work and vertical forming, Wayne Brothers broke into Engineering NewsRecord’s top 20 concrete firms in 2014. “We’re proud of that but humble,” says Wayne. “We’ve had great blessings; good clients who continue to call to ask us to work for them. The old adage works for us: the best way to sell your next job is your last job.” Wayne Brothers works throughout the Southeast U.S. from offices in North Carolina and South Carolina.
One money-maker has been BIM. “We are using BIM extensively — on every job with only a few exceptions for very small projects” says Wayne. “We start with the modeling on some projects during the preconstruction phase and use it for estimating. The modeling is useful during negotiations, too, well before we get to the field. In the construction phase, BIM helps us to manage conflicts and to modularize construction activity which allows us to do some work in the shop so that less space is needed on the jobsite.”
All in the family Wayne Brothers is now moving into the next generation. “My two sons both work in the business,” Wayne says. “Isaiah manages our strategic workforce issues including training. Daniel is a senior project manager and has become our chief technology officer, working with BIM, which he was instrumental in dragging us into, and self-consolidating concrete. He was the project manager for our new operations center which we built ourselves.” Wayne isn’t relying solely on family, though, there are three other partners who are all shareholders and company leaders, which he believes will smooth out the company’s succession when he decides to retire.
The outward face of Wayne Brothers’ new operations center is the lobby, with its formwork reception desk and walk-behind power trowel chandelier. This playfulness is fun, but the motivation for building the operations center was more serious. “We’ve had lots of growth and this gives us the opportunity to grow more,” says Wayne. “It also allows us to do some things differently, such as purchasing—we can buy smarter, buy in bulk at the best prices and warehouse consumable items so they aren’t being purchased at higher prices directly from the job site.”
So, what’s Keith Wayne’s secret to success in the concrete construction business? “Having the courage to be out there selling your work as value and not as a commodity. You have to find the niche where you are uniquely qualified and exceed the customer’s expectations. You have to have smart people on your team who understand the process better than your competition. You’re going to have potential customers who will be skeptical, thinking it’s just concrete, it can’t be that difficult. So you’ve got to overcome that perception.”