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Home | AUSTIN | Spotlight | Spotlight - Neale van Streepen, Managing Partner, Concrete Raising Corporation, Austin, TX

Spotlight - Neale van Streepen, Managing Partner, Concrete Raising Corporation, Austin, TX

image Managing Partner, Neale van Streepen of Concrete Raising Corporation

AUSTIN - Where are you from originally? I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa.







How did you get to the United States and Austin?
    I ran the South African office of a California-based software company. I got promoted to the head office in San Rafael, and my wife and I moved to the San Francisco Bay area with our daughters in 1997.
    A little later, I started my own software business and sold it in 2001, but stayed on to work for a while for the company that bought it.
    We moved to Austin in 2005, and have not looked back.

Do you go back to visit Johannesburg?

    We used to go every few years but we’re putting our resources toward our kids now. One graduated from college 18 months ago and the other is in college. They both played volleyball for Lehigh University (Pennsylvania), so we have been spending time and money on education as well as going to watch them play.

Tell me about your family.
    I’ve been married to my wonderful wife, Mandy, for 25 years. She is currently director of marketing for McCombs Properties and the “general manager” of our family.
    We have two daughters. Jade is 24 and an environmental engineer with a master’s degree in management. She works for Deloitte. Natasha is 21 and a senior at Lehigh studying behavioral neuroscience. She wants to go into pediatric oncology.

What is your educational background?
    I attended Vaal University of Technology near Johannesburg and graduated in the ‘80s as an industrial engineer with a minor in electrical technology.

Counting back time, it sounds like you were in South Africa when there was a lot of unrest due to its apartheid policy?
    Yes, my generation was right in the middle to the end of apartheid.
    It was so nice to be involved with the changes over those years.  Apartheid ended around 1990.  We were deeply occupied with all the processes, all the change that was happening for the positive.

What did you learn from it?
    It’s kind of weird. I look back on the whole South African socio-political thing and I know apartheid was terrible, but there was a lot of law and order. It might have been apartheid law, but there was the rule of law.
    Now, it’s so corrupt – the cops, the politicians and the businessmen. That leads to people not doing their jobs. The police aren’t doing their jobs. They’re not stopping the crime.
    Today (Oct. 30) is called Black Monday in South Africa. The whole country has come to a standstill because they’re protesting the murder of the farmers.  People are going out to the farms and killing the farmers.
    A lot of it stems from what happened in Zimbabwe where the thought was that the farmers own all this land and if they kill the farmers they can get their land. But those people that killed the farmers don’t know how to farm, so there’s no food. Today, years later, they have to import 90 percent of their food.
    We were sort of “brainwashed” into apartheid, but a lot of young African people are being brainwashed. They think that if they kill a farmer, they can have his land and they can be rich because they’ve got land. But land without crops is nothing.

Everywhere there seems to be so much misunderstanding about what it takes to be successful. Do you think people are prepared to make the effort it takes?
    I have a story. I don’t remember where I heard it  but it’s called the bacon and egg scenario, whereby it’s the difference between being involved and being committed. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. You don’t want to be a chicken in business. You want to be a pig because even though you’re going to get slaughtered, you’re committed to what you’re doing.

Has that story helped you as a businessman?
    Some say that most small businesses fail within five years, but most of them fail in the first or second year because the people don’t understand the commitment, the perseverance it takes to get you through those first years when you start from scratch.
    Bruce, my initial partner, and I started from scratch. There was no market in Austin for concrete raising; nobody was doing it. Basically, CRC went out and created the market for slab leveling and mud-jacking in Austin.
How did you get started in the construction industry?
    My father owned a large construction company in South Africa and I worked with him on the engineering side for quite a while in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, so I have a lot of general construction experience.
Why and how did you choose the concrete raising business?
    I was tired of the technology and software industry and, Bruce Dickey, one of my partners, approached me about starting a concrete repair business in Dec. 2009.
    After doing some research, we found that there was a gap in the market for concrete raising and slab leveling.
    Within the first year we started contacting the cities. The city of Pflugerville was the first one to hire us to do sidewalks.
    It took quite a while to get in with the city of Austin, and now we’re into our sixth year with them. We started with a pilot project on Harris Ridge.

Was it difficult getting started?
    It was really tough. We started in 2010 which was in the middle of a recession. We had to bring in another partner,
Steve Bartholomew.
    An initial challenge to doing the work was finding CDL drivers that wanted to work as well as drive our trucks.
    There seems to be a large turnover of drivers in that they move around a lot. It’s difficult to keep training new people who leave to go work in the oil fields or other jobs.
    Finding the right staff and keeping them is a battle. We’re lucky to have a few good people working for us now and we hope they will grow with us.

You said there had been some changes in your industry since you started and you have expanded your services.
    Initially, we were only doing concrete raising and void filling using cement slurry, otherwise known as “mud-jacking.”
    More recently there has been increased interest in using Polyurethane foam to perform essentially the same function.
    We knew that we would have to invest in Polyurethane technology at some time, so last year I took some time in evaluating the equipment and chemical vendors to see what equipment would be best for our market and what vehicle to use and then also which brand of Polyurethane was the best and what type of support the vendor provided.
    We bought a trailer-based unit with Graco equipment and partnered with NCFI – Terrathane on the chemical side. So far, we have been very happy with both decisions.
    Now we have a mud-jacking crew and a foam crew. We’re the biggest company in Central Texas that focuses on slab raising using cement slurry and foam. We give our clients the option for either product.
    There is obviously a cost differential between the two. The foam is more expensive but the process is a lot a cleaner and we can do interior work a lot easier.
    There are pros and cons to both systems.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

    Spending quality time with family is priority number one.
    Our family is very sports oriented and we enjoy watching, playing and attending multiple types of sporting events.
    I’m especially pleased that rugby is now a mainstream sport in the USA and that Austin has a professional rugby team.

Is there anything that has been meaningful to you, either professionally or personally, that you would like to share with our readers?
    One of the best quotes I heard from a mentor back in South Africa is, “You have one name, don’t throw it away!” I believe that if you have this in the back of your mind and apply it to both personal and business dealings you will do just fine.
    Concrete Raising Corporation is a commercial subcontractor providing trip hazard and slab raising and leveling services for both private and public projects in Central Texas. - ke

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net