The January 2010 issue of Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction offers insights from contractors and consultants on steps you can take to create opportunities to get more work, but Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group, cautions that contractors need to avoid the "quick fix" mentality. He says most companies want a quick solution to whatever problem they are having, but contractors have to realize that there rarely is a quick fix.
"You don't try one thing and then not try it again if it doesn't work the first time," he says. "You might have to try it again and again because it's new to your prospects and it might take them a while to react to what you are doing."
Many of the following suggestions and suggestions in the January issue are long-range, and the payoff could well be down the line. But they work. For ideas with a more immediate impact see "Tips to Help Contractors get Business in a Tight Economy."
Here are a few more:
Join industry associations. Two that come quickly to mind are the North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA) and the National Pavement Contractors Association (NPCA). Others to look into are Asphalt Sealcoat Manufacturers Association and Pavement Coatings Technology Council. Nick Howell, T&N Asphalt Services, is current NPCA president and he says there are three main reasons to join NPCA: the site's customer search engine (which helps drive work to contractor members), marketing assistance, and a broad variety of member benefits.
"I use the member benefits every now and then, and I should use them more," Howell says. "But I use that logo on our contracts, in our marketing, on envelopes, everywhere I can. And it works. I had a bid just last year and the guy said he wanted us to do the work but we were high and he wanted to know if we would come down. I thought it over and we really couldn't so I said 'no'. He thought about it and said he'd give us the work and he pointed to the logo and said, 'that's why.' He liked the fact that we were members of an industry association and supportive of the industry."
Howell says contractors join NPCA for a variety of different reasons, any of which is valid and worthwhile. "Some people get more than 100 requests for bid, and some join just for the member benefits. For me it's all about marketing. Being a member of NPCA says we're professional and that we're involved and supportive of the industry."
Get involved in the industry. Howell is a strong supporter of National Pavement Expo and National Pavement Expo West, spending time on the exhibit floor and attending seminars. "But spending time with contractors from across the country is just as valuable," he says. "I learn a lot just talking with the people in the hallways and learning how they do what they do."
But Howell says there's more to the industry than the NPE shows. He suggests visiting forums on industry websites such as NPCA (www.pavementpro.com) and www.parkinglotplanet.com where a broad variety of topics are discussed and questions are asked and answered.
"Some guys ask 'How does that help my business?' and it's a good question. It helps your business because it helps you to better understand your business and you're better able to talk about your business and the industry to your customers," Howell says. "You sound more professional and you'll end up doing a better job. Plus you learn about other possible growth areas you might not have known about or learned about had you not gotten more involved."
Attend National Pavement Expo and National Pavement Expo West seminars. Howell says he has probably taken the annual "Understanding Pavement Defects" class 15 times. "That one class has probably gotten us more work in the long run because I could go out and talk to customers and explain what the problem is and why it's happening and how to fix it," he says. "You can look very professional on the job when you can talk knowledgably with a client."
"Size" helps. Howell says he thinks many property managers feel more comfortable working with contractors they perceive to be "bigger" because they think "bigger" means more established and more capable. So he takes simple steps to make T & N Asphalt appear bigger than the mid-size company it is: T & N Asphalt paints and letters its trucks with the company name and phone number, relies on professional-looking pre-printed contracts, and mails bids and invoices in pre-printed envelopes.
Use a "seal of approval." Howell says he noticed some of the large paving contractors he works with have Associated General Contractors (AGC) or National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) logos on their trucks and stationary.
"I thought it looked very professional so I joined NPCA and the Better Business Bureau and we put those logos all over our letterheads, business cards, mailings, anywhere we can," Howell says. "It helps us build up our image and helps us appear bigger and more professional.
"Perceived value is the key, and we've found companies will spend more money with you if they think you are a professional, quality organization," he says. "Of course the liability is that if you look more professional you actually have to be more professional and provide a quality, professional service."
Howell says that the size of a company determines to some extent how it should approach some of these suggestions. "If you're an established contractor you might want to try subcontracting as a way to grow and get more work," he says. "If you're a smaller business you might want to work on improving your image first."