By Chris Tammany
Wow! Another National Pavement Expo has come and gone. If you are anything like me you go home with your head swimming with information and ideas for the season to come.
My company, Petra Paving Inc., is located in southeastern New Hampshire where we only have a nine-month paving season and a six-month sealcoating season. We are a small company with 10 employees, so my role ranges from paver operator, to estimator, to salesman, and more. A problem with this is that I find myself getting bogged down in the day-to-day operations and I am not working on my growing business - a problem for many of us in the smaller end of this industry.
After attending an NPE class with Grow Consulting's Guy Gruenberg (where he had us fill out a S.W.O.T. form listing Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) I finally had to put in writing what I already knew but was not admitting: My follow through with information I gain at the shows each year is absolutely horrible. Many years we would come home with so much information and do almost nothing because we were overwhelmed with ideas.
Don't misunderstand me. Based on what we have learned at NPE we do have some very good procedures in place. The budget is created each year and gives us accurate numbers to work with for pricing and daily job costing. That's right, I said our daily job costing. We do an average of three residential driveways each day with our paving and dirt crew. The sealcoating crew can do as much as 15,000 sq. ft. of residential work, which can equal five to six jobs per day. As you can imagine we move around a lot each day, and there is a lot of room for error. By tracking each job's information we now have extremely accurate historical data. For example, we know how many hours it will take to grade and pave a 5,000-sq.-ft. or 10,000-sq.-ft. job, and we know at what point we have reached our overhead requirement for the year based on man hours. One of my daily jobs is to review seven to 10 jobs that have been job costed from the day before. All this information is compiled into a report which then can identify our honey holes and where we should be spending marketing monies.
Another very helpful item we learned about at NPE is to have a company handbook. This is a great tool to create stability in your company. Years ago before we had a handbook I was my own worst enemy because, depending upon my mood, we could do the same procedure differently three times in one day. This caused confusion and bad attitudes in the crews. I found that by having a company handbook and standard operating procedures in place employees are more efficient and happier. The best part as an owner is you are not "the bad guy." It is simply the way it is written and the handbook is the bad guy.
On our 17-hour ride home from Nashville I had ample time to think about a conversation I had with Randy Foster of Asphalt Maintenance Company out of Missouri. He has an idea about marketing to a certain group of properties and he was excited to talk about it. Randy and I have built a good relationship over the years, look forward to the shows, and share our season battle stories over dinner. While driving I started to like Randy's idea and decided I would pursue this group of people also.
Next, I started to think about how I could overcome my lack of follow through. I realized I needed an accountability partner - more specifically someone from outside my organization. This person could assist me with setting up my marketing strategy and holding me accountable for doing it in a timely manner. As part of the partnership I would in turn hold him accountable for his marketing strategy, therefore, helping us both to grow our companies.
When we returned I called Randy and ran this idea by him and got his input on it. He was very interested and admitted that he, in fact, had the same problem I do.
Many speakers have said the same thing, "Don't try to do everything in one year because you will fail miserably. Just pick one or two things and work on those this season." I suggest that if you do not currently work with a budget or do job costing that those should be the first two things you attack before the season gets going. A budget should be first priority because you can't job cost without knowing your daily nut.
My point behind all this information is that I have been attending the NPE shows for 11 years and it has taken 11 years to get this far.
So if this was your first time at the show don't be over whelmed and do nothing. If you're not sure what to tackle first, make a list of strengths and weaknesses for yourself and your company, and see what falls out. I firmly believe that most smaller sized owners will realize they have the same problem as Randy and I do: When you are bogged down in the day to day it's hard to work on growing your business.
Chris Tammany, president/owner of Petra Paving Inc., Hampstead, NH, is an 11-year veteran of National Pavement Expo and has been a member of the Pavement Advisory Board since 2009.