The many faces of Face

by George Garber

revised on 16 January 2008

The name Face is well known in the field of concrete floors. But what does it really mean? If you want to hire "Face", who do you call? If someone says he works for "Face", what firm does he really work for?

To start with, "Face" is not an acronym, nor is it a cute trade-name. It's a real family name. Beyond that, things get complicated. As I write this in 2008, four separate businesses use the name Face in the field of concrete floors. They are:

  • The Face Companies, based in Norfolk, Virginia
  • Face Consultants, based in Lexington, Kentucky
  • Face Consultants Limited, based in Huddersfield, England
  • Allen Face and Associates, based in Wilmington, North Carolina
To see how that situation came about, we have to go back to the late 1970s, when Sam Face and his son Allen started the Edward W. Face Company in Norfolk, Virginia. Sam and Allen had just built the first Face Floor Profileograph, an instrument for measuring the flatness and levelness of very-narrow-aisle warehouse floors. The new company made its living by testing floors with the Profileograph. It also provided consulting services for concrete floors -- usually related to Profileograph testing, but not always.

The Edward W. Face Company developed new products and services in the 1980s. It introduced the Dipstick, a do-it-yourself instrument for testing floor profiles. It built a machine for grinding floors to superflat tolerances. By the end of the decade the business structure had changed to handle those new activities. There was now an umbrella company called The Face Companies (plural). Under it stood three subsidiaries: The Edward W. Face Company, which did what it had always done; Face Construction Technologies, which made Dipsticks; and Flatcon, which ground floors to superflat tolerances. Despite the separate names and some legal niceties, it was essentially one company with three operating divisions.

All that changed in the 1990s. By then a third family member, Brad Face (Allen's brother) had joined the company. A dispute arose with Sam and Brad on one side, and Allen on the other. I don't know all the details, and even if I did I wouldn't reveal them here. Suffice it to say that things got nasty and resulted in a lawsuit between Allen and the Face Companies. It took years, but the parties eventually settled.

Allen left the Face Companies and started his own business, Allen Face and Associates. He invented and built the F-meter, a fast, easy-to-use machine for checking F-numbers. While Allen and the other Faces fought, Robert Costa and I offered to buy the Face Companies' consulting and testing operations. We had two motives, one ambitious and the other defensive. First, we wanted our own business where we could make our own decisions. Second, we wanted to get away from the Face family dispute. We raised money, and at the end of 1993 we bought the consulting and testing operations and set up a new business, Face Consultants. We continued in our old jobs, but now we owned the business --our little part of it, anyway. A few months after Face Consultants hung out its shingle, Englishman Kevin Dare approached me about a joint venture in Europe. We came to terms quickly and set up a UK company, Face Consultants Limited. Face Consultants (the US partnership) owned half of the new UK company. Kevin owned the other half.

That leaves us with four distinct businesses that bear the Face name.

The Face Companies still operate from their headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. A subsidiary, Face Construction Technologies, makes the Dipstick Floor Profiler, runs the Dipstick training school, and manages the Golden Trowel program. Other subsidiaries have expanded into fields not closely related to concrete floors. Brad Face heads up the overall organization, while Jeff Rogers runs the day-to-day operations of Face Construction Technologies.

Face Consultants offer floor testing and consulting services -- but not Profileograph testing, having sold that part of the business to Allflat in Carlsbad, California. Based in Lexington, Kentucky, the business is a partnership, owned by Robert Costa and me.

Face Consultants Limited is a company registered in the United Kingdom. From its Huddersfield base, it provides consulting and testing services in Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. Kevin Dare is the managing director.

Allen Face and Associates makes floor testing instruments and provides consulting services. It's a corporation, owned and run by Allen Face, and based in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Please understand that this is just my account of what happened in the various Face businesses. Other people involved, including Face family members, might tell a somewhat different story, and would undoubtedly put a different slant on some events.

Face Consultants

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