A-1 Asphalt marries words to deeds

Spend just a few minutes talking with Tom Marry and you'll soon realize that much of his company's success can be attributed to his belief in his approach - and to his way with words. Because Marry, the owner of A-1 Asphalt Sealing, Mahopac, NY, is never at a loss for words.

  • "We're the biggest little pavement maintenance company serving Putnam and Westchester counties."
  • "It's much easier to do the right thing and much more difficult to do the wrong thing," a life lesson he applies to his business.
  • "The customer only wants you to do what you say you're going to do. That's all they want, and they're willing to pay for it."

In that last statement lies his formula for success. The 10-year-old pavement maintenance company has made its mark by catering to the residential niche, which includes many high-end driveways, and by delivering on its promises.

"I want to not only meet but exceed my customer's expectations," says Marry, who last year was named as a regional representative to the National Pavement Contractors Association (NPCA) and who has been a speaker at National Pavement Expo.

A-1 Asphalt Sealing generates 85% of sales from sealcoating and 15% from a mix of patching and crack repair (he subs out striping). A 6,000-gallon storage tank in the yard supports twin Equipt 550s in the field, and A-1 uses Neyra Industries' coal tar sealer. The company started doing only residential work but in recent years has added commercial/industrial clients to its customer list.

In 2007, 85% of sales were from sealcoating, including more than 350 residential driveways; the remaining 15% was commercial work, and he says 85% of his work is from repeat customers. "I might be the highest-priced contractor in this area, but the work we do and the finished product supports that," he says. "The bottom line is that the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is gone, and we convey that to the consumer."

But it's not just his way with words that keeps his crews busy; it's A-1's marketing efforts and his approach to the work. Marry estimates A-1 spent more than $20,000 on marketing through the local chambers of commerce, sponsorships of local athletic teams, ads in school papers, and ads in local flyers and the Yellow Pages.

"Much of that is giving something back to the community, but it does keep our name out there," he says. He also credits his membership in the NPCA with keeping leads flowing in. "Our membership in that organization and our presence on NPCA's site is working for us even when we don't realize it," he says.

Marry, a retired New York City firefighter, sprays all driveways, but he says the key to his job quality is the care and handwork. His crews use blocker boards to protect buildings, gardens, Belgium Block, brick, and other decorative areas, plus he uses a soft-bristle broom to trim out areas 12 to 18 inches from driveway edges. A soft bristle paint brush attached to the end of a long stick enables A-1 crews to trim right up against the concrete lip of a garage and around decorative block.

"People do not put stone down so you can put sealer on it, and that's a big selling point for us," he says. "My business has been built around customer satisfaction and customer retention, and we have been successful with that."

Marry says A-1 Asphalt Sealing doesn't get complaints very often. "But if we ever do I'm on it like a fly on flypaper - because I take this personally. I like to take a personal interest in my customers, and I try to make them happy. Once they hire me I want to be the only pavement maintenance contractor they use - ever."

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