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L.M. Scofield's Bob HarrisIndustry Leader, Knowledge, Passion, and a Strong Foundation in Concrete is a Key to his Success
Bob Harris conducts training seminars at the Scofield Institute in Douglasville, Georgia. Current workshops held at the Institute include two-day programs on Exteriors, focusing on imprinted concrete utilizing LITHOCHROME Color Hardener, Texturetop, LITHOCHROME Chemstain as well as many other finishes. The Interiors workshop focuses on surface preparation, self leveling overlayments, designs and exciting stain finishes. Other classes taught at the Scofield Institute include LITHOCHROME Chemstain as well as advanced training.
Central to his ability to train is his actual experience with the products he trains the contractors to use. While he has been with L.M. Scofield for eight years, prior to that he worked as Senior Superintendent for 6 years exclusively in Disney theme parks doing decorative, "themed concrete" work with Chromix integral color, dry shake color hardeners, and chemical stains.
"Working at the Magic Kingdom with some of the most creative people in the world was tremendously gratifying," according to Harris. Some of his projects were "Port Orleans", "Magnolia Bend", "Disney's Vacation Club", and Phase 1 and 2 of the Disney All-Star Hotel as well as all of the theme parks. Many of the projects pushed the parameters of what had previously been done with decorative concrete.
On the Disney properties, he did everything from casting tree branches to alligator paw prints. On one project, the project manager asked him to place paw prints to simulate that a dog had run through the concrete. "That's not very creative," responded Harris, "we should have a real dog run through it." Shortly thereafter, Harris had clearance for his 100-pound Labrador Retriever to run through the fresh concrete. The project was a success with permanent paw prints still in the concrete today.
Harris credits his father for his strong work ethic and for teaching him to go the extra mile. Harris remembers being five or six years old when his father had him stripping lumber and cleaning stakes for his concrete company, Harris and Harris Concrete. His dad is now almost 70 years old and still dabbles in the industry.
From his position as Senior Superintendent at the Disney properties, Harris joined L.M. Scofield in the early 90's, already possessing an intimate knowledge of the Scofield product line. He joined the firm not as head of the Institute (the Institute had not been born yet!), but as an outside representative selling Scofield products in South Florida. Though his specialty was not in outside sales, he had what all the best salespeople have, product knowledge. In this role as sales representative, he started spending 10% of his time doing training in his region. "Scofield has always been extremely dedicated to training the up -and -coming finishers and the existing contractor base, in order to grow the whole industry," noted Harris.
After working in the Florida market, in 1996 Bob was transferred to the San Francisco Bay Area, again as an outside sales representative. Now, however, 60% of his time involved training and 40% of his time was spent on selling. He also began branching off and doing training in other areas around the nation. The training was primarily focused on staining concrete, stamping concrete, and sandblasting integrally colored concrete.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, he also made some atypical sales calls. At one sales call the builder noted there was a problem with a stamping job they were doing down the highway at 3 Com Park. They drove from the builder's office straight to the project and Harris was able to help solve the problem due to his past jobsite experiences.
In late 1998 L.M. Scofield management decided training was being so well received and was so valuable that it needed to be a full time effort. Under the direction of Harris the Scofield Institute was launched in 1999. After careful consideration Douglasville, Georgia was selected as the site of the Institute. "Douglasville is 22 miles due west of Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. Hartsfield is the busiest airport in the United States, so this is a great location to run the Institute in addition to being located close to one of the Scofield Production facilities.
The newest class being offered at the Scofield Institute is Exteriors with Texturetop. There are two versions of texturetop: 1/32" to 1/8" thick texturetop stencil grade, and 1/8" to 1" thick stamp grade. Both versions are covered in the class.
While much of the training Harris does is at the Institute – he still puts in frequent flier miles and trains at locations around the world. He has trained contractors in Spain, Mexico, South Africa, as well as other international locations. He also trains contractors at the World of Concrete and other venues for the Decorative Concrete Council. I recently watched Harris, along with Tom Ralston of Tom Ralston Concrete, mesmerize a crowd of concrete contractors in attendance at a Decorative Concrete Council event in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They scored, stained, and tooled elaborate designs and colors into a slab. They even applied Miracle Grow in some of the scored joints and then diffused the chemical onto the slab by blowing it out of the joint with an oversized eyedropper- creating a very unique effect.
It is easy to see the leap Harris has made from working as Senior Superintendent at Disney to doing training for L. M. Scofield - but where do new ideas come to Harris from? "I get ideas from our own students, from professional seminars, from the World of Concrete, and from other forms of art. Also, one of my passions is faux finishing - I can carry the theme on the floor right up the wall," he said. This year Harris was invited by Vigini Studios... to join a group of professionals at the top of their field in faux painting and for Harris to demonstrate concrete staining. This event was the SALON International Conference and Exhibit of Decorative Painters which is hosted at different locations world wide, this year's being held in San Antonio, Texas. According to Harris, the response in front of the established group was overwhelming and many of the Salon members were not familiar with chemical stain.
Harris uses every day as a learning experience. In fact, at the opening dinner preceding all the seminars at the Scofield Institute, he tells his students, "Be careful of the people who profess to know it all, because you will always be learning something new in the decorative concrete business."