Cleck put ads in all the local papers, advertised on restaurant placemats and menus, and bought spots on local radio stations. He also bought 10 yard signs that he planted in yards of friends and family who lived in high-traffic areas. A friend who lives across the street from a hospital allows Cleck to park his 1972 motor grader in his lawn.
Although Cleck doesn’t keep full records on where companies heard about him, he asks when he thinks of it and it seems equipment recognition was his number one advertising tool, with radio second.
The first season
Cleck Paving took in work in a five-county area, roughly a 200-mile radius around Mifflintown. With five mix suppliers in the area with similar mix offerings and prices, he used the supplier closest to the job he was working on.
Cleck’s paving operation was set up with his seven-man paving crew working both paving and prep operations. Instead of paving every day, they crew took a few days off from paving every week to do grading work.
Cleck worked with his team every day. He says being an owner out with the team has a positive effect on his workers — they know their boss is working hard, which makes them want to work hard, too.
“It means a lot when the owner is on the crew every day,” he says. “I think they might do a little better job, and might do a little extra work.”
Cleck’s paving market was split about 80% residential and 20% commercial. Cleck says he has no plans to change that.
“It doesn’t matter where the work comes from, as long as I’m paving. As long as I have work for my guys and I’m doing something I love to do, I’m happy,” he says.
Some of Cleck’s commercial jobs included banks, a funeral home, and a nursing home, where the crews spent every day for a week paving.
“All the residents would come and watch us. During breaks or downtime, we’d all go over and talk to them. They’d talk about their childhoods, where they grew up, and jobs they’d had over the years.”
While the paving operation continued during the week, Cleck and a couple of the paving crew members continued working weekends on sealcoating projects. They worked Saturdays, and Sundays if needed. Pennsylvania’s sealcoat season runs from May to October.
“I stop sealing around late October, once the nights get cold enough to slow the curing process,” he says.
Cleck uses a Sealmaster 550 gallon tank and sprayer, and he does all the spraying himself using a two-coat application. He uses a Sealmaster sealer with a latex additive and black sand for traction. About 50% of his sealcoating work comes through call backs, a rate Cleck attributes to his quality and customer service.
“If someone doesn’t need a driveway done, I’ll tell them that I think they can wait another year, and people respect that,” he says.
Tweaking for next season
Cleck has a few things on deck for next season. He plans on adding four new people to his team. Two will work full-time sealcoating during the week. The other two will do full-time grading work.
“This way we can pave every day, and won’t have to take time out to do the grading,” he says.
Mike says his equipment worked out well and will be using it all again next year except for the paver, which he is going to trade in for a new LeeBoy, either a 2005 or 2006.
“I want to update my paver to a new paver, one that’s under warranty. The paver I have works really well, but I want to try to keep working with a new paver every few years,” he says.
During the 2005 season, Cleck made every effort to keep his overhead down, which included passing on a secretary. Last year, Cleck’s wife, Penny, did the book work and paperwork, and each night she took down messages off the machine. Cleck says next year he plans to get a secretary to help out with the work.
One thing Cleck won’t be changing is his paving crew. Cleck says that his men were the key to his success his first year out on his own, and believes that success is in your crew and how well they know how to do their jobs.