In 2003 Randy Foster had a situation. His three-year-old commercial pavement maintenance company wanted to grow, but expansion was restricted by factors outside of Foster's control — he was getting asphalt mix from a competitor, but only about 10 days out of the month. Since he had more demand for services than he could supply because of his limited asphalt availability, Foster took action.
"I did as much research and read as much material as I could get my hands on about asphalt plants, how they work, and the components," says Foster of his decision to take his destiny into his own hands. "We decided to put up a plant, decided on the size we wanted, and we bought an old 1965 model Barber Greene plant, a small one, and brought it into our shop and rebuilt it. We modernized it to meet all the federal specs by putting a baghouse and a modern control house on it."
Foster's decision turned out to be more beneficial for Asphalt Maintenance Co., based in West Plains, MO, than he had imagined.
"Having the plant absolutely helped us out a lot last year," he says. "We were able to double our business from the previous year. It also made us a lot more competitive on jobs and helped us get control of our schedule."
Foster's head-first dive into hot mix production shows the determination he has to be successful in this industry. In 2000, Foster was working for a family business which had nothing to do with the pavement maintenance industry. He noticed there was a need for sealcoating in his area, so he bought some equipment and started sealcoating.
"Then I started to notice that two out of every three calls that we got were people wanting paving. So I got into the paving business the following year," he says. "Paving eventually came around and has turned into the mainstay of our business."
Running the business
AMC currently does about 65% of its work in paving and about 35% in sealcoating. 2005 will be the first year the company will have full time sealcoating and paving crews. They do about half residential and half commercial work in both their paving and sealcoating markets.
The company has 12 employees. There's a full-time sales person; superintendent Greg Collins takes care of scheduling and outside work for the paving operation; Foster runs the hot mix asphalt plant; and his wife, Jennifer, runs the sealcoating operation. Foster depends a lot on organization to make his business run smoothly. One example is the way in which he has systematized many of the operations at his company.
"We've broken a lot of our systems into Standard Operating Procedures, we call them SOPs, where things are done a certain way, and that system is repeated each time it's done. An example would be the way we load up in the morning before we leave. Everything has a place and equipment is loaded and unloaded in a certain way," he explains. "We also have SOPs for turning in paperwork for job costing and other office tasks. We found there are great efficiencies in doing that — it puts an end to confusion and lost productivity."
Part of the systemization process is communicating these ideas to employees. Foster is dedicated to working with his employees to make sure everyone is on the same page. He recently implemented training programs for his workers — a day and a half in a classroom setting and one day out in the field. Collins runs the program, the inside part of which includes working through the employee handbook, reviewing pay scales, and watching National Asphalt Pavement Association training videos about rolling techniques, paving, and similar topics. Collins quizzes the employees on subjects they talked about in depth. Outside, employees receive hands-on training, including paving a test pad, reviewing paver operations and rolling patterns, sealcoating the pad, and reviewing equipment safety.