The conversation this week starts with RADmix, the UHPC admix offered by Kodiak Pro, that has been on the “secret menu” for far too long - like Animal Style, RADmix is where it’s at. Then Brandon Browning of Modern Edge Concrete in Jackson, TN joins Brandon Gore and Jon Schuler to talk about the difficulties of being a one-man-shop, and tribalism in the concrete industry.
You can see more of Brandon Browning’s work and contact him via:
TRANSCRIPT: Brandon Browning, Modern Edge Concrete - RADmix and Tribalism in Concrete
Brandon Gore: Yo, yo, yo. That's your cue to say something back.
Jon: Are we still recording?
Brandon Gore: It's like, talking to my sister's kids or something over here.
Jon: What are you doing? All right. Let's start. We need that music intro so that we know that we're actually starting, like, is he talking to me? Is he talking to me? Is that my turn?
Brandon Gore: Who else am I talking to? It's just me and you. You ready?
Jon: Let's do it.
Brandon Gore: Yo, yo yo.
Jon: Hey, good morning. Good morning. Sound like you just woke me up.
Brandon Gore: Alright RADmix. RADmix is a product that is a phenomenal product that we haven't talked about a lot, but due to recent conversations on Facebook about the economics of Maker Mix pre-blended for a lot of companies, RADmix solves that problem. Do you want to talk that?
Jon: Yeah, absolutely. RADmix is a fantastic product. We have not focused this on a lot. I think our focus has been really on fully pre-blended materials, which, undeniably have their place. We've talked about the economics of it, which I totally understand some pushback based on those economics. A very, very viable alternative is RADmix.
Brandon Gore: What is RADmix?
Jon: Well, that's an even bigger question. Our focus has been on UHPC materials. We've had these on other podcasts, the idea that you're creating a mix, not just solely based on strength, for us is high density. With that high density, you get better color saturation. You're able to cast thinner, higher Flexural strengths. You know, all these things. Higher stain resistance. In this case, we're strongly into ICT for its natural kind of thing, what it does with the concrete reacting, with the concrete long term durability, scratch and wear. Where does RADmix fit in there? You know, there's plenty of companies out there that for one reason or another, and we can state a lot of them they're using sands that maybe have been part of their aesthetics for a very long time.
Or maybe they're using recycled glass and have been doing that for a long time. Gray Portland cement is maybe a big part of what they're using. Then ultimately some economics. We can wrap a whole lot of things into this. RADmix fits in because you can achieve, I would say within reason, pretty close similarities to what the fully blended materials have done taking into mind that the RADmix incorporates all the fine materials that goes into the UHPC design that Maker Mix is. It has your fine particle fills. Those are your really fine sands and there is four of them. All in your micron sizes. Your shrinkage reducers, and your defoamers. There's no secret around that Maker Mix, let's say, kicks very nicely. It doesn't sit around for four hours. It's got some kickers and some specific aluminates that are in Maker's Mix that are in the RADmix.
RADmix is a fantastic alternative. Somebody who wants to number one, even downsize all their admixtures, get the kind of workability that you can get within reason towards the Maker Mix, but using the admixture formulation.
Brandon Gore: I think customization for guys that want a lot more control over their mix. It's awesome. But you kinda hit on economics. We've had a couple customers in Canada in the last week, reach out about Kodiak Pro products for them, and we kind of ran some numbers on it. It does make sense financially for guys that are very, very price conscientious on their mix, which I get, that if time is not such a big factor in the equation of cost, which for a lot of guys, it isn't a huge factor. Then batching your own mix using RADmix and your own sands and your own Portland financially is very cost effective.
Jon: While still moving into a very superb product, end product is what I'm talking about. Meaning the concrete.
Brandon Gore: Exactly. Exactly. You're getting the benefits of Kodiak Pro technology using your own Portland and sands with a super high performance admixture that moves your product to a higher quality level for stain resistance, flexural, density, color, what would you call that color density?
Jon: I call that color saturation. Guys have found in their shops that they ended up using less pigment to get similar colors by increasing the density of their mix. That's what RADmix would do as well.
Brandon Gore: A lot of benefits of using the RADmix.
Jon: Yeah. Without even getting into slurry, most of us, including myself, I use RADmix. That's why I bring it in. I use it in my slurry formulas. It's a mix for a beautiful slurry, very creamy, dense slurry, fills quickly dries quickly. If don't know if we've done this on the podcast, but using ICT with the Maker Mix combo RADmix in my slurry, I'm casting on a Monday, processing, start the priming process, sealing on Tuesday and then finishing the cure of the concrete and then I'm ready for install with most things by Thursday with no problem at all. To achieve that, that's the combination of materials and why I'm doing it. We haven't talked about that end of efficiency either yet.
Brandon Gore: That's a whole other podcast, because there's a lot that goes into that. But yeah, it's a holistic family of products that all work well together that allow you to move through the process very quickly and end up with a very high-quality product.
Jon: Yeah, absolutely. There's no question, I think we need to focus or when I say focus, I mean get good information out on the idea. I think most people are all using admixtures of some sort. When I say admixtures, I mean, super this or whatever the case may be and they're doing it to achieve what they think is a performance in their concrete. RADmix would outperform everything along that kind of line, but still bridge a lot of that gap in the price argument, if you will.
Brandon Gore: That brings me to one other thing, Jon, is free samples because this has come up recently is there's been some people that have reached out to us that want us to send them free samples. We don't do that. The reason we don't do that is the materials that we use are very expensive. Our margins aren't that great in these products, meaning that we don't have a whole lot of profit built into them. We can't afford as a small company to send out products to guys, to test, but what we do offer, and so in the past, what's happened to me is I've wanted to test a product and they say, well, you have to buy five gallons of sealer. You have to buy a whole pallet of this to test it. I get that, but that's very, very prohibitive to test something.
But what we do have is we have Joe Bates who will sell you a single bags. You don't have to make this massive investment. You call Joe, you can get one bag, test it out, see if it works for you. Then at that point you can make the jump and buy a pallet of product for your mix.
Jon: I do have a different view. Other than the same about the economics of things is, which I totally understand, most people, especially in a small company, they don't get a view of what's going on behind the scenes to develop these kind of materials. I'm a believer in having some skin in the game. There's a reason that I don't give sealer out for free. Over the years I've had plenty. Hey, well, send me some and I want to try it. Then as just happened a couple weeks ago, when I was trying some new things with some vendors, and this is an ongoing thing, especially now with COVID raw materials not being available or can't get etc, is you can go down a rabbit hole as a small manufacturer and blow through $10,000 of your investment. Because you had to fix something.
Then someone wants you to send them something for free. You sent it, which I have done in the past under the idea that they were going to give you feedback.
But then you don't hear from them for four weeks. Turns out that that sample they got it in it sat on their shelf. It didn't go anywhere. Then ultimately quite frankly, it boils down to, I get my feelings hurt. Like wait a minute. So no that is not my thing. I am so confident in the ability of these materials. I am so beyond confident on what they can achieve and how they can achieve it, that going out and having to prove it to somebody anymore for me is, is just not in my wheelhouse. It's not. Hasn't been for a very long time.
Brandon Gore: I get that. I get both sides of it. As a company myself, I've wanted to try things in the past and I wanted it for free. Of course you want it for free. Hey, send it to me for free. But you're right. If I didn't pay for it, I don't have a whole lot of value or I don't see that sample as valuable and I'm not in a hurry to test it. I don't know, just whatever, it's free. If I paid for that sample, well now I'm actually going to try it. I'm going to test it. I have some, as you say, skin in the game, and I'm much more likely to actually give it a go and evaluate it and see if it's something I want to use. Because I paid for it.
Jon: When people have reached out to me, let's say the first time they're moving to ICT for whatever reasons they were moving to it, they purchase a quart or in this, now with the new Prime they purchase these things, they get it into their hands. They run it. Maybe, they use it based on whatever type of methods that they're used to. But I can tell you when they paid for it, if they don't achieve the results that they were hoping for, good, bad, or otherwise, even it was if it was better results than what they were hoping for. I get feedback. I get the phone call and that to me is huge. That's what I look for. What I don't want is to send something to somebody and then I never hear from them again, whether it was good, bad, or otherwise I'm going to say, I don't want to sound like a jerk about it, but that's a big no for me.
I mean that is a fantastic conversation. The part of all of this, probably with any company, there was a comment made to me not long ago by a person and the comment I'm paraphrasing, the comment was along the lines of, hey, I make money off my clients, not off my concrete brothers or something like that. I'm not going to say I took that overly personal. But there was a side of me that hit along that comment being made. One way I understand it, but then I just wanted to fall back along lines we've talked about before would be alright well, what materials are you getting and who are you purchasing it from? Some major conglomerate, some massive company, or are you purchasing materials from people in this niche industry? People have, put their heart and soul, their finances and time on the line to bring some amazing things based on that experience for everybody to use and then supporting them along that path. See, I'm a big proponent of supporting.
Brandon Gore: Absolutely. Yeah. It's like buying from your local farmer's market versus buying from Walmart. If you're buying your products from Lafarge or Quikrete or any other company like that, you're supporting a big corporation, but if you're buying products from Kodiak Pro, you're supporting guys actually do this for a living in the industry that you're in, and who are actually probably one of the only companies pushing to develop new and better ways of doing things new and better products. It's one of those things like, yeah, you want to support the industry that you're working in and the guys in that industry and not a mega corporation. What else Jon?
Jon: Well, no, along the line of RADmix. Well, there's two things. Brandon is a one man show. Love to have that conversation with him and let's talk RADmix with it. I think he uses the admixes and stuff and see how those things make…
Brandon Gore: Awesome. Brandon Browning in Jackson, Tennessee, let's get him on the phone. Yo BB, you there?
Brandon Browning: I'm here. There you go.
Jon: Hey Brandon, how's it going?
Brandon Gore: Where are you at?
Brandon Browning: I'm in Jackson, Tennessee.
Brandon Gore: Yeah, so the whole format of the podcast really is just a conversation, more or less. Is there something that you want to talk about that's on your mind, like something of interest to you or something that you've recently struggled with or found success in?
Brandon Browning: I mean, there's always struggles. Right now I'm struggling trying to figure out how to run a business, by myself. I have no employees and I'm trying to get big projects out by myself, but that's just overcoming hurdles. That's part of owning a small business. But I mean, I've been working with the newer version of, ICT that Jon's been working with and the new Primer.
Brandon Gore: Prime.
Brandon Browning: Yeah the Prime. I mean, like just trying to dial it in, trying to figure out my way, Because I've been with ICT or, I've been with the whole system since it was ICT and the whole 15 step process. That's one thing whenever I first started my business was, find something that works and be good at it. Through the years have seen how the ICT system is evolved into something so much better than it used to be, and not having hardly any issues compared to 12 years ago, trying to reinvent it every time I put it on.
Brandon Gore: I think ICT is a great conversation we can hop into in a bit. But I like the idea of talking about being a single person company and the struggles you face with that. Maybe some solutions or things that make it easier. Because I personally, I went from having six employees to three employees and two employees to one employee forever, and now I'm down to just me.
Jon: I'm in the same boat. Three us are paddling in the same direction.
Brandon Gore: I built my shop in the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, like an idiot and I can't find good help to save my life. Like it just doesn't exist. In Phoenix I'd put an ad up and I'd get 200 responses in an hour that we're all phenomenal. In Arkansas, I put up an ad, I get one response after three weeks from somebody that's weighing, do I want to work here or work at a chicken house? I don't know? It's like bro, you don't get it.
Brandon Browning: My thing is, you have resources for outsourcing help. But the thing is they're not consistent. If you do a temp agency, one, you're reaching into a dark bag and you don't know what you're going to pull out or what they're going to send you. Then you have to deal with re-training somebody every other day or every other week or however long you need them and not knowing if they even have that knowledge or care to do what you need them to do.
Brandon Gore: I'm very security minded. Having a stranger in my shop that I don't know, I don't like that. I don't like somebody coming to my up that I don't trust as a person. You know? Temp agencies, I've never actually even used one. I have buddies that have construction companies that use temp guys all the time, but it's always like, yeah, you'll, get 10 temp guys and one will work out. Another nine show up for the first day. Don't show up the second day they just walk off the job site, you kick them off the job site. I'm like I didn't even want to go down that road.
Brandon Browning: I've never used them either just for that simple fact, that whole fact right there, and then I'm so OCD with everything I do. Just because I've developed it to a point where I know how things flow and I don't want people coming in here trying to change that. Somebody coming in here and me having to babysit them. I don't want to have to babysit somebody. I want them to be able to come in here, take direction and get it done.
Jon: What shop, are you working out of? I mean, are you again, one of the guys outta your home, you have 2,000 square ft?`
Brandon Browning: No, I've got a 5,000 square foot shop.
Jon: Oh, there you go. You've got plenty of room to take on big projects.
Brandon Browning: Me and Michael took on that big bar project last year. I mean, we spent three months just in my shop building forms. They were stacking up.
Brandon Gore: Michael Karmody.
Brandon Browning: Yeah
Brandon Gore: For that project, you guys did plaster forms, correct? Is that what you did?
Brandon Browning: We did plaster. We really went through about two years ago, I got offered this job and took the bid on and really, my mindset in the concrete world is there's no job, that's undoable. It's just finding the right tools to do it. You know, I tell everybody I'll try anything once. I took this job on not really grasping the whole aspect of how massive this project was going to be and what was really being asked of me. I took it on and then the closer it got to it, I just in my head just thinking, how am I going to pull it off? Every time I thought about it, Michael came to my mind. I've known Michael for a long time and have always really admired him and his knowledge.
I mean, you sit down with Michael and you'll talk about concrete non-stop, and you'll walk away from it being like I thought I knew something about concrete. We got into it. First we started thinking, we'd do like a foam mold. Then that was just too costly for the size of that bar. Started looking at some stuff that Buddy had done years ago and looking at some other videos on YouTube and he's like, let's try plaster. Neither one of us knew anything about plaster. Didn't know how it reacted, like it's similar to concrete, but we found out real quick that it's completely a different beast than concrete is altogether.
Collaborating with him then getting him to my shop was a real cool experience. Just building sample forms and everything in my shop. He did a lot of the computer work that was involved in it. I mean, without his computer knowledge that job, would've would've never gotten to where it did.
Jon: Just so people listening, when you're talking plaster, I can't even remember. I mean, you're talking, you pulled plaster for the, I'm going to call it the bull nose.
Brandon Browning: It had two big curves on each end of it. It was a 16 inch radius bull nose that fell down underneath. Then we had to incorporate into that same form, an area that was recessed for under lighting, for lighting built in lighting which was the beast of the whole project. Once we figured out how to do the curve, the curve was fine. It was easy. It was building the form work for that lighting underneath.
Brandon Gore: Did you end up just doing foam to create that knockout?
Brandon Browning: We did foam, but we also had to incorporate that same knock out and a lot of framework for the actual inside of the bull nose. But I mean, the thing was trying to keep down cost and keep down weight too. That bull nose all the way around there is right at or a little bit under one inch thick. There's no full thickness anywhere. I mean the whole thing was one inch, which was really, to architects and stuff that were on site really blew their mind, how we could do all that and never lay a single piece of metal in our framework, and be comfortable with it the way it is. Because most people, when they see stuff like that, they think, well you're going to lay ladder wire and metal conduit and whatever to give yourself some structure, but all of ours was fiber filled.
Brandon Gore: Is there a reason why you didn't do it cast in place? Because that's Karmody's method of choice.
Brandon Browning: It was kind of a hybrid. It was kind of a hybrid. Because it was cast in place. We just built forms offsite.
Jon: That's what I remember. I remember you guys you made all those brought them in. Yeah. and then dialed it in on site. That was my question, on a bull nose that deep at that thickness that had to be a challenge, getting the mix to drop down in there effectively. I mean, one of the things, because I do quite a bit of cast in place is your big fear that you're going to pull that mold and have a big oh my God, how did we not get mix in that spot?
You know what I mean? How'd you guys handle that challenge?
Brandon Browning: Well in the design process of it for the actual recess or the part that was taken away from the concrete, we had little, I think four inch gaps in between each section so that when we put our outer mold up to substrate that there was groups or just voids in between all the way, all the way around. We pretty much took Dixie cups. You think on a 80 foot span, six people with five gallon buckets, pour a Dixie cup at a time in that thing all the way down, because we had to make it rise. We had to make it all rise at the same time, at the same level until it got to the top. That was about a three hour process. But the cool thing was is the owners, the contractors, everybody was on site for this because it really gave them a really big appreciation for all the work that had been going on.
Just because they were really pushing us to get it, get it finished. But I mean, we were doing this in the heat of COVID. We were battling getting Michael back and forth from, from home to Memphis and trying to coordinate, getting everything built on site at the same time. But they came in, they pretty much watched the whole process. A few of them came in architects, a couple of the owners and they actually got in there and got dirty too. And helped us feel this big, massive bull nose. That was a cool experience just to see people wanting to participate. It got Michael super excited over that too. But yeah, it was definitely an experience and then, the next day coming in and crossing all of our fingers going, I swear, I hope we don't have a big bubble in the middle of this thing, the size of a football.
Brandon Gore: You know, I remember Karmody, he's like the concrete Yoda this guy. Years ago, I had to put in a 13 foot erosion sink in the back of a house. It had to get craned over, dropped into a courtyard, wheeled in and put on a countertop, all super tight quarters to get this 13 foot erosion sink. I called Karmody. He was at a bar. He's always at a bar when you call him. I called him, he's at bar drinking. I said, dude, I got to get this sink in. It weighs like 800 pounds. He is like, oh, it's light. You know, because for Karmody 800 pounds is like lightweight. I'm freaking out. I'm like, dude, I don't know how to do it. I don't know like how I'm going to get it down the hallway. This is what he says, “the problem is the source of the solution.”
I was like, what the fuck does that mean? He's like, I'll do a sketch. I'll send it to you. He sketched this cart design that he had on a napkin at the bar and he took a screenshot and sent it to me and it was genius. It was genius. He is such a smart guy. So intelligent. One of the smartest guys I’ve ever met in my life, but just in general, he is such an intelligent person and I love Karmody. He's a good guy. Well, back to being a single man shop. What are the challenges you faced? Is it mixing, placing, flipping all of that and how do you work around it?
Brandon Browning: I mean, it's all the above. I mean, it's all the way from the fabricating part of it to juggling multiple projects at the same time, because I have four tables in my shop, so I've got different projects on all these tables, but with me I'm severe ADD so on top of OCD and God knows what else. But trying to decide which project out of all the important projects takes priority, and then knowing that, okay, this one's got to be, I need to get this one on the table, but this one needs to get batched out. This one needs to be getting poured today. This one needs to be getting, grouted and grinded and sealed and finished. When you're a one person shop, you've got to rotate that. You've got to merry go round that and try to make it as efficient as possible without getting yourself behind in work.
Brandon Gore: I wrote down a list here. Let's just go through each bullet point and discuss how you approach that as a single man shop. Same with you, Jon, how do you approach it? Number one is forming when you're forming by yourself. What are some things that you do to let you do that as a one man shop?
Jon: Well, I was just doing that yesterday and I'm going to finish it up today. I don't know, to me it's pretty simple. I'm just, melamine because of the, of course, I guess ultimately it depends on what the project is. My pouring self-consolidating, but the one coming up is more of a DustyCrete kind of look. That one's pretty simple, pretty quick and easy. It's a vanity back splash, broken edges. That's pretty simple. As opposed to, I think we've had this conversation. Although I did break it out yesterday. I brought out my battery Festool track saw, which I don't use very often because I use a table saw and I'm just used to it. That to me is pretty simple, pretty simple, pretty efficient. Although, how about you, Brandon?
Brandon Browning: Yeah, I mean, as far as fabricating, that part of it is easy as long as I can focus on that one thing and, get it knocked out. If it's a big project, I start on it, I get it to the point where I can't do anything else to it until I'm done with this. Then I go back to it.
Brandon Gore: But people that don't know you, as me and Jon were talking earlier, I told Jon, you're like ‘The Mountain’ on Game of Thrones. You know, you're this huge dude. Moving around 75 pound sheets of melamine for you, isn't a big deal, but there's a lot of guys out there that aren't your size and strength. That is more problematic. Me being one of them. I'm not some huge guy. What I'd say is being a one man shop, a track saw makes all the difference in the world for form building and pocket screws, because I can safely cut down the sheet of melamine to the parts that I need without pushing it through a table saw that could kick back on me. Then I can assemble the form by myself using pocket screws, because more or less once I get one in it's holding itself up and I can just go down the line and put the rest of the parts in.
That's how I kind of get around it where I used to have a table saw and two or three guys that could help maneuver stuff around.
Brandon Browning: Then, back to the melamine side of it, it being heavy. Depending on where you get your supplies. Home depots and Lowes. I used to do this a lot too, and I've gotten to where I don't. But you can also get them to rip your melamine. Then once you get in your shop, you can actually move it around a little bit more. I mean, you can rip it in half or you can rip it in four ways. Whatever you need to make it easier for you to move around. But like you said, the track saw, I bought one of those last year when we did that project. I mean I used all the time. I love it. It was an investment choice that was really hard to make, but I'm glad I made it. Just because I got to the point where I was like, I need it. Michael had one. Then when he would go home, I wouldn't have it in the shop. I just broke down and bought my own.
Brandon Gore: Forming is the first thing, the next thing is mixing. You're a one man shop. How do you accomplish mixing concrete, especially in mass if you're doing a big project by yourself?
Brandon Browning: I pretty much stage everything out. I have a room in the back of my shop that's for nothing but mixing. All my materials are all in that area. I set all my buckets out, batch out. I do my Portland, I do my mix, my admixes so on and so forth and have it all ready to go. I have it all laid out beside my mixer. If I'm doing a big project, it's rat race, because I'm trying not to, I don't want my mix to sit in my mixer too long. Because I do a lot of GRC spray, so I don't want my face coat to get dried out. I'm having to really run around my shop.
Brandon Gore: What kind of mixer are you using?
Brandon Browning: I've got the IMER 120.
Brandon Gore: Yeah, that's great for one man. Because you can mix up to what? How many pounds in that at a time?
Brandon Browning: If I wanted to, I could probably get about 300 pounds in it. I've easily gotten, let's say what 1, 2, 3, well, so four bags, four to six bags total and then you're water and everything. You know, if I'm using the pre-blend, which that's what I'm using is pre-blend. So what is that 300, 400 pounds? If I'm doing an SCC, you can push it even further. Yeah, if I'm doing an ECC, I try not to put over 250 in it just because that thing will bog down. Doing that GFRC or an SCC mix. I mean I can get, I can get some heavy loads in there.
Brandon Gore: You stage everything up and you have your IMER 120 going and you're able to just kind of get a rhythm down to it's mixing while you're doing this. When you're done with that, you come over here and you dump it and you load it again and keep going. You just kinda get that rhythm.
Brandon Browning: And with the GFRC spray, what I do is I have basically I have a full load in my IMER dry, ready to go with the water sitting beside it. Because I'm doing a spray face coat is I'll separate 25, 50 pounds, depending on the size of my project. I'll separate 20 or 50 pounds to mix individually in a five gallon bucket. That way I can pour that. I've got a rack set up for my gun so I can set my gun in my rack for my mix into my gun, pick it up, start spraying.
Same time, because I don't want my face to get dried out, I'll wait until I'm almost done with my spraying my face before I go over and dump in my water and turn my mixer on. That way I don't over mix it, but I don't let my face dry either.
Brandon Gore: I don't miss those days, man.
Brandon Browning: Well, I mean, everyone's like, you need to SCC pour. I was like, I know, but it's almost like I don't want to lose that. You know, it took me a while to figure that out, figure that spray out and I don't want to lose it because I love the art of it. I love that whole process.
Brandon Gore: I used to love it. I loved it. Then I came to hate it. I mainly came to hate it because at one point in Arizona, I started doing a lot more production work to where we had to make 20 of something. The problem with that type of thing is there's no consistency among 20 pieces. It's just too much chaos in the sprayed finish. SCC, if I'm making 20 sinks for ASU, all 20 sinks look exactly the same where my spray and hand packed two or three looked like this two or three looked like that. This one has a sandy corner, this one, the face coat de-laminated. We had to do a little bit of slurry on it. They were all too inconsistent to do production. But it is what it is. It definitely serves a purpose. Jon, for you mixing, what are you doing?
Jon: Same, 120+. It's quick, it's efficient, bang, bang, bang. It knocks out. Right now, if you looked at my shop, I have four mixers from those days of a lot of cast in place and I'm getting ready to sell one of my older 240’s for that reason because the 120+ in the shop does everything for me now. Per this conversation as I moved down to a one man show, good for you, Brandon, I'm not taking on big projects anymore. All my stuff now is, vanities at the most, maybe four to five bag mixes kind of idea. They're pretty simple, meaning from a mixer point of view, and then people would laugh. I don't even have a compressor with the capacity because I never got into GFRC. I mean, I saw the steps of that and I'm like, man, there's no way. I mean, comparatively speaking, I have one of those portables. That's the most I have to take on job sites and that's it.
I never invested in all that stuff that makes it pretty easy for what I'm doing anyway. It works for me.
Brandon Gore: Brandon Browning, what are you using right now as far as mix goes?
Brandon Browning: I'm using Portland sand and then use the Ultrasealz, I do the 1210 polymer. I mean, it's just kind of a basic mix, but it's something that's always worked for me. I know Dusty, keeps on saying, you got to try this mix (Maker Mix). You got to try this mix. I'm like, dude but I've got a pallet of white Portland in my shop. I can't just set it to the side, but it's just, it's the mix that's dialed in. It, of those things with me, I'm just, I find something that works and I stick with it. I get nervous to try to change too much because I'm scared to feel like I'm going to start back over.
Brandon Gore: I agree a hundred percent what I would say in regards to the mix that you're using and there's nothing wrong with it because I used a very similar mix for a long time. Two things. A, is product obsolescence. There's going to be a time, at least so I've heard, that some of the products you're using won't be available any longer. They're moving away from selling those products, that company. Number two is if you ever get a chance from Dusty, if you're down there, pick up a bag or two from him and play with it. Just the density of Maker Mix versus what you're using right now. It's a lot different as Dusty will tell you, it's way denser than what he was using before. How that translates to your clients is it's much more stain resistant and the sealer itself. ICT reacts a lot better with Maker Mix than it does with scratch mixes per se.
Brandon Browning: Right? Well, every time I go and we hang out for the weekend or for a day or two, we get to talking or drinking and then I forget to even get the bag. But I mean, that's always been the plan. Every time I go down there, it's like, I got to get a bag of that. Then he is like, yeah, you can get a bag. then I go down there and drink too much and forget about it.
Jon: The same thing along the materials line. Because I was just listening to your batching and etc. I don't think we've talked about it a whole lot, but we do. Kodiak has the admixture that has all the, let's say the finer ingredients in there. If you're sitting on as a person, is sitting on a pallet of the federal white or white cement and your sands, and I totally understand that 100%. Because you mentioned at least the powdered polymer that you were using, which is, a few of us could attest to some of the challenges with that particular ingredient, where the other one does not have that. That to me would be, finding the happy place with something that even you could adjust a little bit to find your happy place would be your similar to what you're doing. You're already using in an admix. You're really happy with your mix, the sand you're using. The cement, etc. I would say when you get to that point, I think you find it pretty simple to swap out a single admixture that incorporates the three or four ingredient combination that you're using as an admixture now. That might be the simplest approach.
Brandon Browning: That may be, better thing too. I mean, I like the tear bag and go thing too, especially, if it does get to the point where I have people in here that don't have the knowledge of reading a piece of paper and doing what it says. If I can just say, just, I need two bags of this, three bags, whatever it makes it easier. But if it's cheaper for me to do the admix that may be something that we need to look into in the future, and maybe move forward on that,
Jon: If you've got a pallet worth of white cement. You ought to just give the admixture a shot, bring that in for what you're doing. I can tell you, I mean, without changing a darn thing, the first thing that's going to happen with RADmix is you're going to get a much better workability in a, much more efficient and where you're at at the moment. Just to begin with whether we're talking dollars and cents, that's going to move you forward. Ultimately that may be as far as you want to go. That's I mean, seriously, seriously. Because that's just something we don't focus on enough really talking about the RADmix, but that mix, I mean, just a, from an admixture, point of view, man, I'm telling you, you switch those out, you're going to see your, your Plasticizer use drop. Your water drop. It's easier to mix. It's easier again, from a one man show point of view, that's what I'm talking about because that is what I'm doing. Hence, I got the experience using it and that's why I'm doing it.
I mean, I got a question for you, Brandon. I'm going to go BB Browning. You know one man show you got a sizable shop projects going on. You're trying to find balance. We talked about mixers and this and that. If I'm not mistaken, you just got married recently. Didn't you?
Brandon Browning: Well, I'm about to get married. Yes.
Jon: How are you striking that balance?
Brandon Browning: Very carefully. Very carefully. I've still got to run my business. Between being married and running my business, just making sure I keep somebody happy. That you we talking about?
Jon: One of the other issues that comes up a lot when we're talking to guys is I'm going to call it burnout, right? You're in your shop X hours a day, you're focused on these kind of things. Then you have personal life going on. I know for me anyway, before long, you find yourself running down this rabbit hole of like I don't want it. I don't want to be a part of this or that. What is it in your private life that you find keeps you motivated in what
Brandon Browning: I think it's the people I surround myself with more than anything. You know, she's super supportive of what I do. My parents are super supportive of it. You know, it's having that network of people around you, that always tell you, how awesome your work is. Even whenever you're in days where you're like, I'm tired of this. I want to go home. I don't want to work today. You got 15 contractors going, where's my stuff. At the end of the day one, you still got to keep your business rolling. I've still got a family that I've got to provide for. But having that support group and them, pushing me along and keeping me motivated. I mean, that's a big thing. There's some people out there, that don't have that, and, you can find yourself in a slump. I was there. I was there a couple of years ago when I went through my divorce four years ago. I went through a slump where I was like, I don't even give a shit anymore. I'm not one to quit either.
I want to be the best at what I do. Well, I want to put good products out there. I just try to stay focused and put as much positive in as possible, even when everything's going bad, because I've taken something that people 12 years ago told me, I was crazy because I was in the middle of the economy downfall. I didn't know what I was doing. I tell people all the time when I first started doing concrete, I didn't know how to mix concrete. I didn't know what was in concrete, but I've taught myself through the years to make sure that if I was going to do it, I'm going to do it the best I can. But, back to your question. I think having an awesome support group for those bad days is definitely, what's got me through some of my rough times.
Jon: Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah, I'm the same. I find getting outside my box is what I call it, my comfort zone. I go back into designing things, or, I mean, when I really start hitting a slump, what I got to do is just break away and then do a bunch of cocaine.
Brandon Browning: I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, bury your face in some white Portland, you'll be good to go. I talked to Dusty, a lot of people know me and Dusty might as well be brothers, but I talk to him all the time and he is like, we have our days. We're like, I don't want to be here. And sometimes you do have to push yourself away from it and give yourself a day or two. It doesn't matter if you're as busy as you've ever been. If your head's not in it, you're not going to do quality work. You do have to push yourself away and you have to take a step back and say, I need to go fishing or play golf or whatever, so that I can clear my head to come back and give the clients that I'm working for, what they pay for.
Jon: On that note, being a one man show, have you done anything unique to keep the shop full? Either a marketing perspective or...
Brandon Browning: I hadn't here lately, I've done some stuff around Jackson area. My, thing is I do a lot of stuff in Memphis, which is 35 minutes away for me. 95% of my work is in Memphis. I probably do 5% in Jackson and that's kind of a hit and miss, but I don't do a lot of advertising. I've kind of fallen off of the whole social media thing. Talk about burnout. I get burnout on social media. I mean, I feel like, you've got 15 different directions to do social media now. It's like, I don't even know which one I should be posting my stuff on it anymore. Social media through the years has been, a key way for me to get my name out. Here in the last six months, I've gotten more work off of Instagram from people that have seen me in Memphis, off of Instagram than anywhere. I get a lot of word of mouth because I've done it for so long.
A lot of my contractors and architects and return business. I get a lot of return business, But all of these people refer me to new clients or to new designers, whatever. But I think, I don't know. I want to say maybe Brandon that said it, I've heard him say it before, or I don't know who said it, but I've always had, in my mind, you do a shitty job, they'll tell 20 people. You do a good job. They'll tell 10. I try to make sure I do the best job I can so I don't get that bad rap. I have a ton of people that refer me on a daily basis.
Brandon Gore: Something about social media and you Brandon, not that this has to do with advertising, but just Facebook and all of this stuff. Me and Jon, kind of talk about this privately, is the tribalism in this industry in the way there's different camps and trash talking. People trying to tear other people down, either to build themselves up or just to try to hurt other people's business or whatever. It's not unique to this industry. I mean, I have friends in all kinds of industries and it doesn't matter what business you're in. There's that type of tribalism, it just exists. we're not unique in concrete, but it still exists. it's still one of those things that is kind of unfortunate.
But years ago on Facebook, a certain group of guys started bashing Dusty. Bashing his aesthetic. I remember you got on there and said, “hey guys, no reason to talk shit. We can meet up and throw fist and sort this out.” Every one of those guys is like, oh, hey, no, we're just joking around. I'm playing. I think some of them called you up personally and apologized. But I love that about you, your dedication and loyalty to your friend Dusty. That's rare these days. It's super rare to have a friend that will go to bat for you. Everybody's so afraid of putting their neck on the line, but you're like, hey, screw you. You're not going to talk trash. I'm not going to let it slide. I respect that.
Brandon Browning: Years ago, back when I started in concrete, it wasn't like that. Not that I could see. I mean, it seemed like everybody was there to help everybody battle through whatever problem they were having. Then as years go on it did start getting cliquey and nichey. Then now you got this group and that group and this group, and then this group just talks about peoples shit, but doesn't help anybody. I got away from all that. That was one of those things I pushed away from because if you know me, if you've been around me, I'm a loyal person, I'm a loyal person to people that are loyal and friends to me. If you're in my circle, then you're part of my family and that's how I've always been. Dusty and I see eye to eye. We both are on that same wavelength. I've heard people ask me before, y'all should get in together. Well, I still don't think you should work with family either. He'd probably say the same thing.
Brandon Gore: Well, yeah, about tribalism, because this is a topic of conversation that me and Jon have been wanting kind of breach in a way and there's really no good way to breach it. It exists in every industry. Me and him try not to perpetuate any of that. You know, in our classes, and you've been in our classes, when that kind of topic of conversation comes up, we make it a point to shut it down and say, hey, whoever you're talking about, we like those guys. They do good work. There's no place in our class to kind of get that going. We try our best not to perpetuate it. But we would actually like to see it come to an end. I mean, we want it to be the way it was when we first started, where we're all in this together and we're all trying to help each other.
Unfortunately as time goes on and whether it's ego or people are trying to get a competitive advantage in business, whatever it is, there has become animosity and kind of this infighting and divisions. It doesn't have to be that way. You can use this product or you can use this method or you can be friends with this guy and that has nothing to do with me and you. We're still cool. Like there's no reason for us to not like each other because you use a different product of you’re friends with a certain person.
Jon: Yeah. That's the other part of it. What we're calling the tribalism at the end of the day, there's so much of this social media platforms that I think that's part of it. All of us act different when we get around each other because you get the human side. You're looking at, someone's face, you get, the dynamics and body language and etc. I think too often, what happens to any of us, if we really, even you stand in front of the mirror and look at ourselves is when you read something, it's like a text, right? When you read this text or in this case, somebody posts something somewhere. The words that play in your head oftentimes come across based on whatever emotional state you are in that moment. Like, why is this guy being a jerk to me, man, what's this all about? And maybe they were joking, but in your head when you read it, didn't come across that way. Then quite frankly, if that joke comes across in some way, hurting my business or hurting my income or whatever the case may be, whether you intended it or not, that then becomes personal. You know, you take it personal and that's the difficulty with so much of this kind of stuff.
Brandon Gore: Well, I think what Jon talked about too, right there is you're right a lot of people might be joking around, but that joking around, if it affects your income, it does become personal because you have kids Jon, I have kids, Brandon, you have kids. If somebody's saying something that directly affects your ability to take care of your family, that's a personal thing. I think too much of the time people make these offhand comments to try to throw you under the bus, jokingly, not understanding like, hey, your jokes have real world implications to my ability to take care of my little girls.
Brandon Browning: Depending on what platform they're using to do their joke, depends on if the public see it or if it just your co peers see it. If it's a platform where it's public to the public and it's a knock at your business, then it does directly affect more than just you. It affects your family. It affects your business. That's one of the downfalls of social media
Jon: Agreed a hundred percent. I mean, it has a butterfly effect. It is the way it is. I can't remember who, well, actually I do. I'm just not going to use the name. There was some comments made by a person, same thing. I called him privately afterwards, but in a sealer conversation. I mean, obviously I've been involved with sealers for many years jokingly, but this joke was put in just in my opinion, the wrong time came out. Like, Jon doesn't know what he's talking about. Don't follow this and etc. I was like, wait a minute, man. That's when I called, like, you realize that may have been a joke, but that's where you ended it. There was nothing beyond that conversation. If that stops somebody from ever investigating my technology and the kind of chemistry I offer, you just put a big black mark on my business. That's how I feed my family. Then I internalized it and it became very personal. Which then makes you want to lash out. That's something I've dealt with for years.
Brandon Gore: The last thing on my list here, one man shop is flipping pieces. How do you accomplish flipping a big island or whatever by yourself?
Brandon Browning: I mean, for the most part, I mean, some of my pieces, I mean, I've got gantries over my tables. For the most part sometimes I don't like using those. But I've got a lot of friends. I have certain ones I can call and be like, hey you in the area, I need to flip this dude. 90% of the time they'll be here in 20 minutes and help me move it, help me flip it over. I've even got a couple of guys now, a couple of my friends that work different shifts during the week. I've gotten to where they help me do installs. I set my installs up according to their schedule. I don't have them schedule their stuff around me. I schedule myself around them. And it's worked out good.
I know there's going to come a time where I'm going to get to the point where I just don't want to do it all by myself. Hopefully this whatever's going on right now will lift. There'll be people that want to work and get somebody in here and train them. I had a guy up until the first of summer I had a guy that's been with me for two and a half years. He was in his mid fifties and I mean, I could not have found a better employee. But he was just to the point where he was, kind of getting that he was wanting to do something different. He was getting a little bit older, the weight, he was tired of the heavy lifting all the time. He found a job that accommodated that. You can't be mad at somebody, for bettering themselves, but you still have to push forward and keep your business going. However that may be. That's, what I'm doing right now. Just trying to adapt to my situation.
Brandon Gore: Well, a forklift, do you have a forklift?
Brandon Browning: I don't have a forklift now. I've got like the guys next to me. They do. I have used their forklift a little bit. The thing with my shop is if I am doing big pieces, I can't really use a forklift because my ceilings are only 12 foot. If I do get something really big, a forklift's not going to work because it's going to hit the top rafters before I get it completely vertical. It kind of presents a problem too. I mean, I have the same problem with gantries too, but I mean, I've gotten really good at sliding. You know, we slid a 7’ by 12’ island off the edge of my table onto the floor, flipped it and then put it back on the table. I mean, if you think of it, you sit back, it may take you two days.
For me, sometimes it takes me three days to be like, I've still got to flip that thing. How am I going to do it? I mean, just you think about it, I call Dusty. Call your peers and be like, look, I got this to do, how am I going to do it? Because I don't have a forklift or I don't have the room to flip it, with a gantry crane and find that, figure it out. Find that idea and bounce those ideas until you do come up with the concept that works. I mean, we've done that a few times, and it works.
Brandon Gore: The good thing about a forklift is in my opinion, because I had a forklift and then I got rid of it. Then I got another one. For what I'd pay an employee, you can buy a forklift pretty quick Because labor's one of your biggest expenses. You pay an employee 20 bucks an hour. It doesn't take very long for that to add up where you buy a used forklift. But a forklift, it offers so many opportunities to work by yourself for what you're saying there, so many times I have torsion box tables, but they're separate from the base that I cast on. But I've used the forklift to pick up the table that I cast on, set it down on the ground to flip it because ergonomically it's way easier to flip a piece that's on the ground than it is 36 inches up in the air.
Then we don't even need the forklift because now we can pull it out. We can lift it, use it essentially our legs to lift with and flip it up and over and then use the forklift to pick up the whole torsion box again and put it back on the table base. There you go. We did it safely and nobody was in danger of being hurt or you can lower it down and then hook straps to it, use the forklift to flip it. But either way I think a forklift is a really, really good tool that when it makes sense to buy one, it definitely makes life easier.
Brandon Browning: For sure. I joke with Dusty all the time about his. I tell him, I'm just waiting for him to buy a new one so he can give this old one to me.
Brandon Gore: Well, is there anything else you want to talk about Brandon?
Brandon Browning: I think we covered a lot. Don't really know anything else I could talk about.
Brandon Gore: Alright, Brandon. Well, it's been a pleasure talking to you, buddy.
Brandon Browning: Man. It's been fun. It's been fun. I'm glad we did it. Glad you reached out to me.
Brandon Gore: We'll catch up again soon.