David Randall started Topcoat Asphalt Sealers, Loganville, GA, like many other contractors starting off in the sealcoating business. He bought a small truck, a trailer and two barrels, and started sealcoating. That was in the spring of 1996. It didn't take long for his business to take off, and within two months he purchased a larger truck and a truck-mounted sealcoating unit. He also purchased a walk-behind striper and added striping to his service offering. Currently, sealcoating makes up 65% of Randall's business, striping 33%, and hot pour crackfilling and small patching the other 2%.
Randall had no prior experience in the pavement maintenance industry when he started Topcoat Asphalt Sealers, so he learned his trade the best way he thought possible, through the experience of those in the industry. "I had to start from scratch just picking people's brains and going down to the manufacturers and asking them questions and trying to get a feel for it," Randall said.
Education was only half the battle in the beginning. Randall also needed to establish a customer base. One of his best resources at the start was word of mouth. Sealer manufacturers passed his name along to customers, helping him grow his business, Randall says. Word of mouth advertising has continued to be essential to Topcoat Asphalt Sealers' business. After two years of cold calling, Randall began to get repeat business and referrals. "Referrals are the best sales," he says. Although Randall doesn't ask his customers for referrals, he does have some strategies for getting them.
"One thing I do, with say someone who is in the construction business, I say 'Hey, if you know someone who needs this pass my name on,'" Randall says. He does offer them a finder's fee as well. But he doesn't go overboard hounding people for business. "I like to be accessible to people and occasionally touch base with them, but I don't want to be the thorn in their side or the phone call they don't want to hear."
With 98% of Topcoat's customers being on the commercial side, Randall knows in order to get those referrals he needs to offer a quality service. His "hands on" policy means he is always on the job monitoring quality control. He's also kept his company small - Topcoat currently has six employees including Randall - to make sure quality is not sacrificed.
But Randall is also on the job to establish the element of trust with his clients. "They know, when they call, we're a specialist in this field," Randall says. "I take the worry away from the customer."
Being the specialist and ensuring quality means taking the time to do the job right, Randall says. And a quality job done right is a good start for a quality referral.