5 on 5 with Otto Baum Company, Inc.
Contractor to Contractor
By Tim O’Toole
The Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) recently sat down with Kurt Baum, Masonry Division Manager for Otto Baum Company, Inc., to discuss the history of Otto Baum Company, Inc., challenges he’s faced, and the future of the masonry industry.
MCAA: Tell us about the history of your company.
We’ve been blessed with many generations of dedicated managers and field craftsman since then, focused on keeping those traditional core values prevalent in our daily operations.
MCAA: What do you think has been the key to your company’s success?
Baum: At Otto Baum Company, we understand our industry stakeholder’s (customers, investors, employees, vendors, suppliers, etc.) all share an ingrained desire to provide for the financial wellbeing of their families and themselves. Ultimately, that’s why we invest our time and talent (and some of us our treasure) at work. To fulfill our quest to be the best providers we can by meeting or exceeding our financial goals, and thus “succeeding” at our chosen profession.
By clarifying and communicating our company’s vision of “success” and attempting to employ individuals who also share in this vision, we experience the greatest chance of being viewed as “mutually successful”. Eighty plus years now and we’re still here.
MCAA: What advice would you offer a budding mason contractor?
Baum: Determine what you excel at and how it can provide value. Define your process, communicate it to your employees, and continuously improve on your shared strengths. Once established, focus on maintaining a sterling reputation as your greatest selling tool. Make them want, not tolerate.
Never forget, it’s the customer who decides how they will spend their construction dollars.
MCAA: What do you feel is the masonry industry’s biggest challenge in the future?
Baum: It’s reasonable to expect highly competitive building systems which offer similar performance attributes at reduced installation costs will continue to consume more of masonry’s traditional market share in the future.
Masonry construction can be a very labor intensive undertaking. Labor related expenses account for nearly half our product cost, even more so in heavily union influenced markets like Illinois. Our investment in production increasing processes has attempted to keep pace with construction value demand, yet I still witness masonry components being eliminated from more and more new structures being forced to stay within established financial budgets or to meet accelerated building schedules. They seem to want masonry yet are not always able to afford it.
Our masonry industry partners must continuously focus on “value adding” strategies to thrive.
MCAA: What is your favorite aspect of being a member of the MCAA?
Baum: I have been attending MCAA annual conventions and events since the mid 70’s. I enjoy the comradery and networking which takes place anytime you can get a group of individuals together who share a common passion for maintaining or growing industry opportunities.
It’s a great place to access knowledge from a dedicated group of masonry industry professionals.
About the Author
Tim O’Toole is the Director of Marketing, Education, and Information Technology for the MCAA. He has a Masters in Business Administration from Webster University and has worked in the masonry industry since 2003.