Adobe Stock / Greg Pickens

My wife and I recently traveled to America’s Final Frontier to participate in an event hosted by Alaska’s Department of Transportation. There I delivered a presentation on finishing concrete, and another one on leadership. It was an honor to accept Statewide QA Engineer, Rich Giessel’s invitation and to meet their Commissioner, Marc Luiken. We were extremely impressed with their team’s informative Asphalt and Concrete Summit and we deeply appreciated their gracious hospitality!

I feel strongly that a couple of the ideas I covered in the Summit are worthwhile sharing here, with you. Namely, what people look for in a finisher, and, the most important traits finishers possess.

What are people looking for in a finisher? Contractors are looking for dependable, reliable, knowledgeable craftsmen who have a solid work ethic. Any finisher worth their salt will show up early to the jobsite and stay late, they will pull their weight, and they will solve problems -- not cause problems. Plain and simple, quality finishers take pride in a job well done and they focus on consistently producing superior work.

Perhaps even more importantly, “Who exactly” are the best finishers? Here are the personal characteristics, comprising the best finishers.

For starters, second-generation finishers have an edge on most of the crew. Why? They grew up with special insights into our industry, knowing all about the rigors of finishing concrete ahead of time. Concrete is the underpinning of their identity, and they often have a family reputation to uphold. Since concrete is in their blood, they can have a deeper love for our work. They have more skin in the game and therefore they give their heart and soul fully to our industry.

Another trait that enables one to be a better finisher is an appreciation for detail. Someone who avoids leaving chatter marks, can keep their edger flat, will hand tool straight joints, and really knows how to crisp up a wall-line, that individual is an invaluable resource on any crew. I can’t stand sloppy screeding, neglected cold-joints, or bullfloating that leaves duck ponds. People who successfully pay attention to the smallest of details as they finish concrete are not perfectionists, they are artisans worth their weight in gold.

Also, having a strong desire to precisely master our unique skillset is a necessary trait. People who get bored or are impatient with learning our trade, they need not apply. I’ll be 50 in April and I’m still learning. I still enjoy mastering new skills, even at times when I think that I’ve covered all my bases. Our trade often evolves in spurts, and when new methods/equipment becomes available, I can’t wait to learn more!

Additionally, I explained that the best finishers know how to ride the “Pain Train.” Placing and finishing concrete can be as physically demanding as competing in an Ironman competition every single day of the week. Having a high tolerance for pain along with enduring the extreme temperatures we work in are absolutely essential for finishing concrete over the long haul.

My last point on the topic of who makes the best finishers, centered on resisting finishing concrete as a stepping stone to something “better.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having ambitions to be a project manager or a superintendent, but if you want to be the very best finisher you can be, you know it’s a lifetime investment. The best finishers aren’t complacent, but they find contentment in being a finisher.

Sadly, I’ve seen too many posers show up on a jobsite claiming to be finishers. And feeling disappointed, I’ve asked them, “So you call yourself a finisher?” Our industry deserves only the very best, so if concrete isn’t what keeps you up at night or what gets your feet out of bed in the morning, you might be in the wrong line of work. And if you call yourself a finisher, please have the basics down and build on them daily.