This time of year – the start of the season – brings out the fly-by-night bandits who damage the pavement maintenance industry by taking advantage of customers who buy only on price. These professional con men blow through a community like a twister, wreaking havoc and leaving hundreds of dissatisfied customers behind – customers who tag the industry as the problem rather than the “contractor” who did the work. Preying primarily on residential customers these thieves use inferior (and certainly watered-down) sealer, they do a poor job of crack repair (if they do it at all), they have poor workmanship, poor quality, and no guarantee. They offer driveway paving deals “because I have some left over from the last big job,” and many homeowners take them up on it.
Well, to some extent these buyers get what they deserve. By buying only on price and without comparing bids they make themselves susceptible to the unscrupulous to take advantage of them. But even if that’s the case it doesn’t help the reputable pavement maintenance professional and it doesn’t help you.
So what can you do? Well, you could take a hint from the North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA) which recently produced a brochure defining “All about Sweeping” for use in billings and other mailings to remind property managers of the value of sweeping parking lots. NAPSA has taken a proactive step in defending and promoting their industry, and good for them. (See page 39 for details).
Sealcoating and paving contractors – particularly those who perform residential work – can do the same thing and they should. Whether it’s a flyer, local newspaper ad, presentation to a local organization, participation in home center events, writing “how to” articles for the local paper or something else it is up to the industry to defend, promote and police itself.
Let homeowners know the value of a professionally sealcoated driveway. Let them know the proper way to receive and accept paving bids. Provide references of your work and encourage prospects to call or at least drive by your jobs. Set up a website and encourage prospects to visit it. (Offer a 10% discount or small gift if they visit and register – creating a list for you to rely on for future sales.) Keep your equipment clean – and have a photo of your entire fleet for them to see. Help buyers understand the investment you’ve made in your business and your community and what that can mean to them (and to the validity of your guarantee). Make sure to let them know you’re insured. Dress crews professionally. Bid jobs using pre-printed forms that include all basic contact information for your company – don’t use a napkin or a blank pad of paper. Call to schedule your work and if there’s a change in the schedule call to let the homeowner know.
Yes, the charlatans are out there, and in this economy they might be out there in greater numbers than ever before. We can’t stop them but we can make sure that buyers see and understand the difference between a seasoned pro and a fly-by-night scammer. That’s the responsibility of every contractor – and if we don’t do that then maybe we get what we deserve.