Tim and Debbie Wells got married in 1982, shortly after graduating from high school. While most newlyweds take their wedding money to buy dishes, bath towels, or fancy drinks on their honeymoon, the Wells used some of the money their guests gave them to use for their new life together and made an out-of-the-ordinary purchase — they bought a parking lot striper and began a pavement maintenance business.
"We were crazy and driven high school kids," says Debbie Wells. "This is what Tim did as a teenager — he worked for a sealcoating company in the summers, so this was all he knew how to do as far as work. Out of high school, we said 'Wow, we could start our own business,' and we did!"
With their new paint striper, Tim started handling the striping work at the sealcoating company where he was employed. About a year later, Tim and Debbie decided to break into sealcoating and bought a 500-gallon tank, some blowers, and hand squeegees. For the next two years, the Wells worked on small projects on their own. Then they "took the plunge" and bought a bulk truck and their first squeegee machine. Coast to Coast Seal Coating of Fresno, CA, was born.
From the start, Coast to Coast worked on building commercial accounts.
"By our fourth year, we had a lot of property management accounts," Wells says. "We still work for a lot of our original property managers who helped us start. It's great, especially when they tell us that they won't use other people or take other bids because they've gone through the other contractors, so that makes us feel like we're doing something right."
The company is heavily focused in the sealcoating and striping arena — about 80% of their work is sealcoating and striping. Coast to Coast does all its own striping on its sealcoating jobs. They also offer hot crackfilling, asphalt repair, and will contract out paving when they need to. About 80% of their work is in the commercial sector, but they make a point to stay in the residential market.
"A lot of the companies in our area won't respond to residential, and that's one thing we've always made a point to do," Wells says. "Sometimes it's really hard to fit in those little driveways in the middle of the season, but we say that no job is too big or small, we find room for them all."
These days, Coast to Coast doesn't have to spend a lot of time or money on marketing. A good reputation can go a long way when it comes to generating sales. Wells estimates that 75% of their business is from repeat customers and referrals. She says that for a while Coast to Coast was getting calls out of the blue from property managers they had never worked for. Eventually, they found out why.
"What we didn't know for many years is that a lot of people in the industry, like property managers, get together and have luncheons about once a month, and they talk. That's how they heard about us," she says. "You always want to do those people right so they have a good conversation about you over lunch."
The ad dollars Coast to Coast does spend are minimal.
"Our advertising is our phone ad and our equipment," Wells says. "A lot of the calls that we get from people we've never worked with before are from people who are getting our number off of one of our trucks or our barricades. All of our equipment has our name and phone number, and the equipment is red and blue so it's noticeable. That's been our best advertising tool for the last several years — our equipment, and it's free!"
Coast to Coast even has a simple, yet effective way of finding employees.
"We put up a plywood sign on the fence at our yard that says: 'Help Wanted: labor, must have clean DMV'."
The system works, and Coast to Coast attracts and keeps good employees because they make it known to everyone that they're part of a team, "Team Coast to Coast" as the shirts everyone wears to work say.