When it comes to first impressions, everyone knows the importance of making a positive impact. Based in Seattle, WA, Pacific Pavement Protection Inc. (P3) seeks to provide its customers with not only a positive first experience but one that creates extensive repeat business and referrals.
For more than 20 years, Keith Antonius and Karl Eells have been watching the industry change and grow. Each started in striping on his own, and in 2004 the two combined forces to continue to grow their business together. They extended into sealcoating, and eventually paving became a considerable part of their business.
Today, P3 mainly serves commercial customers in the greater Puget Sound area: 50% of the business focuses on paving, 30% on sealcoating and 20% on striping. When P3 shows up on the jobsite they stand out: Everyone is in uniform and company logoed trucks. “Our overall image, matched with the value we create for our customers, is what differentiates us the most,” says Karl Eells, lead estimator. “We put a great deal of effort into cleaning the lots prior to sealcoating and are dedicated to buggy-applied sealing in a market where low-quality spraying applications are becoming the norm.”
This drive to be different is what has led P3 to stand up against what Eells terms “the vague estimates and low bids competitors are offering.” Because the economy remains sluggish, many customers still are looking to save money. P3 saw that as an opportunity to create more value for customers and found that most customers will pay more for the value of higher quality work. “We take pride in doing our best to spend our customers’ money wisely, and make recommendations that save them money over time, rather than just trying to sell the next job." When the economy slowed in 2008, P3 positioned the company to be very efficient, especially on large jobs. They sold off old equipment and bought newer, bigger trucks, including larger trucks with Seal-Rite tanks, and two new SealMaster buggies. “We have replaced almost our whole fleet of trucks and equipment in the last three years as we position ourselves for the economy to pick back up again,” he says.
This also led P3 to begin pre-qualifying customers before a survey crew would even leave the office. “We were tired of the runaround, and pre-qualifying helps us determine whether it will be a positive experience for the customer and us,” Eells says. “We want to know -- before we survey -- that we have a reasonable chance to do the work. We have realized that we do not need to accept every job or every customer. Customers need to understand that a free quote isn’t free. For every hour you spend in the field surveying there are another two hours spent in the office crunching numbers, making maps and designing options based on different quality levels.”
This in turn led P3 to change the way they bid jobs. “Customers often do not read the proposals and simply look at the bottom line price without understanding the quality or quality of work to be proposed. Competitors often write vague estimates with no detail and lump sum bids, then make it black with cheap spray-only application methods. So we developed a 'good, better, best' quote option for our customers,” Eells says. Each quote P3 provides offers competitive prices and job details and provides the customer with an accurate job cost. The “good” option is the least-expensive plan while the “best” option is set to be the most expensive but is also better in the long run. Offering these options also allows P3 to be flexible with their warranties. “The more money they spend, the longer we can afford to warranty it."
As the economy steadily rebounds, P3 recognizes there is a lot of pent-up demand for their services and Eells says the company plans to continue to set itself apart from competitors. “Low-ball estimates are destroying the industry; we are trying not to give into that,” says Eells. “We strive to be one of the top-tier sealcoating companies in our area and do everything we can to position ourselves that way.”