Tiffany Ongtenco is the General Manager of Northfleet Concrete Floors. She is involved in all of the daily operations of the business, including estimating, sales, accounting. She started out with Northfleet five years ago as an estimator and has since grown into a position of more responsibility. She loves her job because no two days are the same and there are always new challenges and opportunities for improvement.
Northfleet is a concrete finishing company specializing in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors. They handle small and large projects and have created concrete floors for warehouse logistics, food processing facilities, new hospitals, and university facilities just to name a few. They also have different branches in the company that handle concrete restoration, resinous flooring, epoxy flooring, polished concrete floors, and formwork projects. There is also a division for cutting and coring for custom jobs.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
There was a need in the industry for high quality concrete floors. Creating concrete floors is very technical work and not very glamorous, which makes it almost like a dying art nowadays, but it is a high-quality floor that is still very much needed.
There are other technologies out there that are being improved right now to help provide better floor finishes with less labor. One such technology that we utilize are robotic & laser-guided equipment to achieve high floor tolerances. There are also self- levelling materials that can be used to minimize labour costs. There is even GPS-guided equipment that comes into play in this industry. Our company is doing what we can to move towards using more technological solutions to provide the best for our customers.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day starts early. I always try to organize myself by making a list of the tasks that need to be achieved that day. I will delegate tasks early in the day and give guidance on what needs to be accomplished. I try to block off time to complete tasks but I have to also be prepared for the calls that come in and issues that need to be resolved right away. Before COVID, I spent more time going to see clients, and we would usually hold a client appreciation event each year.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I try to engage my team as much as possible. When I have an idea that I think will be amazing or if I hear of an idea from a teammate, I try to encourage brainstorming. If it seems feasible, I try to talk to everyone, my operations team, the accounting team, the guys in the field, to get their thoughts. I want to know how they think it would work, what benefits it would bring to them, and how we might improve on the idea. I ask for a lot of feedback and for their buy-in on new ideas.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There are more young professionals becoming interested in construction. It is not a very glamorous job and at times it can be very difficult, and a lot of people getting started want something a bit easier. But I do see a segment of people and more entrepreneurs that are interested in this industry, and I would really like to see greater interest from young people who will bring in new ideas and technologies into the space.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Knowing the impact that my work has on other people’s lives really drives me and empowers me. In my role as the general manager, I provide support and resources to our employees that enables them to do so much more for the company. The people around me inspire me to be as productive as I can be because in turn it improves their productivity as well.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Say yes to every opportunity and do not hold yourself back. Sometimes I have been hesitant and made up excuses, thinking that it might have been more than I could handle. But then I missed out on opportunities to improve myself or grow the business. Say yes to opportunities. It may require the sacrifice of a little bit of time and a little bit of sleep, but it will be worth it in the end.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Most people assume that creating concrete floors is very labor intensive and not technical, when in fact there is a lot of technique behind what we do. Many people think it is shoveling concrete, making it flat, and that there is no science or technology behind it. It is thought of as something easy that anybody can do. But when you are actually out in the field and seeing how it is actually done, you see the amount of work and care that goes into it, there is more technique and expertise to it than people think.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Exercise. I have not been as good about it as I should be, but I make a conscious effort to go out and exercise. I am part of a competitive dragon boat team. It looks like a long canoe where you have 20 paddlers, a drummer at the front, and a coach or a steer person at the very back. Generally, 5 or 6 teams will race together at a time anywhere from 200 meters, 500 meters, or 2 kilometers.
I try to make sure there is a little gap in my day where I take my mind off of work and do something for me and to improve mental clarity and my health. I think it is really important to be able to step aside for a little while because it rejuvenates you physically and mentally. You can come back with clearer thoughts and more energy to tackle things. A lot of us focus on work so much that we do not always take the time to take those needed breaks which are so important. It’s a work in progress for me too, but it’s important to take some breaks for movement.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Saying yes to opportunities has helped us to grow. Even though we may not know how to fully execute it, we were capitalizing on the opportunity to learn new techniques and figure out how to make this work. Sometimes it is trial and error, and you learn from it. Every opportunity provides an opportunity to learn.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
A failure I have had was taking on too much by myself. I have learned to rely on the people around me and learn to delegate. Taking on too much does not make you a very productive person. You are slowing your team down by creating a bottleneck in the system. You may be trying to be conscious of your other team members as well, but you need to be able to delegate and communicate why it is important for them to do certain things that you need them to do. It brings the team further along as you work together rather than putting too much on yourself.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In our industry there is always a demand for paperwork, so I think a documentation service that can customize your business forms for you, such as safety forms and inspection forms would be great.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought some special socks for my co-workers as a small thank you for their work and to say Merry Christmas. They were fun socks with different patterns and I chose different ones based on the different personalities of my colleagues. It was fun to see their smiles when they received them.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I often have to google to convert millimeters to inches or cubic meters to cubic feet. In Canada we use both the metric system and the Imperial system. I always need to double check myself on those measurement conversions.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend reading Educated by Tara Westover. That book really struck a chord with me because my parents put a lot of emphasis on education when I was growing up. Sometimes we take it for granted that we have the opportunity to be exposed to as many ideas as possible. Reading that book really helped me to put things into perspective and be grateful for the opportunities I have had.
What is your favorite quote?
My dad always told me to “Always try your best.” It does not matter whether you are going to fail or if you do well. Just try your best. If you don’t try and you just give up, nothing will come out of your efforts. Always try your best.
● Grab every opportunity that comes your way.
● Engage your team. It always starts with them. Nothing moves forward without them.
● Always do your best.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.