Great Lakes Striping & Sealing Uses Common-Sense and Expertise to Stay on Top

Every business has issues or obstacles to overcome: employee skill, motivation and knowledge; equipment; weather. The list is endless, but Nik Biddinger, executive manager of Great Lakes Striping & Sealing in Traverse City, Mich., takes a common sense approach to these problems.

Biddinger buys state-of-the-art equipment to provide his customers with state-of-the-art service. “Our sweepers are no newer than 2005, but they have been provided with much care every year,” says Biddinger. “We make sure they are all on maintenance schedules and have thorough log books to keep them up to speed. Having spare parts on site is helpful as well.”

Great Lakes Striping & Sealing has seven sweepers to provide top-notch service to their customers. “We use Elgin Whirlwinds, because we believe these have the best brooms and extraction capabilities. With all of the mill and fill jobs, we feel it is most conducive to use a Tymco 600 for its BAH (broom assist head), power vacuum and versatility. Our Tymco 210s work well for the box store paper chases.”

As their name implies, Great Lakes Striping & Sealing uses more equipment than just sweepers, including infrared technology for their extensive repairs on parking lots or driveways. “We bought this state-of-the-art infrared from KM International and brought it to Northern Michigan. This is an alternative to saw cutting repair, which is great for the climate we live in because saw cutting leaves you with seams for moisture and debris to nestle into. Then when the freeze and thaw process happens, what do your think the outcome is? Infrared repair leaves a seamless patch and recycles about 60 percent of the old asphalt, so not as much new product is going into the patch which cuts down on your cost for material. Aside from that, we have plow trucks, sealer spray rigs, paint machines, heat lance crack jet and much more.”

He also ensures that they are handled well. Sweepers “are very delicate $75,000 machines and require a tremendous amount of care. We make sure the driver’s know the sweeper inside and out and are very mechanically inclined.

“Keeping our guys motivated when they have been plowing snow for 12 hours straight is tough. We meet for breakfast afterwards (or lunch), communicate with them throughout the night to make sure they are doing well. Most of these guys are ‘go getters’ and will do what it takes. Unfortunately, when someone get fatigued physically, it’s hard to bring them back.”

Striping comes with its own challenges. Among those challenges is communication. “Communication with the supervisor of the job is key,” says Biddinger. “Someone might think it’s easy to just move spaces and put them somewhere else. Then while we’re at it, let’s take the existing 12 and make 14 out of the same space. Our salesman might think that is possible because we aim to please, but when our stripers get to the job, they might see otherwise.”

And the weather? Well, there really isn’t much you can do about that. No one has invented a machine to control it. “THE WEATHER!” says Biddinger. “We cannot seal in the rain.”

Solving problems isn’t the only thing that keeps a company in business. Since Biddinger’s dad, Bruce Biddinger, bought the company in 1989, they merged the services and grew the company. “As Great Lakes grew, so did the services we offer,” says Biddinger. “Since then, we have had much success. Our name is very well known in our service area. People know if they want good work, call Great Lakes Striping & Sealing! Bruce has done a great job at being the face of the company as well. Everyone who knows him, loves him.

“Whether its sealing, striping or sweeping, we’re the best in the business. We stand behind our work and have no problem coming back out to complete the job if it was not right in the first place. Like our slogan says, ‘The proof is in the pavement.’”

Biddinger says their biggest challenge is finding good help. “Our industry is definitely not something you retire from and requires lots of hard work and manual labor. But, if people could only see how rewarding this job really is, I feel like we wouldn’t have such a problem. There is something to be said about leaving a clean parking lot, a freshly sealed or striped parking lot, or any job that Great Lakes completed–very rewarding!”

Snow plowing is one of the services which not only brings in money, but also helps to retain good employees. “We have 30-35 employees in the summer and carry about 20 in the winter. Snow plowing helps keep our main guys on board and keeps us afloat throughout the winter. We maintain the equipment with our full-time mechanics and our fully functional shop on site.”

Retaining good employees helps with morale and their ability to provide excellent service. “Our main focus is commercial work, but don’t forget about how we got to this point, which is through our residential customers. We treat them as well as a big commercial account.”

Biddinger’s common-sense approach to obstacles, state-of-the-art equipment and top-notch customer service continues to keep them on top.

For more information, visit:
Great Lakes Striping & Sealing, www.greatlakesstripingandsealing.com
KM International, www.kminb.com
Elgin, www.elginsweeper.com
Tymco, www.tymco.com

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