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									FRANK J. KRAFFT:
Making The Time Count
 iaWCC’s Past President Operates a Successful Contracting Business,
    But still Finds Time to Devote to Industry, Social Improvement

O    n his way to becoming a Senior
     Oarsman with the Old Do-
                                               Wasson, originally from Phoenix,
                                               Ariz. There was a pressing need
                                                                                      A native of Alexandria, the
                                                                                    six-foot one-inch contractor is
minion Boat Club of Alexandria,                for funds. Frank volunteered —       married to the former Pauline
Va., Frank J. Krafft demonstrated              and for the past seven years has     [Polly] Biberstein, of Washington,
some thing to himself.                         conducted in the evenings and on     D.C. They are the parents of nine
   Even when you’re bone tired—                weekends a successful national       children: Barbara, Sue, Jeanne,
you must and can keep rowing.                  direct mail fund-raising program     Donald, Marie, Martin, William,
   You do that because you have a              for the orphanage.                   Stephen, and Nancy. Polly, just as
commitment to the other men in                                                      active as her husband in associ-
the boat to pull your share, and be-                                                ation and philanthropic affairs, last
cause it’s the only way to win.                 “In a slow period you must          year went to the orphanage in
    Winning through persistence                      keep overhead to a             Mexico with five Krafft children
and ability has become a habit for                                                  and all worked there for the entire
the 50-year-old Past President of
                                                 minimum and stick to the
                                                                                    summer.
t he i n t ernat i onal a sso c ia tio n o f       lines of work that you              Frank’s working career began as
Wall and Ceiling Contractors and                     know best and are              a customer engineer for IBM after
head of Krafft-Murphy Company,                      the most profitable.”           graduating from high school. In
a diversified contracting firm with                                                 1943-46, he served with the U.S.
headquarters on West Braddock                                                       Navy at an ammunition depot in
Road, Alexandria.                                This fall, the story behind this   Indiana and then returned to IBM
    There, he manages his                      unique orphanage will be featured    for a short time before enrolling at
$2,000,000-a-year business in                  in a special two-hour movie          Catholic University as an archi-
acoustical tile, drywall, lathing and          entitled “Who’ll See to the          tectural engineering major.
plastering and fireproofing. At the            Children” over the national CBS-        His next stop was as an
same time, he also finds the where-            TV network.                          apprentice plasterer f o r K r a f f t -
withal to devote a considerable
portion of his time to the iaWCC,
to the virtually full-time task of
raising funds for an orphanage in
Mexico, as well as to the other
organizations and groups to whom
he has made commitments.
    His company, Krafft-Murphy,
 was started in 1918 by his father,
 the late Jacob Martin Krafft, and
 by the late Frank Murphy, both of
 whom were charter members of
 the Contracting Plasterers’ Inter-
 national Association, the fore-
 runner of iaWCC. Following a
progression from apprentice plas-
 terer, to estimator, to field super-
 intendent for the company, Frank
 took over as head in 1953, and
 attended his first iaWCC conven-
 tion in 1955 in Pittsburgh.
    By 1973 he was President of the
 iaWCC.
    Seven years ago while visiting
 Mexico, he came upon Our Little
 Brothers and Sisters Orphanage in
 Cuernavaca, operated by a Roman
 Catholic priest, Rev. William
 12
                                                                                              And, of course, there’s the
                                                                                            continuing trend to pre-fabrication.
                                                                                            DIMENSIONS: Do you view the
                                                                                            increase in pre-fabrication as a
                                                                                            part of the systems approach or is
                                                                                            it merely economics?
                                                                                            KRAFFT: Oh, I think pre-fabri-
                                                                                            cation is more economics than any-
                                                                                            thing else. A lot of people have
                                                                                            mistaken systems for pre-fabrica-
                                                                                            tion, but systems is performance
                                                                                            oriented. The architect is looking
                                                                                            for a system on the basis of how it
                                                                                            will perform and does not
                                                                                            necessarily specify how it is to be
                                                                                            built. It’s up to the wall and ceiling
                                                                                            contractor to develop the most
                                                                                            economical design.

Murphy where he experienced                      tinue to change. Naturally, there          DIMENSIONS: In the area of
first-hand the difficulty of a                   will be some slowing down in the           systems, many so-called experts
six-foot one-inch frame adjusting                period just ahead. It happens              feel that the wall and ceiling
to scaffolds built six feet down                 every so often in recession periods        contractor’s future is in systems,
from the ceilings.                               and some contractors fall by the           that he should take responsibility
   Still a small boat sailor, Frank’s            wayside. But others will come in           for an entire system as a prime
interest in competitive rowing                   when things get good again.                contractor. How do you view this?
began in high school and continued                                                          KRAFFT: There is a tendency
until shortly after World War II.                D IM ENSIONS: You spoke of a               toward this. And it is up to the
His racing career took him all over              continuation of change?                    wall and ceiling contractor to equip
the East Coast and his trophy case               KRAFFT: Yes. Our contractors               himself for the responsibility.
attests to his winning ways.                     have the current technology in             Even though some of your work
    With the new slate of iaWCC                  walls and ceilings under control,          must be sublet, such as mechanical
of f i cer s t aki ng o v e r th is m o n th ,   but I’m certain that substitutes for       or electrical, you should develop a
Frank is no longer an official                   the way we’re doing things will            basic knowledge of these sublet
member of the association’s execu-               develop. Architects, for better or         items so the entire system can be
tive committee, but he will                      worse, want change . . . they look for     coordinated. After all, you are
continue to be active. He is also                and design for it . . . and our contrac-   responsible for the performance of
President both of the National                   tors are smart enough to pick it up.       the entire system.
Association of Philanthropic Or-
ganizations and of Our Little
Brothers and Sisters, and a                             “Before you built just about everything on the job.
member of the Washington Build-                         But the trend now is away from job manufactured
ing Congress.
   Like most busy people who get                         products to factory manufactured products . . .
things done, Frank still had the                               and you’ll see more and more of it.”
time to sit down and talk to CON-
STRUCTION DIMENSIONS
about t he constru c tio n in d u stry ,         DIMENSIONS: Since you came                 DIMENSIONS: Krafft-Murphy is
his company, and the advantages                  into the business what have been           oriented primarily toward the bid
of staying competitive.                          the major changes that you                 market, isn’t it?
                                                 experienced?                               KRAFFT: Yes, we’re mainly in bid
                                                 KRAFFT: Well, in my own                    work. Construction management
                                                 company’s case it has been the             and some of the other approaches
DIMENSIONS: These are rather                     relative decline in the amount of          to construction have changed for
hard economic times for the con-                 plastering work and the increase in        the general contractor, but for the
struction industry, so where do                  drywall. Also, there’s the shift to        subcontractor he still has to bid
you see the wall and ceiling                     applying a finished product.               competitively to get the work-
industry going, say, in the next                 Before, you built just about every-        and this is not all bad.
five years?                                      thing on the job. But the trend now        DIMENSIONS: It sounds as
                                                 is away from job manufactured              though you are a firm supporter of
KRAFFT: I don’t think there’s                    products to factory manufactured
                                                                                            the bid system?
much doubt that our industry will                products . . . and you'll see more and     KRAFFT: The competitive bid
continue to grow . . . and it will con-          more of it.                                                 Continued on page 25
                                                                                                                               13
FRANK KRAFFT                           DIMENSIONS: Whether bid or              isn’t the first time that the
Continued from page 13                 sold, the current economic situa-       industry has encountered runaway
system does just that . . . it keeps   tion is testing many contractors.       prices: and escalators have been
you competitive, sharp . . . and       How is Krafft-Murphy adjusting to       tried before. But like the past, the
brings about many new ideas and        inflation?                              chances of obtaining acceptance of
innovations that ordinarily            KRAFFT: We’ve been bidding              escalator clauses are slim.
wouldn’t be developed.                 only those jobs that will be ready
   There is no question that time      within a year. We’re avoiding           DIMENSIONS: Are there any
                                                                               alternatives that a contractor can
and material work is nice. It
reduces risk and I don’t oppose it.                                            use to protect himself?
                                                                               KRAFFT: Certainly, no one has
I’d like to run my business on time
                                            “The competitive bid               found a magic formula for going
and material, but for the good of
                                         system does just that . . .           through recession periods without
the industry the bid system is
                                                                               being effected in some way. In a
best. If you were always handed          if keeps you competitive,
                                                                               slow period you must keep over-
jobs you might tend to become lax;          sharp . . . and brings             head to a minimum, and stick to
it’s human nature.
                                        about many new ideas arid              the lines of work that you know
DIMENSIONS: There are some              innovations that ordinarily            best and are the most profitable.
contractors who feel that negoti-
                                         wouldn’t be developed.”               DIMENSIONS: Going into fields
ated or sold work is preferable to
bid work and that they can do                                                  now served by regulars is part and
more for the customer when not         work too far off so as to minimize      parcel of a move to diversify. Are
locked in by the low bid?                                                      you sounding a note of caution?
                                       the necessity of crystal balling too
KRAFFT: Low price isn’t neces-         far into the future.                    KRAFFT: Only a temporary one.
sarily the low offer. You must                                                 When business activity is slow,
consider service, quality, and         DIMENSIONS: What about the              profit margins are lowered. If you
workmanship as factors. When           use of escalators?                      are able to secure a job in a new
this is taken into consideration       KRAFFT: So far as the use of            line of work in this atmosphere the
your bid price does not affect your    escalator clauses is concerned, I       extra start-up costs and inexper-
ability to properly service the        feel it’s a very difficult concept to   ience can cause the job to go sour.
customer.                              sell to general contractors. This                      Continued on page 26




                                                                                                              25
FRANK KRAFFT                                                                   often more free with information
Continued from page 25                                                         than a local competitor would be.
                                                                               Maybe that’s not the way it should
They are the types of jobs that
                                                                               be; but it is human nature.
none of us needs.
                                                                                 From your fellow contractors
D I MEN SI O N S: W h a t w e r e th e                                         you can learn of new techniques
factors    that    led   you      into                                         and materials that are being used
diversifying?                                                                  successfully in other parts of the
KRAFFT: With the slowdown in                                                   country, thus giving you a
lath and plaster work and the                                                  competitive edge in your local
increase in drywall and acoustic                                               bidding.
tile work, it became evident that
                                                                               DIMENSIONS: Was it this kind of
diversification would be necessary
                                                                               thinking that led to the recent
for survival. In 1953, we were
                                                                               merger effort with which you were
strictly lathing and plastering con-     develops a following of men whose     so closely involved?
tractors. In 1958, we diversified        productivity is a known factor.
into the drywall and acoustical tile                                           KRAFFT: Well, there are cur-
                                         DIMENSIONS: Getting the exper-        rently three associations serving
business.
                                         iences of other contractors is also   the same group of wall and ceiling
DIMENSIONS: As one who has               one of the advantages of being in     contractors. One organization,
experienced diversification, how         an organization such as iaWCC. As     combining the resources and
do you feel a contractor should          past president, why do you feel       talents of all three, could success-
approach it?                             contractors should join a national    fully provide a much more
KRAFFT: I think a contractor             association?                          effective program for the wall and
should go into it gradually and feel     KRAFFT: Besides the technical         ceiling contractor and without
his way along. You certainly don’t       and management educational            additional cost. Many more con-
take the biggest job in town as          benefits, an association opens up     tractors, we feel, would join if
your first job. You must first           the experience of the entire          there were one organization.
acquire experience on small jobs         country to contractors with              And that’s what it’s all about —
and thus minimize any possible           basically the same problems. A        to be successful at what you’re
losses while learning. This also         contractor from another area is       doing.




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