It happens eventually to every contractor: You bid a job, are awarded the work and pull up on the jobsite only to find the specs of the bid and the realities of the job don’t match up.
That was the case when Advanced Pavement Marking, Grand Haven, MI, tackled a pavement marking job striping a two-lane roundabout in Coopersville, MI, last year – one of only 12 in the state. Jeff Swendrowski, APM project manager, says that most of Michigan’s roundabouts are single lane, requiring less complex markings from the two-lane roundabouts. The Coopersville roundabout had four double-lane roads entering and exiting.
“We went for the bid and the county gave us scaled drawings of what the arrows were supposed to be and we based on our bid on those drawings,” Swendrowski says. “But when we got out, there the arrows weren’t even close to the specs; in fact each arrow was different from every other arrow.”
He says it looked like the turn arrows had been placed freehand with thermoplastic.
“As we went from one arrow to another, each arrow had its own set of problems so everything just looked worse and worse as far as trying to make the markings look uniform,” Swendrowski says.
“First we tried to fix the existing arrows by placing our stencils over the arrows and painting them. We tried to match up our stencils with the arrows as much as possible but it was just not possible. Because the arrows were all different, none of them came close to matching up with the stencils and we couldn’t get them to match with each other.”
So APM went back to Ottawa County to see how they wanted to handle the problem.
“There was no way we could make it what we would consider to be acceptable,” says Don Sokolow, APM owner. “From both perspectives we couldn’t make it acceptable. We wouldn’t be happy doing that kind of work and they wouldn’t be happy with the way it finally looked.”
80% Traffic markings
Started by Sokolow in 2008, Advanced Pavement Marking is a small company with only two full-time people (Sokolow and Swendrowski) and four seasonal workers. Sokolow says he also draws on a pool of trained and experienced stripers and pavement professionals who are available in an on-call basis as needed. “Several of those companies & people have been working with us for two years or longer,” Sokolow says.
Sokolow has a background in international landscape architecture and construction coordination. While working in India away from his family the economy was beginning to collapse and his father passed away. Don needed to look for another business opportunity that would keep him closer to his family and be stable during economic down turns.
“I saw an opportunity here in a niche market that still requires the background I have and the approach I take,” he says. “Exactness is essential and the job has to be done right.”
A friend in the striping business on the other side of the state helped Sokolow get set up, and last October the company was approaching its 400th job of the year. APM covers the state of Michigan and parts of Indiana and Ohio, generating 80% of its work from road/traffic marking and 20% from a mix of airports, parking lots, sports courts and warehouses.
“The first year we did between 60 and 70 jobs and by the second year we had added our first municipality-type job and that brought us to 250 or so jobs,” Sokolow says. “In 2011 we hit 300 jobs.”
“It’s been interesting growth because we haven’t capitalized on trying to advertise,” he says. “We’re fortunate that the level of work we do is good enough that our customers are interested and willing to talk about us, so the growth is almost entirely word of mouth. It’s proof that if you do the job the right way it pays off.”
Sokolow says the company’s website – even though it was bare bones for a while – has generated quite a bit of work and he says they are now building it to a more professional level.