15 Rivers Ready-Mix Chief Operating Officer Sean Blair and President Brady “Slim” Slimboski know that sometimes if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Their drive to build a better company that truly cares about its customers and staff is evident just by how they interact with each other. Here, they discuss how they got to where they are now, what steps they take to ensure a safe operation, and how they give back to the community that has embraced them.
A Dream Becomes Reality
Slim has been in the ready-mix business for 26 years, while Blair has eight years under his belt. Both originally worked for a different company that didn’t live up to the promises it made. The two started looking into what it would take to start their own company that put a stronger focus on customer satisfaction. Slim ran into one of 15 River’s other partners back in 2017 and picked up a fourth partner that same year — thus, CEO Lamar Carter and Sr. Executive V.P. Art Browning joined the crew. After being turned down by numerous banks and lenders, 15 Rivers finally opened its doors in January 2019.
The business was started with nine trucks and is currently sitting at 38 ready-mix trucks and five cement tanker trucks. In 2019, the company generated revenue of around $13 million. In its second year, it generated roughly $22 million, and it is projected to reach $24 million in 2021. Revenue was hampered this year due to materials shortages, according to Blair.
“In March of 2021, we went from picking up 60 to 75 loads a week, and we were cut down to 25 loads a week due to the shortage. Our production got cut by 75%. We were able to secure another supplier in Houston, which offset a little bit of that. We’ve had a lot happen to us along the way in this journey, but we’ve managed. The four of us get together and come up with a plan to push on through,” Blair said.
“We don’t do good with being told ‘no’,” Slim chimed in.
Handling Challenges by Empowering Employees
To build good relationships with those who work for you, you have to listen to them. Blair said he and the rest of the management team are open to hearing people out if they face problems.
“You can come in and share any complaint you have, but be prepared — I’m also going to ask you what your potential solution is to that problem. Anybody can come in and complain, but it takes somebody that wants to be involved in rectifying that issue to make things happen,” Blair explained.
Part of good management involves not being afraid to change things up. The team at 15 Rivers wants to remain fluid and isn’t afraid to make mistakes along the way if it can lead to innovative practices that save time and money and enhance safety.
Standardized for Safety
Excluding a few of the first trucks it had to purchase to get the company on its feet, the 15 Rivers fleet follows a standardized spec. All vehicles are Kenworth T880s with Paccar MX-13 engines, 6-speed Allison transmissions, an antiroll stabilization package, aluminum wheels to keep weight down, and disk brakes all around.
Another safety feature born of an employee idea is the inclusion of a grip step on the back bumper of the company’s trucks. Sometimes employees need to stand on the back bumper to wash down the truck at the end of a job. So, instead of a little skinny bumper, 15 Rivers has started putting in a grated style one with a grip step.
For the Greater Good
The team at 15 Rivers holds its community close and does everything it can to help better it. Several of its foundation trucks are wrapped for police, fire, military, and ovarian cancer awareness.
“Each month, we try to donate a portion of the proceeds from those trucks to the causes their wraps represent. That money is given strictly to somebody in the community rather than through an organization. My wife is a two-time survivor of ovarian cancer, so I know exactly how it affects you personally and financially. If that’s something we can share with the community, we like to try to give back as much as we’ve been blessed with,” Slim said.
Blair said it also feels incredibly good to drive by structures the company has helped create. From high-rise buildings in downtown Dallas to local highway jobs and bridges, “it’s really cool to be able to say ‘hey, you see that right there? We poured that.’ I just think it speaks volumes about how far we’ve come to have jobs like that,” he stated.
Set Up for Success
To be as efficient as possible, the team at 15 Rivers has set up their operation in such a way that nothing interferes with batching concrete. Ready mix trucks are in their area so they remain undisturbed at all times. Haul trucks also have their own dedicated space, so when they are dumping raw materials, they’re nowhere near where the ready-mix employees are so it does not interfere with production.
Technology also plays a large part in ensuring the business runs smoothly. 15 Rivers uses Marcotte for batching and dispatching, and Coretex for truck tracking. This allows the team to run a report that tells when the truck was batched, how much was put on the truck, when the truck left the yard, when it got to a job, when it started and finished pouring out, and how much water the customer put on that truck.
“In a matter of minutes, I can tell you if the customer was the cause of a problem. The information we can collect because of this technology is lifesaving. Marcotte also gives office employees the ability to work off-site if needed,” explained Blair.
Do What You Love, the Smart Way
When asked to boil down what they love about what they do, it’s not surprising that Blair and Slim’s answers mirror each other.
“I love to finally be in a position to affect people’s lives in a positive way,” Blair replied.
“Knowing that our success directly affects not just our employees, but their families as well,” Slim stated.
Blair said the piece of advice that’s gotten the company where it is today is focus on what you’re doing and don’t let what others tell you to do cloud your judgment.
“It’s good to get suggestions from outside, but sometimes that can really hurt you. Accept suggestions cautiously.”