American Asphalt Company has been in business for over a century, seeing significant changes and growth during its 106 years serving customers. Bob Brown, president and owner since 1986, has actively pursued growth and succeeded in transforming a small business with fewer than 10 employees to a company now employing over 100 people with $30 million in yearly sales.
American Asphalt Company, W. Collingswood Heights, NJ, is a paving contractor and hot mix asphalt producer. Brown says 60% of sales comes from the paving division while the other 40% comes from selling asphalt mix. The company services central and southern New Jersey as well as southeast Pennsylvania. Homebuilders, commercial developers, general contractors, and local municipalities make up the workload, Brown says.
Having no experience in the asphalt business at the time he purchased the company, Brown utilized the company's existing employees to gain necessary knowledge of the industry. "I asked the staff that was here to show me what they did and why they did it," Brown says. "They taught me how to operate the asphalt plant, repair the equipment, and work on paving jobs.
Keys to successful longevity
"Honesty, integrity, and treating people with respect are the values I hold and have instilled in our workforce," Brown says. These values are consistently reinforced and communicated to the employees. "In any business, communication is almost always the root of most business problems," Brown says.
To foster communication and reinforce the company's values, American Asphalt Company publishes employee newsletters and holds regular meetings at every level of employment. An internal Web page serves as a daily bulletin board which is constantly updated with important information. But personal communication is also essential.
"We have constant communication between the layers of the company so everybody knows what they are challenged with and they have the information they need to make good decisions," Brown says. "Out in the field each crew has a kick-off meeting everyday, our scheduling team has a daily meeting, and our estimating department meets weekly, and so on."
A more tangible key to longevity is quality employees, and most contractors know that good employees can be hard to find. Brown has been actively seeking talented employees since day one. Finding quality employees was the first step he took after purchasing American Asphalt Company.
"In the very beginning it was finding a foreman that I could trust to run a job so I didn't have to be on site all the time," Brown says. "I looked for anyone that I felt had talent and had the similar core values I did. It's a never-ending quest, and as good people come in - bringing with them new talent - doors to other areas of growth open," Brown adds.
A major factor for any company's success is customers. Without customers a company can't grow. Brown has also always emphasized customer service. "Our mission statement is to provide our customers with the best quality products, at the best price, on time, and with the best overall service." American Asphalt Company makes every effort to communicate to customers it's service-focused both in and out of the office.
Knowing where and how to grow
"Once you have a business it just makes sense to increase your volume so you can operate efficiently," Brown says. In the beginning of Brown's tenure, American Asphalt Company had a very low volume of work - not even enough to keep employees busy every day. So increasing volume was one of Brown's first initiatives after purchasing the company.
To meet the immediate challenge of increasing the volume of work Brown actively marketed himself and his company to potential customers. To introduce himself and prove he and American Asphalt Company were a viable option in the industry, he often had face-to-face meetings with customers. "Networking was a key to increasing sales volume and is always a key to managing and growing a business," Brown says.