Growing a business from the ground up
Concrete Cutting Systems Inc.
In 1995, David (Dave) J. Nevrotski knew that he needed a change. At the time, he held a senior field position within a drilling and sawing company; and while the work was steady, he felt that he wasn’t reaching his full potential. The company he worked for had no ambitions to grow, and he was the sort of person who craved a bigger challenge.
One evening, Dave came home to his wife, Barbara, and told her that he had quit his job and decided to go out on his own. This announcement came as a big surprise to her; but as luck would have it, Dave wasn’t the only person with big news that day. Barbara had just found out that she was pregnant with their second child, David C. Nevrotski. Their first child, Brianne, was only eight years old, and the pair suddenly realized they would have to find a way to juggle the financial risk of starting a new business while taking care of two young children.
For the first few months after launching Concrete Cutting Systems Inc., a full-service concrete drilling and sawing business, Dave had no income. He purchased his first truck and drilling and sawing equipment, either used or at auction, and he worked out of the basement of his home. After her maternity leave was over, Barbara, who was employed by the IRS, decided to switch her regular working hours to night-time shifts. That way, her income could still cover their personal bills, and one of them would always be at home with the kids. For six years, Dave and Barbara would only pass each other briefly every evening. While Barbara was at work, Dave spent his nights taking care of their children.
A New Beginning
Casting a wide net, Dave kicked off his new business by taking on any work that came his way, regardless of the project size. Working with only one employee, he started with renovations of old buildings and abandoned factories, helping to convert them into condos or commercial studios. Six months after launching the business, he caught his first big break, signing a service contract with Philadelphia Gas Works, which gave the company a foothold into utility-based infrastructure work. Before long, Dave purchased a second truck, and then a few months later, a third.
He established his new client base by building customer confidence with his hands-on approach. Dave took on multiple roles to keep the business afloat; he was running the business, selling, pricing and physically doing the work.
“My clients saw I was able to put myself out there to give the services they needed, and I would put the work in to get the job done right,” says Dave. “Those years were foundational for a lot of our future work.”
From there, he signed contracts with other major clients, including Utility Line Services, General Asphalt Paving Co., Danella Companies and Henkels & McCoy—all organizations that would remain clients for years. “After two decades, our client list is pretty much the same,” explains Dave. “As our clients grew, we grew with them.”
Dave says that his biggest fear over the years was keeping pace with his clients when they were rapidly scaling up their businesses. “I knew that if we fell behind and it seemed like we couldn’t service their businesses, they would call someone else. So, we never let it get to that point, we always did what it took.”
In the end, what it took was to grow Concrete Cutting Systems to its current size, with two offices in eastern Pennsylvania, one in Philadelphia with 45 employees, and one in Pittsburgh with 17 employees.
When Dave launched the business, the main challenges were finding and keeping steady work, and billing and chasing receivables. Now, he describes the hardest part of his job as finding the right employees who care about and find pride in their work as the business expands. It is the loyalty, dedication and work ethic of his employees that Dave credits as a key part of the company’s success. Two of his recent and most successful hires launched the new Pittsburgh office in May 2016, and together they plan to grow it to the same size as the Philadelphia branch.
“My clients saw I was able to put myself out there to give the services they needed, and I would put the work in to get the job done right.” Dave Nevrotski, President, Concrete Cutting Systems Inc.
Many of Dave’s staff members have been with the company for 12 to 15 years. One reason that Concrete Cutting Systems has managed to retain its staff is that the company’s services are so diversified that the workforce is guaranteed work year-round—even though the concrete cutting industry in eastern Pennsylvania is extremely weather-dependent because of the state’s frigid winters.
The company first actively diversified its services to help weather economic downturns. After the September 11th attacks in 2001, privately held contractors were holding back from releasing money to start new construction projects. As a result, many of the company’s interior renovation projects were placed on hold. As work slowed down dramatically, the business (which employed 11 staff at the time of the attacks), had to scale down to four employees. Dave decided to branch out, taking on more general building work, heavy highway work, and even snow plowing in the winter.
Today, throughout the winter months, Concrete Cutting Systems switches to mainly interior and general building work. In addition to its wall sawing, core drilling, slab, roadway and bridge-deck sawing services, the company recently started offering robotic demolition services, using an electric-powered machine that is emission-free and able to go inside any interior space to perform work without risk.
The switch to emission-free machinery is part of a bigger move to be ever more environmentally responsible. Fifteen years ago, the main utility supplier in eastern Pennsylvania mandated that the slurry mix residue created by wet saw cuts on the highway had to be cleared off the road after the work was completed. Instead of hiring an external company to vacuum the mix, Concrete Cutting Systems tasked its in-house shop mechanic to design a vacuum truck and processing system that would do the job. The job was accomplished by repurposing several old vacuum units that were in storage. Concrete Cutting Systems was then able to collect the residue, bring it back to the company yard, store it, and eventually take it to a landfill to be reprocessed with crushed concrete.
Last year, Concrete Cutting Systems went paperless, implementing a digital schedule and planning program accessible by tablet by all employees across the business, along with vehicle tracking systems and GPS in all of the trucks.
“One of the reasons that I think the company is successful is that, as things in the industry change, get better and more advanced, our company changes with it,” says Dave, who is constantly updating the company’s equipment and vehicles by recirculating profits straight back into the business. “We’re on the cutting edge of our industry. Whatever our customers’ needs are, we respond to them immediately,” says Dave.
Providing for Families
To this day, Dave credits his wife of 35 years as one of the primary reasons for his company’s longevity. Despite the challenges they faced over the years, she was always supportive, never negative or discouraging. Even when the business struggled, Barbara never let the stress of the business affect their home life.
A few years ago, Barbara retired from her job with the IRS and now works part time for Concrete Cutting Services in the accounts department. Dave and Barbara’s daughter, Brianne, also works part time for the company. Their son, David, whose birth coincides with the start of the business, works in the field as a full-time saw cutter for the family firm. At 21 years old, David has already shown interest in one day taking over the business.
Besides providing for his own family, Dave also takes pride in creating work for the 60 families that depend on him for their livelihoods. “My wife first brought this to my attention: It’s because of our company that our employees have enough stability to get a mortgage for a house or a loan on a car. It’s a good feeling,” he says.