Randolph's Asphalt Maintenance is probably the only contractor in the country that went from a 1-year-old business to a 14-year-old business in one year. Talk about growing pains!
The Pittsburgh-based contractor, co-owned by Renee Randolph and Michele Phillips, provides sealcoating and general pavement maintenance services to customers throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.
"Basically we'll do anything that's too small for a paver," Phillips says.
She says business is split evenly between patching and repair (including cracksealing) and striping and sealcoating, with 75% of sales generated from commercial work, a huge shift from their start when 85% of sales were generated from residential driveways.
"We do very little driveway work now," Phillips says. "We've gotten picky, and we're even pickier with fuel costs and other costs increasing."
She says the company has enough commercial work and housing developments now, and they use driveways to fill in between commercial jobs.
But that's not how they started.
Initially the two women, who knew each other from years prior, bumped into each other at a softball game. While catching up on old times the two shared what they each did for a living. Renee, with a CDL license under her belt, drove a truck for a dry cement plant, and Phillips worked at a disposable diaper manufacturer.
Randolph mentioned she wanted to start a sealcoating company, and she soon approached Phillips with the offer of being part of her start-up. Knowing Randolph had been a foreman at a local paving company, Phillips found the offer appealing and accepted. Together they took a look at the Pittsburgh market, decided that because of high demand and low start-up costs sealcoating was the work they wanted, and they went to market as Randolph's Asphalt Sealcoating. They exhausted every means they had, including cashing in Phillips' 401(k), maxing out credit cards, even selling Randolph's 1986 Monte Carlo SS and her 1996 Honda Shadow to get up and running.
Equipment was the first order of business. They learned of sealcoating units made by Taylor Manufacturing, Green, NY, and headed north to visit with owner Matt Taylor, who offered his time, knowledge, "and belief in us that he gave before we ever poured one gallon. He is our mentor," Randolph says.
They outfitted an old flatbed truck with a Taylor 55-gal. skid-mounted non-agitated sprayer, bought 5-gal. buckets of sealer from a local hardware store, dumped them into the 55-gal. spray unit, and sprayed it on. Phillips kept her job at the factory, working four days on and four days off, and Randolph and Phillips struggled through the first year sealcoating driveways.
"Our first year we were a part-time company, and we felt there was a lack of response from the market at least partly because of that," Phillips says. "So we decided we had to get bigger and we went to SealMaster looking to buy some used equipment."
Getting bigger, fast
They learned from SealMaster that the 13-year-old Mitchell Asphalt Maintenance was going out of business so they contacted owner Loretta Mitchell about the business and the equipment. Understandably Mitchell wanted to sell her entire company - equipment, tools, and customer list - but initially Randolph's agreed to buy only some tools and equipment.
"It's hard to place a value on a list of names and phone numbers," Phillips says.
But with the help of Mitchell they figured out a way to determine its value. Mitchell hadn't been out of business very long so she still had strong ties to her clients. Missing the sales and marketing, Mitchell approached Randolph's a year later, and Randolph's Asphalt Sealcoating hired Mitchell to do estimating in addition to sales and marketing for the new company. They agreed that for any Mitchell customer that agreed to have Randolph's service their driveway, Mitchell would receive a percentage.