Hard Work & Good People Keep Finley Asphalt & Concrete Thriving

The 2023 Contractor of the Year continues to take risks that grow both their services offered and the quality of their business

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Family-owned businesses make up a large part of successful contractors in the paving and pavement maintenance space - and for good reason. Hard work is instilled in these business owners from the day they are born into the company, and their passion for the work and the organization continues to grow throughout the years.

This is certainly true for Finley Asphalt & Concrete, a third-generation family-owned company and Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction Magazine’s 2023 Contractor of the Year.

Early Risks & Dedication Pay Off

Finley Asphalt & Concrete began like many other family-owned businesses; small. In 1965, Lonnie Finley worked for his father-in-law, John Vannoy who was in the excavation and utility business. Lonnie was installing a sewer line in a subdivision and one of the homeowners approached him about paving his driveway. At first, he declined, but the homeowner was very insistent, and Lonnie agreed to take on the challenge. He borrowed a dump truck from his father-in-law, rented a roller, rounded up some help and paved the driveway. 

“Although according to my dad, it did not turn out very well, the homeowner was happy,” Erick Finley, owner of Finley Asphalt & Concrete said. “What Dad learned from this experience was he saw a future in paving, it would keep him out of ditches and the mud from installing utility lines. It wasn’t long after that the Finley Paving and Construction Company was formed. My mother Ethel Finley was very instrumental in the starting of the company and tending to the office side of the business.”

Erick and his brother Lewis grew up learning the business from their dad and never had any doubt they would join him full time when they were able. 

“We have no complaints about our childhood, but it was different from how most kids grow up,” Erick said. “We were either in school, or working, but we all enjoyed it, and it was fun to us. Little did we know that what we were learning as kids would be needed as young men to carry on the family business. We were always planning to build our careers in the family paving business.”

In the late 1980’s, the brothers were out of school and were ready to help their father grow the company from a residential paving contractor to a larger commercial-based business. Unfortunately, in February of 1990 Lonnie was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that took his life six months later. At the time, Erick was 18 years old, and Lewis was 23 years old. 

“We were very young when our father passed, however we had been working with him since we were old enough to remember,” Erick said. “Quitting was never a thought; we just pushed forward and did the best that we could. Did we know everything there was to know? Absolutely not, but we gave it everything that we had. In our early years, the company specialized in residential paving and light commercial. We felt like there was a lot more we could do. Our goal before he passed was to expand and focus on 100% commercial and that is what we did.”

Controlling the Growth

Growth in paving businesses does not come easy. There is a lot of hard work, planning and time away from home but the Finley brothers had plans to expand the company and stuck to them with exponential growth happening in the early 2000’s. 

In the late 1990’s, the company noticed they were using a lot of subcontractors for their jobs. Not only does this require companies to work around other schedules, but it also leaves some quality control issues out of your hands as well.

“As we were starting to grow and starting to do more work, using subcontractors exclusively just wasn't working anymore, both from a monetary standpoint, and scheduling,” Erick said. “We knew if we could do it ourselves, we could control our own scheduling and also  quality and  price.”

They brought both milling services and concrete work in house in the early 2000’s and the business started to take off. 

“We certainly weren’t home very much at that time,” Erick said. “This business requires a lot of you and we were working long hours and that's when we really started adding on people.”

And not just adding people, but adding good people to the mix as well. 

“Luckily, we have some good solid family members that were here to help us with the growth,” Erick said. We also found other people that we could depend on like Marty Aubrey and others who in the early days of our growth were certainly instrumental in what we did.”

Investing in the Future

As growth for the company continued, they needed to work on more efficient ways to complete their work and started to rely heavily on technology for help. 

“I grew up measuring the parking lots with a measuring wheel and performing plan area takeoffs with an engineering scale ruler,” Erick said. “I am glad that I was able to learn this way as you become intimately involved with the project but it is not an efficient way to do things. To be honest in early 2000s, we were still doing everything by pen and paper. And then as we brought on some other people, they really introduced us the technology that could help us.”

The company began using satellite technology to measure the parking lots and a computerized takeoff system to perform plan area takeoffs. Prior to this technology, the teams would spend many hours measuring the parking lots. Today, they can measure a parking lot using satellite imagery in minutes and have an estimate/proposal prepared 10 times as fast as years prior. This also helps with project management. 

“I used to have to meet with our teams and review their estimates each week,” Erick said. “Now, we store things on Google Drive and I can review them no matter where I’m at. We no longer have to have these lengthy in person meetings and things can be done remotely at any time of day. We still go visit the sites because the satellite can’t do justice to an in person visit when coming up with a game plan, but now we can enter that information on our iPads and measure the site from our desktop making it so much easier to put proposals together much quicker than we used to.”

During their growth period, and still today, Erick read magazines and attended tradeshows to gain more knowledge of ways to help improve his business. 

“Pavement Maintenance magazine, Construction Business Owner, and equipment magazines such as Rock and Dirt and Machinery Trader helped me to learn about new technology and the latest in equipment,” he said. “Plus I have attended many National Pavement Expo shows since the mid 90’s. Today I am still reading magazines (although mostly digital) and attending trade shows such as the NPE show to stay informed with the latest ever-changing technology.”

Last year, Finley was also able to bring in Full-Depth Reclamation services in-house due to their partnership with a private equity company. The creation of “Pavement Partners” will help Finley accelerate their growth in other markets while also enabling the company to better serve their employees and existing customer base. 

“We have just a vast amount of resources available to us now after the partnership,” Erick said. “We’re able to tap into other equipment and manpower that we didn’t have before and it’s made doing business easier for both our company and our customers.”

This ‘simple’ way of doing business has served the Finley family well over the years and they will continue to see success because of it. 

“Once Lewis and I took over, it was our goal to grow the business into a commercial asphalt company focused on quality work, modern equipment, and simply just being easy to work with,” Erick said. “Being simple and easy to work with sounds simple, right? Well, I have run into so many businesses (not just paving) that are simply just difficult to work with. Customers do not want difficulty or to fight with their service provider. We simply treat our employees and customers how we would like to be treated. It’s a simple stupid approach and it has served us well.”