Sean McDowell knows the ins and outs of asphalt. As the owner of McDowell Construction, a 17-year-old paving company in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, he has handled a range of asphalt projects throughout the Milwaukee area, building up a fiercely loyal clientele.
So, when his customers began asking why he couldn’t handle their concrete work for them, he asked himself, well, why not? The answer was that he just didn’t know enough about concrete.
“I had no expertise in the field,” McDowell says now. However, he was unlikely to let that stop him. Knowing that he had all the fundamentals of running a business, he knew he just needed someone on board with concrete expertise.
He reached out to concrete contractors he’d subbed for, Mike and Mark LaLonde, and started a conversation that ended up with a unique solution. “I’d known them for 12 or 13 years, and they were the guys I called every time I had a concrete question,” McDowell says.
He liked and trusted them, and rather than opening a concrete division of McDowell Construction, the three made the decision to form an entirely new company, McDowell Affordable Concrete. The decision allowed McDowell to still have a controlling stake in the business while reaping the benefits of the LaLondes concrete knowledge, but allowed the LaLondes to have a bigger stake in the concrete market. With McDowell’s Minority Business Enterprise status, forming the partnership allowed all parties involved to bid on jobs that would have been out of reach before.
The company, which started with some small curb-and-gutter projects, now tackles a range of concrete paving jobs, including bridge work and interchanges. They’ve been so successful that Mike has joined McDowell Affordable Concrete on a full-time basis, bringing more than 30 years of experience to the company’s daily operations.
After a year, LaLonde says he’s enjoying the experience. “Sean is good to work with as a partner, and very bottom-line oriented,” he says. “Working in this role has given me more of a variety of tasks, and I like being able to see the scope of the entire business. We have an open channel, and we’re enjoying growing the company.”