Richard Manners owns Garden State Concrete in Tinton Falls with Robert Fell.
Question: When did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Manners: During my senior year in college, I spent a semester abroad. I had an internship for a large multinational bank. The position I had was in back office operations. I found working in that environment painfully dull. I knew then wanted to do something more exciting and challenging.
Q: Why did you start this business?
Manners: We are contractors as well. We found that our concrete crews were waiting around for hours for concrete to be delivered. The cost of having three or four masons standing around for a few hours is not insignificant. We felt this was a problem we could address though better customer service.
Q: Were there any challenges that made you think twice about striking out on your own?
Manners: I can’t say that there are any challenges that made me think twice about starting a business, but I can say that in retrospect I could have had a better appreciation for the time and commitment involved with running a business.
Q: If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
Manners: When we started Garden State Concrete, we started with only one truck. Having only one truck really limited our ability to service our customers. We now have two trucks, which gives us greater flexibility in delivering concrete on time and in the quantities our customers need.
Q: What’s the best business advice you have ever received?
Manners: One quote that comes to mind, from I believe Peter Drucker, is “whenever anything is being accomplished anywhere, it is being done by a monomaniac on a mission.” So I guess that boils down to keep your head down, have a singular focus and keep pushing.
Q: What personality trait helps you the most?
Manners: Without a doubt, perseverance. There is no substitute for hard work. Don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.
Q: What’s the hardest part of the job?
Manners: Finding the right employees. While our drivers are skilled and professional, not everyone understands the importance of exceptional customer service.
Q: What surprised you the most about running the business?
Manners: I was surprised by how many other contractors were having the same unsatisfying experience with their concrete supplier.
Q: Describe your most unusual customer, job or work experience.
Manners: We once had a customer order six yards of concrete. What they didn't tell us was that the concrete needed to be placed in 60 twelve-inch diameter sonotubes. Our driver and truck stayed on the job for four hours until the job was finished.
Q: How would you like the business to grow and change?
Manners: We recently added a second truck and driver. As the business grows, we would like to add a third.
Q: In one sentence, tell us why customers should go there.
Manners: Because we cater to the smaller contractors and homeowners, we spend more time on the phone helping them order the correct concrete mix and quantity.
Q: When you leave work, do you leave the office behind, or are you always in contact?
Manners: I am lucky that I have a partner, so when I am not available there is still someone looking after the business.
Q: What do you do in your off time?
Manners: I am a boat owner and enjoy fishing.
Q: When you leave the business behind some day, what will you do?
Manners: I don't know, it's hard to imagine what to do with that much free time.