From typewriters and rotary phones to floppy disks, fax machines, beepers and dial-up; Mark Tromp has seen it all. Over the course of his 44-year career at Kent Companies, he’s had a front-row seat to Kent Companies’ remarkable growth from a small residential concrete contractor in Kent County, Michigan to a sophisticated national leader with ten offices and 1,600 employees nationwide.
What a ride.
While construction practices, technology and safety have changed dramatically, one thing remains constant: Mark Tromp’s steadfast service to the company, his customers and above all, the people on his team.
Mark’s leadership style deserves careful study. It’s based on consistency, key habits and lifelong learning. You can set a clock by Mark’s early arrival at the office. You can count on his crews to keep the underlayment pumps in peak condition. And most of all, you can count on Mark to bring pastries for the entire office every Tuesday morning.
Mark is a creature of habit. While that may draw some gentle ribs from his closest colleagues, it is his consistency that was the foundation of decades of success. From his first job in 1978 as a concrete laborer for Kent Concrete, Mark was a workhorse. He balanced his breaks from Western Michigan University with tough work hauling rebar and wall panels for a foundation crew. When he completed his degree in Construction Supervision and Management, Mark joined the team full time as a foreman. His consistency drew attention quickly.
Mark remembers, “One day out of the blue I received a call from Superintendent Ike VanBemden who told me that Al VanderLaan wanted to talk to me.” Al asked Mark to spearhead a new floor underlayments division for Kent Companies. With no knowledge of its scope, Mark took on the challenge. Lifelong learning is another hallmark of his career.
“When I started in this division, I knew nothing about underlayments, and there was only one gypcrete product.” Mark shares, “Today there is a vast selection of products, each one designed for unique building applications. It’s been fascinating learn and grow with the industry as it has evolved.”
From 1985 to 2020, Kent Companies expanded its underlayments territory from West Michigan to Eastern Michigan, Ohio, and the Carolinas. Mark helped developed our team and capabilities in each market.
Throughout his tenure, Mark earned the titles of vice president and executive vice president. “The expansion of our underlayments divisions would not have been possible without Mark’s leadership,” shared CEO Jeff VanderLaan – the third generation of family leadership to work with Mark Tromp. “Whenever there was a need in another region, we could count on Mark to jump on a plane and take care of the business and its people. There was always the highest confidence that he would get the job done.”
While Mark oversaw generational growth in the underlayments business, he credits that success to his team. “Our Western Michigan team laid the groundwork for this specialty and made it a well-oiled machine. The Eastern Michigan crew followed that same model. As we expanded into Ohio and the Carolinas, our Michigan crews put in the extra effort to get those markets off the ground, and it would not have been possible without their dedication and craftsmanship,” says Tromp.
When reflecting on his career and professional development, Mark’s stories focus on people. He built relationships across the country to create opportunities for Kent’s underlayments divisions. He also emphasizes the importance of trust. “I was able to get where I am because the VanderLaan family trusted me and my ability to lead. I put that same trust into my own team. That’s how you empower the next generation of leaders,” he shares.
East Michigan Division Manager Ed Hardesty worked alongside Mark for 21 years. Ed shares, “Mark was always a great leader, and I’m even more lucky to call him a trusted friend. We have been through very challenging times and looking back, it was in those moments that his leadership guided me and the way I approach challenges today. I would not be where I am now without his mentorship.”
Above all, Mark is known for his servant leadership. From leading multiple operating divisions to taking care of small details around the office, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Mark Tromp’s loyalty and dedication to Kent Companies spans across decades, technologies, trends and geography. His mark on Kent Companies is timeless. The entire Kent family congratulates Mark Tromp on an extraordinary 44-year career.