Cementing His Place in Formwork
Good leadership propels Perry Concrete Forming Supply forward
Once upon a time there was a Harvard-educated guitarist who went from guiding submarines to giving expert managerial advice to companies and who today has a hand in cement.
Well, not “cement” literally—and not even his “hand” literally.
Besides all the other things, all true by the way, Chris Schelleng is Owner of Perry Concrete Forming Supply, which operates out of two locations: Attleboro and Pembroke, Massachusetts. The company sells concrete formwork and accessories to New England contractors who are busy constructing building foundations and even whole structures with cast-in-place concrete.
Schelleng offers everything that a contractor needs for the concrete portion of residential and light commercial construction. His equipment and products include form panels, ties, anchor bolts, duplex nails and release agents, as well as decorative concrete forms and basement windows. Whether a job calls for steel-ply forms, DURAFORM panels, or tee-and-wedge-forming systems, Perry can deliver truckloads of forms and all of the necessary hardware to a construction site quickly and orderly.
Strength of Character
Schelleng started the company in 2006. By then he had earned two master’s degrees, in business and engineering management, from Northwestern University and had worked as a management consultant for A.T. Kearney. He had become acquainted with a seven-decades-old metal manufacturing company owned by a family named Perry. His mission was to improve the sales and distribution processes for the company. In the process, he launched a business to supply materials for concrete contractors performing concrete formwork. With the company’s permission, he retained the well-known Perry name.
Going back to his military service, the new business owner was well equipped to manage the company. He has drawn from his diverse, project-based career to handle all aspects of the business, including sales, marketing, personnel, sourcing and operations.
As a young man, Schelleng landed a scholarship to Harvard University because of his ROTC service. That opportunity, in turn, required his promise to serve in the armed forces for at least four years after obtaining his undergraduate degree. He joined the U.S. Navy where, in time, he was regularly promoted for his leadership skills. He obtained the rank of lieutenant and at one point managed 120 personnel who operated a $1 billion nuclear attack submarine.
After five years and his commitment fulfilled, he left the Navy and reapplied himself to academic studies. His interest in lifelong learning has taken him into studies in psychology, economics, business and engineering.
When that phase of his life concluded, he drew on yet another dream. “I had always wanted to run my own business,” he says.
Schelleng combines his military-trained focus on service with his management and operations knowledge and experience to help every customer who contacts Perry.
“We try to provide outstanding customer service, and we focus on keeping them as customers by providing whatever they need,” he says. “We want repeat customers every day, every week, and we look at everything as a long-term commitment—not just a transaction.”
He admits that the company is a niche—a supplier of concrete formwork—but in that way the company has a special place in the building industry in the area. “Our equipment isn’t sold at The Home Depot or Lowe’s.”
The company’s six employees are vital for the success of Perry, Schelleng says. “The people I hire are all very thorough and smart; that is key to our business success—the people that are in place. All are on board with the idea that the customer comes first. And we help them do their job.”
The Perry crew takes and processes orders, provides the necessary information that contractors seek, and then oversees or completes the purchase with deliveries of sometimes truckloads of forms and hardware to ensure the success of the contractor.
Employees get ongoing training to stay abreast of developments in the industry and product and construction advancements. This, in turn, adds to the quality service that they provide their customers.
“We always strive to be knowledgeable for our customers, and we go to the World of Concrete trade show every year to learn more,” Schelleng says. “We may have old-school values, but we strive to offer new-school products.”
Attention to Details
There’s much for Perry’s employees to know about concrete formwork to guide contractors in choosing the right variety and the necessary panels, hardware and equipment to do their jobs.
Concrete forms are vital for cast-in-place concrete construction. Using large molds or panels, cement is poured into forms right on the construction site to make slabs, walls and maybe even roofs of a new house or building.
“While we’re more of a supplier and so not directly involved with building of projects, we take pride in having supplied thousands of customers in the area doing all types of projects,” Schelleng says.
That includes providing solutions to the occasional challenging concrete project. “People call with issues, and we work really hard to solve them,” Schelleng says. Some are standard adjustments that can surface during any concrete job and others are due to one-of-a-kind projects.
One contractor worked with Perry to obtain custom-made panel ties to lay a concrete wall with an angled face. The ties had to be at varying lengths and even unique angles to complete the formwork.
Another project—rare but occasional for the company—brought Perry together with contractors working on a concrete seawall for the town of Hingham, Massachusetts. The wall holds back the waters of Massachusetts Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The delivery of its form products is just as important to customers as Perry’s help in determining the best products for the job. Perry owns seven trucks that make regular trips to job sites in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut for the contractors’ convenience. Perry also serves customers throughout New England, thanks to partnerships with other shipping companies.
The company takes pride in knowing its customers so well that they know what preferences the contractors have, how they work, how they want panels delivered and even how to unpack and stack the panels at the construction site.
“We move hundreds of tons of material every year, thousands of products,” he says.
Schelleng says that the company has made great strides in the past 10 years, due in part to the willingness to evaluate the way they do things and to accept new approaches and even innovations and trends in the industry.
One addition that occurred four years ago was branching out to sell or rent decorative concrete forms. Perry now offers contractors a variety of stamps, stains and sealers for quality creation of walkways, swimming pools and more. Perry also provides training courses in decorative concrete work.
“Every year we add more products because we want to be the go-to source in that area,” he says.
The company’s story of being a reliable partner for concrete contractors is complemented by Schelleng’s unique story.
He is a Renaissance man who strives to excel at any and all that he does. Besides being well educated and having studied several subjects to obtain his degrees, he is a Navy veteran who served with distinction, a successful business owner in the construction industry and an avid musician. He admits that his work on the performance stage just gets him free beers at a neighborhood bar, however.
He’s also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Rising Tide Public Charter School in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where his three children attend. This dedicated dad considers it as important, if not more important, than any of his other pursuits and interests.
“I always wanted to help support it, and now I’ve served on the board for several years and became chairman last year.”
He also supports various causes that help others, support youth and ensure good communities. He makes donations to or volunteers time for organizations such as the Wareham Little League and the Plymouth Little League.
Schelleng’s life is integrated with a desire to build good things, whether it’s through worthy initiatives or quality construction. “When I drive around, I see houses and shopping malls all over the place we’ve helped construct; it’s all a part of the whole,” he says.