Arrow Striping is an example of what the right people, who join together at the right time, and bring the right ideas, can do to help a company thrive.
This small pavement marking company, which specializes in parking lot and airport striping, has over the years become a growing, profitable, smoothly running pavement marking business - and a great place to work - by allowing its owners and employees to play to their strengths. And it's a model other contractors, stripers or not, can use as a blueprint for their own operations.
Started in 1986, Arrow Striping, Lincoln, NE, has evolved since the company was sold in 2006 to the four current principals: Sue Rottinghaus, president; Don Rottinghaus, vice president; Heath Whitney, executive director; and Renae Whitney, secretary/treasurer.
Sue Rottinghaus and husband, Don, didn't know anything about pavement marking prior to joining the partnership. Sue had been involved in real estate and has 10 years office management experience, particularly in accounting and insurance, and she now handles the office and administrative functions of the company. Don had worked with a construction company, so he had an idea of the contracting business - but not pavement marking. Heath Whitney, on the other hand, is the Arrow Striping technical expert, with 10 years under his belt with Arrow Striping as an employee before becoming partner. Renae Whitney, Heath's wife, worked for Arrow Striping for several years and now handles the company's human resources, website, and mailing efforts among other jobs. Office manager Linda Anderson, while not an owner, has played a key role as well. "We're all kind of diversified in what we know and what we do, and it works well," Sue Rottinghaus says.
Parking lots and airports
Working with the major contractors in the area as well as the larger property management firms, Arrow Striping generates 51% of its income from parking lot striping, 37% coming from airport striping, and the remainder from indoor striping and marking athletic fields.
In peak season Arrow employs up to 15 people, who can stripe up to 15 jobs a day depending on size and distance from the office. The contractor stripes between 500 and 600 parking lots and between 11 and 15 airports a year.
"When you're doing that many parking lots you really have to figure out where you're going and who's going there," Rottinghaus says.
And by pooling all their individual skills Arrow Striping has figured it out. Sue works in the office, Don works with general contractors and does bidding. He and Heath measure jobs and put together bids (a recent advance is Arrow's use of "smart phones" enabling the company to create and e-mail a bid right from the site). Work orders come in to Anderson, who passes them to Whitney. Whitney schedules and tracks work orders on a magnetic board, and as the jobs come up he gives the work orders to the crews when they are going out "so everyone is working off the same page and knows what's expected of the job," says Rottinghaus, who adds the system grew out of the way the Arrow team worked together.
"We have improved our organization - streamlined ourselves - and we know what needs to be done and who can do what," Rottinghaus says. "Do we actually have a step-by-step written down plan? No, we don't. But we have enough people who know what they're doing and who are good at what they do so we can get out there and get any job done quickly. We have the capabilities to get something done on the spur of the moment, which can make us really valuable to a contractor or property manager who needs something done quickly.
"By simplifying it we know we have a few little steps we need to take. We all have our own roles to play, and it truly is not that complicated."
But the transformation of Arrow Striping has a lot to do with the base the new owners started from and their insistence on pursuing the growth and profitability they saw in the company before they bought it.