There is little question that managers and owners of property have a much better understanding of - or at least a greater interest in - pavement than they used to. Owners and property managers for a long time didn't see the value in patching, cracksealing, or sealcoating, unless the value was to prevent litigation or simply make the pavement look better.
Rare was the property manager who looked at her pavement as an investment that needed to be protected, and the reason for that is likely economic. Parking lot pavement was treated almost as a disposable item: When it got too bad the owners would just tear it out and build a new parking lot. Years ago when labor and material costs were low that might have been a short-sighted approach, but from an economic standpoint it was sound. Why spend money all along when it was just as cheap to rebuild it later? (Roads were treated the same way.) But as costs of oil, aggregate, fuel, and labor have skyrocketed over the years property managers have sought ways to protect their pavement investment, and pavement maintenance has turned out to be the best approach.
Today, property managers want to know what maintenance options are available and how pavement can be made to last longer. There also is a greater understanding of life-cycle costing, and there's a recognition that the right maintenance procedure done properly at the right time can help extend the usable life of the pavement. This is partly the result of contractors working to educate their customers, both as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition and as a way to justify the services and costs associated with them.
But Jeff Stokes, Next Level Contractor System, cautions that while the customer is concerned about the technical aspect of the product or service, they are equally concerned about the "experience" and "return on investment" they can expect. "Details such as long-term maintenance budgets, project communication, traffic control, notification, and production plans are critical," Stokes says. "Smart contractors are covering these factors as part of their sales approach and lunch and learn presentations."
More Centralized Buying
In the not-too-distant past commercial companies with multiple locations across the country allowed the local manager to make buying decisions concerning her own business and property. Increasingly (and this has accelerated in recent years) many national companies are working to centralize as many buying decisions as possible, imposing greater control and theoretically reducing costs. In more and more instances companies such as a hotel chain, a fast food chain, or "big box" chain are putting buying decisions in the hands of fewer individuals (and in some instances relying on a pavement consultant as a go-between).
The impact is that in more and more instances the contractor no longer can rely on the relationship with the local operator or manager, and a more-complex bid now must be closer to the bone than ever as decisions are made by a regional or national buyer. Price is always a factor, but the relationship with local contractors is less important. New factors that come into play include the ability of the contractor to service multiple properties over a large multi-state or national area in an efficient manner while providing quality work in a timely manner. The ability to provide a range of services also has become important.
This national approach to buying pavement maintenance services has encouraged contractors to "brand" themselves, to pay closer attention to developing an image, and to spending marketing dollars to differentiate themselves from their competition. Some do it on their own, ("Al's Asphalt Maintenance") and some affiliate themselves with an outside firm such as Black Dog, 1-800-Asphalt, or 1-800-Pavement.
It also enables organizations such as Pavement Network, which has contractor members handling accounts throughout the country, and Rose Paving, which offers similar national service but in a less formal approach, to offer nationwide services to multi-property customers.