He says Dryco went from sales of $1 million annually to $21 million annually over a 15 year period, then almost overnight went from $21 million to $16 million.
"For a family-oriented company that was a very tough thing," he says. "We concentrated on recovery to keep people working; but there was only so much we could do. So much of our industry is controlled by leases in the buildings, and all the buildings were empty so no one was doing any pavement maintenance on parking lots in front of empty buildings."
Plus, as the company grew, some of the things that were the heart of Dryco became more difficult to monitor and retain.
"Rafael and I have always wanted to do quality work. We always wanted it to be as good as it could be, and we never really had to talk about it. In fact, none of us ever talked about quality at the start; nothing was needed to be said," Young says. "But when you get up to 125 people you have to put processes in place, people have to be on time, they have to be honest with their hours, and we never had to worry about that before."
When should a contractor put processes in place?
"There's no magic trigger," Young says. "It's not the dollars, it's the people. We were creating multiple crews and creating divisions. In the beginning, as we grew we were doing sealcoating on the weekend. Then we created a primary paving crew, and a patch crew that also did sealcoating, then two patch crews and one sealcoating crew. Then we added concrete and decided we needed to hire a concrete specialist. During the more rapid time of growth things kind of got out of control, and that's what happens. When you have a lot of people, people can find places to hide - if they're that kind of people."
And while the dot-com bubble burst powered down Silicon Valley, it became obvious some of Dryco's processes were being short-circuited. Young had been focusing his attention on strategic planning, essentially removing himself from the day-to-day components of the business. With the business struggling he decided to get more involved.
"As I got more involved in the day-to-day operations I realized that a lot of the processes we had put in place had been dropped," he says. "Over and over again I found myself saying 'Wait a minute, when did we stop doing that?'"
A good example is Dryco's approach to patching. The Dryco process involves a 4-in.-deep patch in which the pavement is saw cut and removed. Subgrade is compacted, edges are broom swept to remove loose material, and then tack-coated 4 in. deep. The crew places 2 or 3 in. of mix in the hole, which is compacted, then the edge is re-tacked and a final lift is placed and compacted for the finished patch. They then tack the finished edges and sand them.
"I went out on some jobsites to view the crews on the job and we were digging and plugging the patch with 2 or 3 in. of mix, but no one was sweeping the edges. And we weren't applying the tack until the last lift went in. And we had stopped tacking and sanding the edges. They'd taken those steps out and I'm asking 'Why aren't we tacking the edges?'
"Well, things had been going great, and we had plenty of good work. And we were doing so much work so fast for so long, plus the fact that we brought in so many new people during that time, that we kind of got run over by those people," Young says. "They didn't understand the reason for sweeping the edges; they didn't understand the reason you tack the entire 4-inch face of the patch wall. They figured that coating the top 2 inches or so of the patch wall was okay, but they didn't realize they were damaging the bond of the first layer of the patch. What they were doing certainly was faster, but it didn't produce a quality patch, and it certainly didn't produce the quality patch we're known for installing."
So at the jobsite Young began "directing" some of the crews. "I asked them, 'Is that doing the best job? Tack the edge!' Then I thought to myself, 'If we're not doing that, how many other small things aren't we doing? Is that the quality we want? People were getting lazy on us, they were going so fast, and we were making so much money that no one was paying attention."