Unique and integrated
Chatham-Kent (CK) Ready Mix is an Ontario concrete and construction materials company with a wide range of products and services. In serving the entire municipality of Chatham Kent, they are committed to providing premium quality products, customer service, and design ideas when it comes to any concrete project. “We’re a very approachable company,” says Rick Zavitz, President of CK Ready Mix. “We consider ourselves to be solution providers. We’ve got a vast number of employees with a lot of knowledge, and we like to share that knowledge. We’d like to be known as the best services, ready mix, and construction materials provider in the area.”
Zavitz himself started working in the ready mix industry in 1983, starting as a driver and working his way up the ranks to the admixture business. After amassing some experience at a large corporation, he started his own business in 2007, and had a brand new production facility built in Chatham, Ontario. In the years since, he has grown the company to include a fleet of nine ready mix trucks. In addition, he has added a precast concrete division, and – in the last two years – a construction materials division.
“We’ve vertically integrated ourselves with products and services,” Zavitz explains. “That’s where we are at after five years. We’ve grown. There’s no moss underneath our feet, I can tell you that.”
Offering an expanded range of products and services is how CK Ready Mix sets itself apart from the competition, and is an important part of Zavitz’ strategy for the company. “A small business in today’s market can’t be focused on one product offering,” he says. “What we find by bundling certain products and services is it allows us to compete at a different level.”
The level that CK Ready Mix competes at is a local one, and their competition is mostly large conglomerates. CK Ready Mix stands out by being a one-stop-shop. On one project they can supply ready mix concrete for the structure, precast concrete for the headwalls and other parts of the project, as well as aggregates such as stone and sand. “We’re integrating ourselves with an offering of more than just the ready mix concrete,” Zavitz reiterates. “That’s how we’re growing our company.”
“It’s kind of a unique set up in Ontario,” he continues. “I don’t know of one other company that does exactly what we do. I know a lot of companies that do parts of what we do, but I don’t know that any of them provide the opportunity to purchase a number of different products from a company that can complete their construction needs.”
When Zavitz first started CK Ready Mix, he employed six full time drivers and three administrative staff – including him. Due to the growth of the business over the last couple of years, and the addition of their construction materials division, those numbers have grown. “We’ve gone from nine employees to right around 18,” he says.
As far as the employee company relationship goes, Zavitz describes it as effective. Holding on to labour can be a challenge in a competitive market like concrete, but CK Ready Mix has managed to be successful with it. They recently added a benefit program for their drivers, and on the construction materials side of the business their employees all have commission and bonus incentive programs. “So their rewards are as good as they want to make them,” Zavitz says.
“I have to say it’s a pretty close knit, family type operation,” he elaborates. “The door is always open for people to come in and speak with whomever they need to speak to at any given time during the day, week or month. It’s a pretty open shop.”
Another industry challenge CK Ready Mix has to face is the challenge of being a sustainable business. First off, they are members of the Ready Mix Concrete Association of Ontario (RMCAO), who have made it a point to promote and educate their members when it comes to sustainable business practices. At CK Ready Mix, they are doing their part by using as much supplementary materials that are by-products of other industries as possible – such as using flyash from the coal industry, or incorporating ground granulated blast furnace slag from the steel industry into their mix.
“At the plant level it’s also a matter of making sure we’re recycling our water,” Zavitz adds. “That’s an initiative we’ve got – we put in recycled water from our wash pits into the concrete at accepted proportions. There’s definitely a move towards sustainability.”
The other challenges posed to CK Ready Mix are mostly economic ones. In Chatham-Kent, the area has lost a lot of industry activity over the years, particularly in automated manufacturing. That loss has hurt CK Ready Mix’s growth in the residential market. On the other side of the coin, however, where the manufacturing sector has slowed, the energy sector has thrived. The growth there has ensured CK Ready Mix has normal – if not greater than normal – volumes of work when considered alongside the area’s population.
Moving forward, Zavitz has plans to continue to expand the business. In the near future, for example, the variety of products and services offered by the company’s construction materials division will increase substantially. Sales from that division will double with that introduction, Zavitz projects. “Overall, we’re going to promote our precast,” he says. “We’re also going to add on whatever new innovative technology is out there, so the customers have some options, so they can make some different decisions.”
Beyond that, Zavitz says the company is entering into a year of consolidation. They have only existed for five years so far, and have experienced rapid growth in that time. They turned over one million dollars in the first year, and last year that number was over seven million. As CK Ready Mix goes forward, Zavitz wants to ensure the numbers only grow – and the business is on a path to seeing that happen.