In an age governed by the customer inconveniences of computer-generated sales calls, answering machines, and multi-level telephone menu programs, TLG Paving Co. has made its mark by recognizing that the customer is king — and treating him that way.
Whether it's explaining the job process, changing a sealcoating schedule, or simply keeping property managers and their tenants informed about the job, TLG has the customer's needs in mind.
"Some companies have lost sight of relationships," says Tom Gilchriese, president of TLG Paving Co., Santa Ana, CA. "They're only into production and they don't care about inconveniencing the customer. We try to be very accommodating."
And laying the ground work for TLG's accommodation are the contractor's efforts to prepare the customers — both property owners and managers and their tenants and residents — for the sealcoating job that is going to take place. Gilchriese says preparation is a big part of TLG's process — and a big part of its sealcoating success.
"We're always thinking about what areas we can get into our preparation and notification efforts," he says. "The more I go out of my way to let them know what's going on and the more I go out of my way to see them face to face, the more the residents or tenants feel like they're a part of the job and that they had a part in it," he says. "We try to keep everyone informed as much as possible so the job goes as smoothly as possible."
Struggling to survive
Gilchriese had been working for another contractor when he decided to start his own company in July 1999.
"I had some clients built up but I couldn't get some of the work that I thought I could get, for whatever reason," he says. "So we struggled the first couple of years."
He says he spent most of his time at the beginning "pounding the pavement," driving through parking lots, finding out who owns or manages them, and calling on the phone. "Once I made that contact I started working to find out what other clients they had or properties they managed."
He credits his wife and TLG vice president, Franchesca, with encouraging him to stay the course.
"It got to one point where I didn't know if we could make it," he says. "I had a couple of offers to buy out the company and we considered the offers very seriously. But my wife is a stronger person than I am and she convinced me to turn down the offers."
And the company, which employed eight people at that time, turned around in one month. Today TLG works with a database of more than 1,000 past customers, 100 of whom are regular clients, each with multiple properties and all of whom have been repeat customers. The contractor employs 12 people and Gilchriese doesn't want to get bigger than about 20 people "so we can keep control of what's going on."
"I don't see any need to get any bigger than that," he says. "We'd just like to keep it small and keep it personal and hopefully have fun along the way."
He says the company is a true pavement maintenance specialist, focusing on pavement repair, concrete repair, sealcoating, and striping.
Rather than buy a standard sealcoating machine, TLG built 12-ft. squeegees that attach to the back of its John Deere and New Holland tractors.
"We put the beads down with the tanker and then follow that up with the tractors and squeegee. There's very little maintenance of equipment with the tractors and it's a simple process," he says. "You lay the beads down and the 4-wheel tractor overlaps the beads and then when the bead hits the squeegee is just spreads out until it's all covered."
He says the company has enough equipment, and the crew is cross-trained on all types of work the company does, that he can split the crew to handle as many as four simultaneous jobs if necessary.
Gilchriese credits Salomon Sandoval, a foreman with the company since 1999, as a key figure of the crew's effectiveness. Most other members have been with the crew about three years.