Kelly Hemp considers himself an honest person and thinks it is sad that this trait has become a rarity in his line of work.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota recognized this integrity to his customers by awarding a Torch Award for Ethics to Cornerstone Custom Construction of Ramsey, which Kelly and his wife Carrie also call home.
The award was presented to the Hemps at an Oct. 29 ceremony at the Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis.
In a nomination letter to the Better Business Bureau, a customer wrote, “I have worked with a decent number of contractors over the years and have never worked with a finer bunch — professionals in the truest sense of the word. From turning our conceptual plan into working blueprints, supervising the foundational elements and turning it into reality. I can’t thank Cornerstone enough for what they did to make our project a success.”
The Hemps started Cornerstone Custom Construction in 2000 and now have over 20 employees who pour concrete footings, foundations and driveways for large residential or commercial customers as a subcontractor. They also have steady work pouring colored, stamped and decorative concrete driveways and paths for individual customers.
Cornerstone can construct Insulated Concrete Forms structures, which uses expanded polystyrene reinforced with steel and filled with concrete to provide a more energy efficient, sound proofing and stronger structure than the standard wood-framed home.
It can also do everything from demolition, steel studs, concrete, millwork, drywall and carpentry for a commercial company’s remodeling project.
They always do complimentary inspections to explain what is feasible, not just from an aesthetic standpoint, but from a financial and physical standpoint as well. If the soils are bad in an area you want to put a new driveway, they will let you know about it ahead of time.
A panel of judges reviewed the nominations and said that Cornerstone “demonstrates great leadership and ethics are interwoven into their strategy.”
“The humbling part is being recognized for something we automatically do,” Kelly said. “I wouldn’t think about doing it any other way.”
A challenging part of the job is, “You never know from year to year what you will get in concrete construction because it is dependent on weather and the economy,” Carrie said.
They weathered the economic recession by really getting to know their vendors so they could avoid those who they felt may have difficulty paying for their work.
The company lost a number of people who wanted to try a new line of work, including working in the oil fields in North Dakota. They still would like more employees, but are slow to hire because they do not just want anyone working for them.
Carrie said their concentration over the last five years has been “slow, conservative growth” so that they do not stretch their company’s cash reserves too far.
“We didn’t want to grow for the sake of growing,” she said.
Kelly and Carrie said they look for employees who are confident in their ability to do the job right, but they do not want people who are cocky.
“When we hire folks, they have to be craftsmen, but more importantly we look for people with the right attitude. We want people who are humbly confident,” said Carrie, who works on the human resources side of the company.
Kelly has worked in the industry for 30 years since he started helping out his father at the age of 11, but is continually educating himself. If a product fails, he will not say it is just “industry standards.”
He loves the headaches and the joy of seeing the end result of a project and thrives on seeking long-term solutions to problems and he expects the same out of his employees, many who have over 20 years of experiences themselves, Kelly said.
“It’s not just optional for them to learn at Cornerstone,” he said. “It’s part of their job.”
For more information about Cornerstone Custom Construction, visit www.cornerstoneccinc.com.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org