"When the economy is down maintenance is up. Rather than curling up and running scared you have to do the opposite." - Paul Milewski
While most companies are cutting back now, we are doing the opposite," says Sealco Asphalt President Paul Milewski. Steady growth has always been a focus for the Fort Collins, CO, company, which Milewski started in 1989. After starting with only three employees and one 550-gal. sealcoating tank, Milewski added infrared services in addition to conventional patching after just one year in business. He purchased a four ton truck-mounted infrared unit the following year. "We knew there was a niche for infrared in our community, and it took off from day one," Milewski says.
Milewski has since grown his infrared fleet to eight units. He has also purchased sealcoating and crackfilling equipment from distressed sales. And his company has grown to a total of 15 to 20 full-time seasonal employees. Sealco now does 40% of business in asphalt patching, 30% sealcoating, 10% crackfilling, about 4% striping, and the rest smaller paving.
Once the tough times hit, Milewski decided to focus on ramping up the company. "Rather than curling up and running scared you have to do the opposite. When the economy is down the maintenance business is up," Milewski says. For Sealco, more marketing and expansion of its territory was key. Sealco is poised for market expansion to nearby territories up and down the entire rocky mountain region, Milewski says.
While many companies will cut marketing funds in tough times, Sealco is spending more on marketing. "Marketing is everything in an economy like this." Internet marketing will be the primary area of increased budget for Sealco, but Milewski is also increasing the use of yard signs on all jobs. Recently, Sealco purchased a 1-800-BLACKTOP vanity number which Milewski has put on all company vehicles and has been seeing good results from, he adds.
Milewski has also been fortunate enough to purchase more equipment. "While many are downsizing and selling equipment, we're able to take advantage of the equipment deals out there," he says.
There is one area Milewski has cut back on: overtime. "This is a cost-effective way to increase your bottom line without cutbacks," Milewski says. To try and balance out the loss of overtime, Milewski has been able to offer his employees raises. And, he's been able to hire more employees, too.
And to make sure opportunities were not being missed while avoiding overtime, Sealco started weekend only crews for all of its services. Employees either work a four or five day work week or they work on the weekend crew, but they don't work much overtime.
Sealco employees, though cross trained, are assigned to specific service crews. "We try to keep employees on a crew in the service they are best at," Milewski says. "But still at any given moment we can all come together and work on a specific project together because of cross training."
Milewski also has an eye on the future with a goal of doubling his gross sales in the next couple of years.