It's Been Worthwhile

When Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction wrote about Robert Stanley Asphalt Maintenance in 1994 the company was 15 years old, applied a cutback oil to seal asphalt pavement, was intent on marketing and professionalism, and owner Bob Stanley didn't want more work than he needed.

"If I have enough money to live comfortably why go beyond that?" Stanley said at the time. There's something to be said for a business philosophy that has been successful since 1977 when Stanley, now 70 years old, started the company.

"It has worked out," Stanley says today. "I can afford to do things, I can take my wife on cruises, I have a 4-acre property with a shop and a covered parking area for equipment. So it's been worthwhile."

Today the Elizabethtown, PA, company has been renamed RS Asphalt Maintenance Inc., following the sale several years ago of the residential part of the business which involved between 300 and 400 jobs a year. RS Asphalt Maintenance is now a full-service pavement maintenance firm instead of a sealcoating and striping contractor. Stanley rarely goes into the field anymore, and preparations are underway to sell the business to 28-year-old foreman Casey Greinermiller who has been with the company eight years.

"He's going to get more involved in the company and get more of the profit action," Stanley says. "He's responsible for the work, our secretary is responsible for the office, and I'm responsible for nothing, though it doesn't always work out quite that way."

And Stanley still seals asphalt using a generic cutback asphalt oil - not an asphalt emulsion or coal tar-based product. "According to my supplier I'm the biggest oil sealer that comes to his facility. That's pretty nice," he says.

RS Asphalt Maintenance applies the material with two 250-gal. sealer rigs, then broadcasts sand by hand over the surface when the sealing operation is finished. He says the addition of broadcast sand has reduced callbacks for tracking or slippage to zero since he started using it.

Stanley's son John Henry, who at 17 years old in 1994 helped out on a part-time basis, has launched Pro Seal, his own successful pavement maintenance business in Palmyra, PA, after working for years with his father. Stanley says one of the reasons his son started his own operation is he wanted to move away from oil as a sealer, and Pro Seal relies on refined coal tar as its sealcoating material.

"I guess he's now a competitor of mine, but I'm proud that he has taken up the business on his own."

Stanley says his son isn't the first person to leave his company and start a competing business. "That's happened two or three or four times where people take off from my business and go off and start their own," he says. "I wasn't always pleased with them for doing it, but they learned the business from me and my crew and in the bigger picture that's a positive thing and something to be proud of."

Back in 1994 Stanley was looking for ways to keep his company small while increasing his profits. He was a hands-on owner who sold and with a small crew did the work in the field. He insisted on presenting a professional image, a trait that continues today with white trucks cleaned every day and detailed every year; he had more than 6,700 commercial customers and 2,100 regular residential customers in his database, and he relied heavily on referrals and direct-mail marketing to get the word out.

One of his growth ideas was to target gas stations with convenience marts, which in his area were only using 3-ft. lines for parking stalls.

"Eventually, I finally convinced them that their facility would look better with 15- or 20-ft. lines and that's what they use now on all their properties," he says. "Then when ADA came in I went through each facility and provided what they needed to become compliant and they hired me to do that, eventually including adding ramps for access."

Since then the company has continued its 22-year relationship with the same corporation and focused on commercial work while still maintaining its residential business.

"That was difficult because we were working the residential customers around the commercial jobs, so we often had to hold the residential customers off," he says. "In the end we didn't feel that was right so we sold that part of the business, and that allowed us to concentrate on the commercial work."

But along with the sale of the residential operation went the company name. The buyer understandably wanted to retain the name recognition as well as the customers, so Stanley sold it to him and renamed the business using his initials.

Today RS Asphalt Maintenance Inc. focuses on its more than 250 commercial clients, including a heavy emphasis on gas and convenience stores in central Pennsylvania. The company still does residential work but only if people call and ask. "We don't pursue it."

Stanley says that once he decided to focus on the convenience store market he and his six-person company (including secretary Gail Frey who has been with the company since before the last article in 1994) slowed down pursuing other work. "We did it if people called us but we had enough to do to keep us busy and profitable," he says.

While Stanley believes he's still going to get his convenience store contracts he's hedging his bets and has begun aggressively pursuing other work. One of the first things he did was a direct-mail effort to 4,500 prospects, reminding them of RS Asphalt Maintenance, the services his company offers, and most importantly alerting them to the name change. "We're just making sure that they know that we're available if they need us," he says.