Learn More About Our Guiding Principles
And How They Effect Every Person
Our Company Comes in Contact With
In this Interview with President, Rick Kirchner
1. What services and products does your company offer?
“Our Custom Precast Concrete Products can be grouped into 5 main categories:
i. Underground Utility Precast
ii. Panel Manholes
iii. Steam Tunnels
iv. Bridges, Culverts, Retention Chambers
v. Small Buildings for Schools; Flammable Storage”
2. When was Advance Concrete Products started?
“July 28th 1966”
3. Who started the company?
“My Dad, Ron Kirchner started the company along with some Investors & Partners. The “Investors” were family members who believed in my Dad’s dream of having his own precast concrete company and included his parents, his aunts and uncles and his brother and sister-in-law. He also tapped into his kids’ savings accounts and savings bonds. One of his original partners, Tom Engle, continues to work for the company.”
4. What sparked your Dad’s interest in starting a business in general and a precast business in particular?
“My dad was always a motivated and smart businessman and an entrepreneur at heart. When he was just 18 years old, he built his first house. He built it with leftover building materials that construction companies and lumberyards were discarding."
"When he was attending Michigan State University, he started working for a precaster during the summer. He was hard-working and motivated but his foreman gave him a hard time and called him a “College Boy”. He would never let my Dad advance or get overtime. When my Dad graduated from college, he became his former foreman’s boss. After a few years he was running two precast plants with hundreds of employees.”
5. What lead up to his decision to start a precast concrete company?
“As a young man he saw how high employee turnover hurt a company. He didn’t like the fact that companies hired people when times were good and laid them off when business got slow. He knew that he could do better than that. He wanted to create a company with a strong reputation that could attract the best workers, keep the best customers and provide job security consistently. He was dedicated to helping his employees reach their potential.”
6. What was your dad’s business philosophy and approach to working with clients?
“My Dad always said that good business is simple. Just treat others the way you want to be treated. This includes everyone you come into contact with – employees, customers, vendors and neighbors. Just treat people well. He also said, 'When you make a commitment, stick by it. Always deliver what you promise'. He was adamant about that. He taught us to know the needs of the customer and to be willing to do whatever it takes to serve their needs. He thought it was important to be flexible and willing to adapt.”
7. What factors enabled the business to survive through the early challenges?
“My Dad built the company the same way he built his first house: by finding things that other people had discarded and making something out of them. He had a very conservative approach to growing his business and disliked waste of any kind – wasted resources, wasted time, wasted potential.”
8. What are your favorite stories about your dad from his early days in business?
“My Dad was dedicated to his employees and, because of that; his employees were dedicated to him. When I was a kid, I remember hearing that he had bought his salesperson a new car to use on sales calls. At the same time My Dad was driving around in an old rusted Pinto wagon with glued on wood panels.
"Every Christmas Eve my Dad would hand deliver a turkey to every employee’s home. He would also organize a company Christmas party in the lunchroom for the whole team. At those annual parties, he would give every employee a year-end bonus. One year, cash was tight. There wasn’t enough money for a party or year-end bonuses. But in his mind it wasn’t the employees’ fault so instead of disappointing them, he re-mortgaged our home so that he would have the cash to throw a party and give year-end bonuses. No one ever knew.”
9. What is the best business lesson or advice your dad ever gave you?
“My Dad always said that your reputation is your most valuable asset. He told us to guard it carefully because once you lose it; you can never get it back.”
10. How did you get started in the business?
“When my brothers and I turned 12, we started doing odd jobs at the business like cleaning, sweeping and cleaning out the septic tanks. After I graduated from college, I showed my Dad how computers could benefit his business. I officially became an employee on October 1, 1989.”
11. What is your working philosophy and approach to working with clients?
“My working philosophy was shaped by my father’s. I believe in taking good care of my employees so they feel like valuable members of the team and want to stay. I also believe in treating my employees fairly, they way I want to be treated.”
12. What have been the keys to success in your company?
“It all comes down to the Principles that Advance was founded upon and that I continue to follow: serve your customers well, take care of your employees and keep your word.”
13. What are some of your company’s proudest achievements?
“We’re proud of our creative thinking and our innovative products and designs. Working as a team we can figure out how to create whatever it is a client needs.
"We were also very proud to receive our NPCA Plant Certification back in 1991. Recently we received an award for being the longest continually certified plant in the Midwest and we tied with a plant back east for being longest continually certified plant in the United States. It’s nice to have outside confirmation that we’re doing a good job."
"I’m pleased that our customers are so loyal. Once a customer experiences our service, they stay with us. We become part of their team. I’m proud of that.”
14. What would your customers say are the top advantages of working with Advance?
“In post-project surveys, customers consistently tell us that we do a great job thinking ahead and planning for every possible situation that may come up so there are few or no surprises. They also tell us that our products, people, equipment and services are always consistent. They know they can depend on us. People really appreciate that we conduct our business with great integrity – always. We don’t ever change the quality of our product to save money or under-bid when the economy slows then short-change the customer. Lastly, our customers love that we give confirmed delivery dates and we always show up when we promise.”
15. What are some of the biggest challenges your customers face and how do you help them overcome those challenges?
“The biggest challenge my customers face on their jobsites is unexpected surprises. In one instance, a customer called Greg at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and said he had run into some trouble. He needed 14 handholes on a freeway job as soon as possible. He was hoping he could get them delivered Monday morning or Saturday, at best. We were ready for him and had those handholes delivered to his site within 90 minutes. Our system and our talent enable us to respond to any request quickly and efficiently. Our customers love that.”
16. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you began?
“Since 1989, there are fewer single, independent producers and more conglomerates. Several small precasters were bought up by the big companies. The bigger companies have a hard time offering consistency in product or service. A customer can’t count on the same engineer or the same driver to work on their project. The big companies often lose touch with their customers. On the other hand, smaller precast companies are more consistent in product and service. They find out what the customer wants, then figure out how to build it. That flexibility is something customers really appreciate.”
17. What would you like people to say when describing your business?
“Advance does whatever it takes to get you what you want, when you want it.”