An Illinois contractor that has gone through a number of transformations since starting up in 1986 faced perhaps its biggest challenge last year when on its biggest job ever it was unable to use the refined coal tar material it was used to working with.
Eric Maul, president of Maul Asphalt & Sealcoating, Naperville, IL, says the 1 million-sq.-ft. job was a big step up for the contractor and presented a variety of challenges even before the issue of material came up.
"We bid work the way we think the work should be done. We don't cut corners," Maul says. "We tell the client what we think should be done to their parking lot and then we go from there. So we had been bidding big jobs but we weren't getting them.
"In this case we got this job partly because the client budgeted properly for it, so when we bid it we came in within their budgetary constraints. This job got us in...and this job is going to help us get bigger jobs."
In fact, it has already helped. Two weeks after completing AMC Cantera 30 Maul Asphalt was awarded a large hotel property, and the theater chain asked them to do another property 20 miles away.
"We knew we could perform this kind of work on this large a scale because it takes all the different aspects of our business and puts them to good use," Maul says. "Jobs of this size and complexity require planning, scheduling, detail, and communication, both with the material supplier and the customers and tenants, and that fits right in with what we do best."
Driveways to parking lots
Started in 1986 as a part-time driveway sealing business when Maul was in high school, the company was run by Maul's brother and current vice president of marketing Chris, while Eric was in college. The brothers continued the company, eventually dividing the territory so they wouldn't compete, and Eric continued working even after he got a job in the health care industry.
In 1997 they sold the company when Eric had to move to Arizona for his job, but three years later, when he decided to move back to the Chicago area, he wanted back in.
"My timing was pretty good because the person we sold it to was ready to get out, so we just bought it back," Maul says. "It was a driveway company when we sold it and it was a driveway company when I bought it back. But we decided if we were going to make serious money in this business we had to be a commercial contractor, and now more than 95% of our work is commercial."
Today the company is run by the Maul brothers and by Chris Rowe, vice president of operations and a partner on the paving side who runs the paving division. Maul Asphalt employs 20 people during the summer, running three sealcoating crews and one paving crew each day. Maul says the paving crew has remained stable over the years, with about half the sealcoating crews being new to the company since 2000. Maul says they do three or four jobs a day, with half the work involving patching and paving and half the work sealcoating and striping. The company regularly services more than 200 clients, most of whom have multiple locations.
"We do all our own work locally," Maul says. "We sell it and have full control. The bottom line is we're doing the work so we can provide the quality."
He says making sure each crew understands the day's work ahead is a priority for the company. Each Maul crew includes a foreman who is responsible for the job and for communicating with the clients or tenants at the jobsite. Maul holds morning meetings each day with the job chief to make sure he knows what to expect each day. Then job chief is provided with MapQuest directions to each site and often an aerial view of the property obtained on the internet.
"We do a lot of sites half one day and half the next, and they need to understand that because that's what we've communicated to the client and the tenants" Maul says. "With the aerial view it's easy to show what parts are supposed to be done which days. Plus, it's just easier to talk about the job if you can look at a picture of it."