Asphalt Enterprises Paves a Path for the Future

When Scott Richards began Asphalt Enterprises in 1987, it was primarily a striping company. Soon, customers wanted sealcoating, patching, and other services. In 1999, a customer had a difficult time finding a quality sweeping company and asked Richards for help. Just like that, Asphalt Enterprises grew into the full asphalt maintenance and sweeping company that it is today with 16 employees serving the Raleigh-Durham and Triangle area in North Carolina. His wife, Sylvia, while always active in the company, officially joined full-time in 2001.

Their approach to growth has always been a controlled process. When Scott started in striping, he began familiarizing himself with other aspects of parking lot maintenance. “You learn a lot as you go,” says Scott. “It was always important to research and educate ourselves on any new business services we were adding as well as the best equipment out there to do the job right. I attended several training classes and demonstrations about sealcoating and pavement maintenance.”

Scott and Sylvia also began attending the National Pavement Expo (NPE) and began connecting with people there as well as attending classes. “NPE is helpful in teaching people the proper way to do things,” says Sylvia. “You don’t want to skimp on materials or procedures. The classes keep you updated on the latest methods and products, because things change over the years. It’s important to attend frequently to keep up-to-date with the new products, equipment, industry trends, and updates.”

What Is Ahead For The Industry?

“It’s a little different in each region,” says Scott. “Sealcoating will continue to go through changes. Currently, our service area uses mostly coal tar-based sealer, but we see it transitioning to asphalt-based sealer in the future.”

“For the sweeping industry, I think it is vital for us to educate our customers and municipalities on the benefits sweeping provides,” says Sylvia. “With an ever increasing awareness of environmental concerns, many are not aware of the important and crucial role the sweeping industry plays in keeping debris and trash out of storm drains and streams.”

Technology Is The Future

“Our industry has not been a leader in technology,” says Sylvia. “We have to continue to increase our use of it. New college students are not going to use old school ways of finding services. They’ll go online to websites and social media avenues. If we don’t adapt, we’ll get left behind.”

“Sylvia has done a good job with that,” adds Scott. “I think we are a little ahead of the curve in that respect with our Facebook and LinkedIn presence as well as our website. These days, you just have to go that route.”

Speaking of routes, the Richards are planning on implementing routing software, C2Logix, this month after a 30-day trial run. “Route optimization software will save us a tremendous amount of effort in 2013,” says Sylvia. “2012 has been another growth year for us. We tried to manage all our routes manually, but we spent way too many hours on it. Route optimization is very different from GPS. It’s the type of software that UPS uses to see how many trucks they need each day to service their clients and what will be the most efficient way to travel.”

“We did our due diligence and eliminated a lot of the products because of price and special circumstances that the software has to account for. Some software couldn’t handle our unique criteria while others couldn’t transfer to a GPS device. We want full optimization.”

Routing software can range widely in price. The software is comparably affordable at a low monthly cost. “When you think about the man hours making changes to route sheets to accommodate new stops, it’s paid for very quickly. We will reduce our manual effort tremendously with this software. When we were awarded a contract this past year, it took the equivalent of approximately six man weeks of effort to pull all of the routing changes together. Route optimization software can complete this task in seconds to minutes.”

Sylvia will be speaking at NPE on “Run Your Route So They Don’t Run You” that will include their best practices.

Continued Challenges

“Like in any other business, finding good quality people is a challenge,” says Scott. “We want slow, steady, strong, solid, controlled growth. We have been in business 25 years. We want a customer for life and to serve that company for the future. An example of that is today when we attended a customer’s annual Christmas luncheon for their shopping center tenants. They always include us. This is the very customer that approached us in 1999 who needed help with sweeping. They are still a valued and great customer.”

“Some companies see rapid growth and develop problems. We don’t want our quality to be impacted by growth in any way. We’ve seen other businesses grow too fast and then go out of business. We want to do what we say we are going to do, and do it right.

“We try to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. If they don’t really need something done now, then we will tell them, ‘You should budget this for next year.’ Because, if you sell someone on something they don’t need today, then there is a high probability you will not see them again.”

Diversification

The Richards have expanded into pressure washing and other areas in addition to asphalt maintenance and sweeping. “One of the smartest things I ever did is to be a one stop shop for our property managers,” says Scott. “Our guys can tell us so many things about a property, from pot holes to street lamps that are out, or graffiti on the walls. A lot of it ties in together and property managers appreciate timely feedback. They trust us to take care of it and be fair about it.

“Property managers are looking for honesty and integrity. A lot of property managers are overworked and have many properties that they manage. If they know they can trust someone to take care of things and do it right, then that is one thing they don’t have to worry about.”

The Richards alert the property managers when something is wrong with the property by sending a quick email alerting them to the situation and to offer help. “Some of the property managers are out of state and they trust us to take care of problems for them.”

When Asphalt Enterprises has branched out into other areas, they explore the pros and cons. “We talk about staying focused,” says Sylvia. “If you see a trend happening, and if that is not a part of your mission statement, then sometimes, it doesn’t need to be where you go. You need to see where your talents are, because sometimes getting out of your niche can take away from what you do best. Of course, you don’t want to stay in a niche that isn’t growing.”

Keys To Success

“My dad always said, ‘Don’t try to go out and get every account in your market, just try to get the one that is next door to the one you already service.’ That is something that we have implemented in our growth strategy,” says Sylvia. “We always deliver what we say we are going to deliver. We don’t promise the world.”

The Richards also advise to not let the invoice be the only communication that says you are done with the job. “We try to send an email at the end of the day to let them know that we have completed their job.”

Another key to the Richards’ success has been their ability to bid with confidence. “You better know your cost,” says Sylvia. “We know, to the minute, how much each route and stop costs us. We also track very closely our asphalt maintenance projects. This allows us to bid with confidence.”

Equipment

The Richards rely on a variety of sweepers to keep their business going, such as Tymco, NiteHawk, Victory, and Silent Night.

For sealcoating, they use SealMaster and have used Neal Manufacturing in the past. They also do a little bit of Infrared with a Kaiser Morris machine. “We aren’t too brand specific,” says Sylvia. “We like to try them all.”

For more information on Asphalt Enterprises, visit www.asphaltent.com

Story by Jennifer Taylor

RESOURCES

For more information:

NiteHawk, www.nitehawksweepers.com
Silent Night, www.sksweepers.com
Tymco, www.tymco.com
Victory, www.victorysweepers.com
Neal Manufacturing, www.nealequip.com
SealMaster, www.sealmaster.net
C2Logix, www.c2logix.com

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