Every job you do is important," says Tom Frederickson, president of Superior Striping. "You might be striping only a 10-stall convenient store, but first of all that's the job you're doing and it's the job you're getting paid for, so that makes it important.
"But it's also important because the owner or manager of that convenient store might own other properties that need striping, or he might know someone who owns a larger property. When you look at it that way each job becomes very important to us."
That's a pretty good philosophy, though not an uncommon one. What is uncommon is how Superior Striping weaves that approach through its organizational structure, planning, bidding, marketing, and, most impressively, in its day-to-day operation of its "crews" out on the job. The results are, well, superior.
"I tell our guys that every year we have to go out and prove ourselves," he says. "We're only one job away from getting a bad reputation."
Started in 1991 by Frederickson and Jeff Gustafson, vice president, the Ramsey, MN, pavement marking specialist has focused its efforts on becoming an innovative and successful striping contractor, so they have structured their company and approach parts of the business at least a little differently than most stripers. In its first year Gustafson and Frederickson, both of whom had previous striping experience, striped 610 parking lots using two pickup trucks, two trailers, and four Kelly Creswell stripers. They got some unexpected help because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect that year, and Superior Striping positioned itself as the ADA expert.
"That helped us get a lot of business right away," Frederickson says.
While that might have given the fledgling company a nudge, it's not what enabled it to grow into the contracting company it is today. Last year Superior Striping completed more than 2,500 parking lots using 11 pickup trucks, 11 trailers, 24 JCL Lunay Liners, six Kelly Creswell stripers, three Graco LineLazers, 11 LineDrivers - and only nine employees.
Frederickson and Gustafson believe in their employees, they believe in equipment, and they believe that by providing employees with the right mix of equipment they can generate a great deal of work.
"We go pretty hard, but I treat my guys the way I want to be treated. They are definitely the reason for the success of our company-they do a great job for us," Frederickson says. "I try to make it like it's their own business: Here are your jobs for the night, go out and do 'em, and let me know in the morning how they went."
Sometimes, in fact, he won't see an employee for two weeks.
"I'll usually call up my guys in the afternoon and let them know the jobs for that night," he says. "They call me the next morning and let me know how they did. I know that's unusual in this business, but I want them to feel like it's their own company. When they're out there we want them to make a decision, and 95% to 98% of the time they're going to be right. So I try to show them that respect.
"They don't make many mistakes out there, but if they make one it's not a big deal. We all make mistakes. And once they make one and learn what it was, that's something they learned, and I know they won't make it again. So it's an opportunity for our business to improve."
Night work dominates
Operating in the northwest area of Minneapolis, Superior Striping's season starts in early April and runs into late November. Gustafson stripes all the time; Frederickson's wife, Joan, handles the computer and billing, and Frederickson works in the office and stripes when he can or when it gets extremely busy, especially in April and May.
"In Minnesota we get a lot of salt and sand on parking lots and the owners want them restriped as soon as they get swept," he says.
So the company gets a jump start by striping roughly 850 parking lots in the first two months of the season. Most work (70%) is done at night, which increases production because his men don't have to fight traffic or move cars.