For almost 25 years this magazine, National Pavement Expo, and National Pavement Expo West, have been dedicated to the development, growth, and improvement of the paving and pavement maintenance industry. Sometimes that means discussing how to perform a certain skill or type of work or even how to complete a specific job. But whenever we write about how to enter a particular aspect of the pavement maintenance field, whether as a new business start-up or as an add-on service (see page 12, "Striping start-up") we do so with at least a little trepidation.
We know that many businesses are looking to expand, and we see it as part of our job to help them succeed. But we don't want to help open doors to those businesses that aren't going to benefit the industry as a whole. And whenever we write this type of article we invariably get calls or e-mails from contractors concerned that we are helping other people and other businesses become their competitor. And they have a point. Many types of pavement maintenance operations are easy to get into. The barrier to entry is low as some equipment is relatively inexpensive, and skills, at least basic ones, can be quickly learned. So "anyone" can become a striper, for example.
But there's more to striping - and to every aspect of the pavement maintenance industry - than just buying the equipment. Not only do you need to understand the technical aspects of your business, you need to understand the business aspects of your business. You need to know what it costs you to visit a jobsite, what it costs to put down a gallon of paint (or sealer or ton of hot mix). You need to know your job costs so you can price your work properly, making sure your margins are where they need to be - so others can keep their margins where they need to be. In other words, there's more to being a striper than owning a striping machine.
So as you consider adding a service (or entering the pavement maintenance industry), make sure you're entering it in the right way. Because the industry only needs pros. Make sure you ask the questions you need to answer to make sure your venture can succeed, but also make sure to ask yourself, "Are you willing to be a professional?"