After listening to his customers groan over the inefficient crews completing their striping work and the lack of striping contractors in the area, Naeem Patel and son Ronald Lemos made a career change. Patel, owner of Laredo Striping, Laredo, TX, originally owned a small video store where he first learned about the striping industry through conversations with his customers. Since opening Laredo Striping in 1997, the father and son duo have experienced continued success.
“We started this company out of necessity,” Lemos says. “There weren’t many pavement marking companies in Laredo, and everyone was doing their work with rollers. We bought an Airlessco and a Graco double-gun setup and were able to tackle the big jobs.”
Most of those big jobs consisted of warehouses. “Laredo is the largest inland port in the United States so there are a lot of warehouses,” Lemos says. “That is what set us off because the abundance of parking area in the warehouses needed to have their lots striped for the trucks.”
Laredo Striping’s pavement marking clientele consists of 65% general contractors and 35% property managers. Currently, revenue from the striping division comes from 65% striping and 35% sealcoating while revenue from the guardrail division comes from 90% metal beam guardrails and 10% traffic signs.
Lemos says a learning curve often exists when contractors add new services. “I credit my father for motivating us to be strong willed and not shy away from new things,” Lemos says, adding that a diverse set of services guarantees work and helps keep Laredo Striping financially stable.
But changing careers is never an easy process. “When we first bought our striping machine we went out to a deserted slab to practice,” Patel says. While learning this new industry, Lemos found help through www.parkinglotplanet.com (run by Robert Liles, Robert Liles Parking Lot Service, a Pavement Advisory Board member and National Pavement Expo speaker). “We learned a lot from the Parking Lot Planet’s forum and from other experienced stripers from around the nation,” Lemos says. “It has been one of our main influences in parking lot striping.”
In 2000 Laredo Striping became incorporated, soon working with local paving companies because the city didn't have a dedicated striping crew. "The paving company asked if we had the machines for parking lots and if we were able to lay down the lines for the streets.” Lemos took the job, even though he had never striped roads, and as a result sales jumped from $60,000 to $165,000 a year simply by adding this service. In 2002 Laredo Striping added a highway division to install guardrails and traffic signs, and in 2007 added sealcoating after receiving inquiries from clients about how to protect their pavement and what type of maintenance programs were available. Lemos researched and The Parking Lot Store, a pavement maintenance supply company, pointed him toward sealcoating. Soon after, Lemos began working with SealMaster. “Having the proper knowledge of products and good rapport with material manufacturers has been what sets us apart from other companies,” Lemos says. “The knowledge base that we have access to enables us to be confident when we approach our customers. It feels good when we know the ins and outs of our industry materials and are able to give professional advice that saves our client money and headaches.”
Lemos adds that owning the proper equipment and knowing how it operates is a competitive advantage. “We have a Graco LineLazer that also has a ride-on attachment, and this piece of equipment allows us to put down a consistent film thickness of paint,” Lemos says. He says updated equipment also enables Laredo Striping to keep costs down. “The bottom line is pricing, and we try to minimize our pricing,” he says. “We are able to do so by reducing labor hours because we have better equipment that doesn’t give us down time.”
Even though he has been in the striping business for 15 years, Lemos still feels like he just joined the pavement maintenance industry. “It’s always wonderful when you can come to work and like what you do because it doesn’t become work,” he says. “That’s why we’ve been doing it for so long — it feels like we just started yesterday.”