Whether you are brand new to the pavement maintenance industry or adding striping as another service of your business many different factors need to be considered. Although the striping industry may be a smaller, niche industry, the array of information and concerns can seem overwhelming. This article is a beginning step for contractors or companies looking to enter into the striping industry.
Learn about your market, your season, your competition
Knowing a market's history and background is a good place to start, says Steve Muellenbach, vice president and general manager of M-B Companies. Another key aspect is knowing how competitive the market is, says Chris Noto, director of products for Speeflo, a Wagner brand.
Knowing how the climate will affect the business is just as important as knowing how competitive a market is, says Tim Wehner, total markets product manager for Graco Inc. Depending on what area of the country a contractor is in will affect how long of a season he has. "They need to understand the amount of time that they'll actually be doing the work. The surface temperature will also need to be considered in order to make sure the paint adheres - issues occur when surface temperatures drop below 40 degrees," Wehner says. In climates with a winter season, contractors need to accept the fact that they will be shut down for a number of months.
Along with climate conditions, contractors should be aware of when and how long they will be working. "Night work is not uncommon," Wehner says. "You have to be super flexible."
Robert Liles, of Robert Liles Parking Lot Service, suggests talking to property owners or managers, paving contractors, or general contractors about the market. He also suggests asking if they are happy with their current striping contractors. Liles, a speaker at the National Pavement Expo (NPE) shows and a member of the Pavement Advisory Board, also points out that prices paid by government entities are public record. "You can find awarded bids and calculate rates from that information," Liles says. "This will help determine what the 'going rates' are for your area."
Basic background information is just the start of what a contractor needs to know before starting up in the striping industry. A contractor also needs to consider the type of work - new striping, striping repaints, or field striping - he will do, Noto says. Road striping is another area contractors can consider, although most beginning contractors don't take on roads right away.
Muellenbach says most contractors, especially smaller companies, will start in parking lot striping. "The entrance is a lot cheaper and it's a lot more forgiving. It's a lot easier to get into striping parking lots than it is to get into striping roads."
Liles suggests starting with re-stripe work. "As you learn and become more confident, you can go after new lay out jobs," he says.
Customer base is another important factor contractors need to consider when entering into the striping industry. Mark Malloy, director of marketing for Airlessco, says one of the biggest things a contractor has to know is which of his existing customers needs striping services and how to get others to follow them. "I always tell people that that's the first place to start from in thinking about a business venture - where your customer is going to come from," he says.
If a contractor doesn't have any existing customers he needs to decide who his target customers are going to be - property managers, general contractors, etc. Or, he can rely on fellow contractors for help. "If I was just starting out, I would buddy up with a sealcoating company or a paving company, if you have a local one," Wehner says. This way, a striping contractor has a solid customer base and a reliable source for jobs.
How much work a contractor plans to do, and the size and complexity of jobs he will take on, are still more concerns. Deciding these parameters in the beginning can help when it comes to deciding what equipment will be needed, Malloy says.