Looking back, Chris Menn picked a bad time to start a business.
“I was 19, and I quit my job in sales to start a concrete business in November of 2007,” says Chris, owner of C-R Menn Concrete in Fremont, Nebraska. “It wasn’t a great time for a kid to go out on his own and start something new.”
While the timing might not have been perfect, Chris took an ad out in the Omaha World-Herald to see if he could turn his hobby of pouring concrete for friends and family into a successful business. Soon he was doing decorative and residential concrete work, but it couldn’t keep Chris’ attention for long.
“I’ve got a stupid, dangerous appetite for growth, which led me to take the business toward primarily commercial work,” Chris says.
A few years after he started C-R Menn Concrete, Chris began bidding on commercial projects.
“We won a couple bids, and soon enough we were hiring more employees and buying more equipment to keep up with the demand,” he says.
Now, Chris and his team take on a variety of large-scale projects, including school and hospital additions, new banks, municipal street pavings and fast-food sites. The company pours walls, footings and foundations and completes flatwork projects across eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.
“I have a hard time knowing when enough is enough,” Chris jokes. “I remember the first year we hit a million in gross sales, and I thought, ‘If I could double this, that’d be great.’ Then I tripled it the next year, and now we’re at $5 million – and working toward doubling that.”
Hooked on Reliable Equipment
With growth and productivity top of mind, Chris recognized equipping his employees with the best equipment available was critical to maintaining the top-notch performance his customers had come to expect from his business. He was dissatisfied with the performance of the equipment he’d originally purchased when he started out, which had frequent electrical issues and bad hydraulic lines.
Chris couldn’t risk downtime on any of his jobsites, so he began looking around for a new line of equipment. He’d heard good things about the local Bobcat dealer, Bobcat of Omaha, and decided to give them a try. After buying his first piece of Bobcat equipment, Chris was hooked.
“A month after buying that first Bobcat loader, I called the dealer and said, ‘Bring me another one,’ and six months later I was calling for more,” Chris says. “The visibility is better, the controls are better and there’s so much less operator fatigue. Bobcat equipment is designed and engineered so well and can run all day, just like we need it to.”
Today, C-R Menn Concrete owns several Bobcat loaders, a 3400 utility vehicle and an E50 compact excavator. At a recent commercial jobsite, the crew used the E50 to excavate for footings and an M2-Series T770 compact track loader to move the excavated soil.
“With the E50, we were able to excavate 200 yards in about six hours,” Chris says. “Compared to our old equipment, it’s night and day.”
C-R Menn Concrete also completes all of the parking lot, sidewalk and concrete maintenance for a 700-complex apartment company. The Bobcat loaders, including an M2-Series T650, break apart existing concrete, load the debris into trucks, and then do the grading and prep work for a new parking lot or sidewalk. Working in an active residential area, Chris says his crews also like using the T595 compact track loaders for the work because of the loaders’ small size.
“They have a similar breakout force, lift height and capacity, and horsepower to larger loaders but in a very compact package,” Chris says. “The guys always fight over the T595s. They absolutely love them.”
Chris couldn’t let his crew be the only ones who got to appreciate operating Bobcat equipment all day though – he wanted in on being behind the controls.
“Our facility is on four and a half acres, and I got tired of trekking across the yard to grab a part, so I ordered one of the 3400 utility vehicles,” Chris says. “I think my accountant thought it was a toy, but we use that thing every single day – and, I won’t lie, it’s a little fun.”
Investing in Crew and Equipment
As someone who appreciates what it’s like to be in the operator’s seat, Chris takes pride in keeping his crew comfortable and safe, and Bobcat equipment is a big piece of that puzzle. Features like the Power Bob-Tach attachment mounting system mean his operators aren’t required to climb in and out of a cab all day.
“Being able to change the [non-hydraulic] attachments while remaining in the cab is just a night-and-day deal,” Chris says. “It’s really efficient, puts less fatigue on my operator and helps wring out a little more productivity.”
The increased visibility on Bobcat machinery also appealed to Chris for keeping his crew safe.
“I feel a lot more comfortable with the operator visibility in Bobcat equipment than what I’ve seen from some of the competitors,” he says. “It’s good for the operator but also keeps our guys who are working the field a little safer.”
Growing with the White, Black and Orange
There’s no doubt Chris has an appetite for growth. Taking his concrete hobby and turning it into a full-fledged business before age 20 is evidence enough. Now, as the C-R Menn Concrete crews put in long days and hard work to grow the company toward its $10 million goal, Chris feels confident his Bobcat equipment will help them get there.
“I know when my crews go out there every single day, those machines are going to run all day and won’t talk back or act up,” he says. “With our Bobcat equipment there’s no downtime. And really, there’s just something about that white, black and orange that gets me. It’s like Pokemon – I gotta collect them all.”
Ready to quit your job and start your own business like Chris? Read these six tips for making a name for yourself and building business through customer referrals.