How a Sealcoater Plans for Growth

WBE Magic Seal succeeds through expansion, diversification

Five days a week the sealcoating crews work on both residential and commercial properties, doing commercial work in the morning and residential work in the afternoon. The other two days Magic Seal does only residential sealcoating.
Five days a week the sealcoating crews work on both residential and commercial properties, doing commercial work in the morning and residential work in the afternoon. The other two days Magic Seal does only residential sealcoating.

When your company sealcoats 12,500 driveways in a single season there’s the sense that, regardless of the market you’re in, you’re doing something right.

Magic Seal, Rochester, NY, is doing something right.

“We’ve got it down to a science,” says Tina Baughman, president. “We do make it look easy – it’s not – but we want to make it look easy for our customers.”

Baughman, who received Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) status in 2015, owns the business with husband Steve, vice president. Like most pavement maintenance companies, Magic Seal started very small and followed a steady path to get where they are today. Tina says that while their growth was slow it was planned.

“We definitely had a plan,” she says. “We always had a plan.”

Today the 45-person company is a full-service paving and pavement maintenance operation. They run eight sealcoating crews, each crew sealcoating 22-25 driveways a day. The commercial sealcoating crew seals more than 500 properties over the year. In addition they run three hot-pour cracksealing crews, doing almost entirely work on county roads, and the relatively recent addition of paving to Magic Seal’s services has enabled the contractor to triple its sales – and more paving is also in the plans.

Baughman says that 85% of Magic Seal’s work is business from repeat customers, who rely on the contractor for general pavement maintenance. “Not everyone needs sealcoating every year so we might crackseal for a couple of years for a customer before we get asked to sealcoat,” she says. “But when they’re ready to sealcoat we get the call.”

Steve Baughman started the company in the summer of 1983 when he was 16 years old. He knocked on doors and sealed driveways. By 1989 he had added commercial sealcoating, and that summer Tina answered the phone for him while sitting on her mom’s patio. He soon learned that Rochester was a better market with more work and more lucrative work, so he began driving back and forth each day from Niagara County, and in 1994 he and Tina moved to Rochester with their two-truck operation. By 1996 he’d added two more trucks and in 1997 the two married and the operation had five sealcoating trucks.

“We had six trucks in 2000 but we were still just doing sealcoating and crackfilling,” Tina says. “We only were working on residential driveways and commercial parking lots, but we were doing okay because we were able to send six trucks out every day.”

In 2007 they added patching and paving, installing small driveways. And now Magic Seal runs two tear-out crews, a milling crew, and two paving crews (one commercial and on residential). All three crackfilling crews are dedicated to county work, which also was part of the plan.

Plans for WBE and County Work

Magic Seal was on pace to sealcoat 15,000 driveways in 2016 but pulled its eighth sealer truck off the road to meet the demands of one of its other growth avenues -- cracksealing county roads. Baughman says Magic Seal planned this expansion, researching bidding and deciding to obtain Women Business Enterprise status for the company.

“We’ve always wanted to do county, town and state work,” Baughman says. “County work involves larger jobs, we can plan out our schedule for five days a week and we know that, in some cases, the job will last for 45 days. Those are all great reasons to work for the county and it was another step in our growth.”

So the Baughmans researched public bidding and talked with other contractors about how best to pursue county work. Then deciding they wanted to specialize in cracksealing.

“Cracksealing for counties extends our season as much as two months, which obviously helps the company but it enables us to keep guys on the payroll longer,” she says. “And employees especially like it because county work is prevailing wage work. It’s another step in our growth and cracksealing on roads has become a specialty we’re recognized for.”

Helping Magic Seal break into the county market is the fact that Tina Baughman received her WBE certification in 2015. “We planned on becoming a WBE company for a long time because we learned it is beneficial for bidding on county jobs.”

She says she worked for six years before receiving her WBE status. Working primarily in the office, Tina Baughman handles sales, payroll, tax preparation, OSHA certification and compliance. Plus she is responsible for “anything with sealcoating,” she handles all county bids and where Steve does all commercial estimates – 30 a day – Tina follows up and schedules all commercial work and is the primary customer contact.

Larger companies that are trying to fulfill the WBE requirements for their contracts can now turn to Magic Seal to fulfill those requirements for their paving needs.

Planned Productivity

Bidding, scheduling and completing residential sealcoating is a fine-tuned operation at Magic Seal. “Our productivity is not just a factor of having eight trucks on the road,” Baughman says.

The in-office call center takes the customer call, enters the address into a computer system. Magic Seal has invested money in a program that allows them to price out the driveway and schedule it all in the matter of minutes.

She says the call center process and scheduling are the basis for their productivity but she says Magic Seal couldn’t be productive without its experienced, high-quality team. She says most people have been with the company a long time, the shortest term (other than a handful of seasonal laborers) being five years with 20 employees being with the company for 10 years or more. “Most of our employees have been with us 12-15 years.

“We feel we pay our people well and treat them like family. We are a family-owned business and regard all of our employees as part of the big Magic Seal Family.

[the following is a much better explanation of why employees stay with your company – it shows the family atmosphere rather than just says Magic Seal has a family culture]

“We pay our people very well, very well. And we treat them well. If you’re sick you still get paid, for example,” she says. “I feel like if we reward them by paying them well they’re going to stay. We’ve gotten people from other companies just because they weren’t paying them enough. It’s a backbreaking job out there on the pavement in 90-degree heat. It’s tiring and exhausting. It’s worth paying them more to keep them, to have experienced people on crews being as productive as they are.”

Making it Look Easy

Baughman says that the residential market seems to just keep growing on its own, with targeted marketing by the company. This past year Magic Seal even ran a television commercial throughout the spring and summer to gain more recognition for the Magic Seal name. Magic Seal has received the Angie’s List Super Service Award six years running. In addition Magic Seal has also earned The Top Contractor Award from Pavement Maintenance for 2015 & 2016, Top 100 Women Owned Business from the Rochester Business Journal in 2016, lastly a 20 year A+ standing with the Better Business Bureau.

Baughman says they expect to increase their paving work next year after adding a LeeBoy 8500 last year. “We have several big commercial clients we’ve done sealcoating and cracksealing work for and they gave us a little paving work. They gave us a chance to do their parking lots and with the addition of the new paver we plan to pursue even more paving.”

She says getting their foot in the door paving large properties will help them pursue more commercial paving work. “Those are big jobs and big jobs lead to bigger jobs,” she says.

She says Magic Seal will bump up its marketing in 2017 to get more work for their two pavers. “With the company name, Magic Seal, people don’t know we pave, so we’ll do some promotion to make them aware,” she says.

“It’s been a ride, I’ll tell you that,” Baughman says. “We’ve grown every year and we hope we keep going higher and higher. Road work has helped, WBE has helped, receiving the Super Service Award has helped. And we’ve been in business so many years now that people know us by reputation so we get a lot of positive word-of-mouth advertising. But that happens when you’ve been in business in Rochester since 1994 and you do good work,” she says. “Word gets around.”

Baughman says she and Steve learned a lot through trial and error. “But in the end that is just a part of it. With the help of our excellent staff and employees in the field Magic Seal will continue to grow and be a successful company for many years to come. “