Customers are not just comparing prices, they?re comparing contractors and I think sometimes we forget that," says Steve Young, owner and president of Young Sealcoating, Lynchburg, VA. "You have to sell yourself."
So in addition to focusing on providing the quality, detailed work Young Sealcoating is known for, Young works hard to present his company to the market not only as a professional business but as a large business that operates much the way a larger business might operate. And that's despite the fact that Young Sealcoating employs only eight people in peak season and runs only a single sealcoating crew.
"We want to appear large and we want to operate like a larger business would because that gives us access to more jobs and also makes our customers feel more comfortable doing business with us," Young says. "It also helps differentiate us from the competition."
And it's not just about appearing larger. "It's about establishing our credibility as a competent and professional contractor," he says.
"Price conscious" to "professional"
Like many start-up contractors, Young's biggest concern in the early 1990s was getting enough work to survive. So he was very price conscious, worried that he might price himself out of a job. But he decided, eventually, that wasn't the way to grow his business. He bought his first sealcoating tank, used, from Neal Manufacturing and from them learned about National Pavement Expo (NPE). "I thought I could probably learn something there so went and gave it a try," he says. "I've been back every other year since."
He says that in addition to getting technical crack repair training at his first NPE, the most important thing he learned was about the industry.
"I had this impression that this industry wasn't looked at as professional, and was I ever wrong," Young says. "It was nice to see thousands of people who considered themselves business people, who talked like professionals, and who obviously worked to develop their business - just like I do."
He says "it's not just going to seminars" where he found professionalism. "It's talking to people on the floor, talking to people in the hallways, paying attention at the Roundtables," he says. "I'm always asking 'What have you done that makes you successful'" and while some people don't want to talk about it or don't have a specific answer, many people do because they are proud of what they've accomplished, and they're willing to share."
And this year Young is one of the new NPE speakers, presenting "Seal the Deal: How Your Image and Presentation Can Make You or Break You" on Feb. 2 in Nashville.
Focus on sealcoating
Young started in business in 1990, working from a Honda hatchback, sweeping driveways by hand, and applying sealer by the bucket. Today, Young Sealcoating Inc. (incorporated in 1995) operates five trucks, including three dump trucks, a pickup, and a Suburban SUV. One truck hauls the 750-gal. Seal-Rite sealcoating tank while the three dump trucks handle remove-and-replace repairs and hot pour cracksealing.
Young generates 60% of sales from commercial work and 40% of sales from residential work, though he does more driveways than parking lots. He says most driveways range from 3,500 to 4,000 square feet, and Young Sealcoating completes two or often three a day, all by hand because he says the finish looks better.
Young says 80% of sales result from hot pour cracksealing and sealcoating (Young Sealcoating works its way through 4,000-gallons of Gem Seal sealer every three weeks) and 20% of sales are from asphalt cut-and -patch repairs. The company subcontracts out striping, paving, and large-scale repair work.
"I'm a firm believer in focusing on what we do well, and what we do well is sealcoating," he says. "We don't chase a lot of cut and patch, but we do pursue a lot of sealcoating. We do small-scale cut-outs, 18 ft. by 12 ft, is about average for us, and most of the time I do cut and patch because it's got to get done before I sealcoat the lot."