Why Aegis Asphalt Has A Bright Business Future

Out in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the weather is against you, the time is against you, and in the case of Aegis Asphalt Construction, they've had to start from the literal ground up, growing the business by leaps and bounds.

Photo Apr 14 2023, 13 34 49
Aegis Asphalt Construction

While at PAVE/X in San Antonio, I met a lot of new faces from all across the United States. Sometimes we met for the first time on the showroom floor, other times it was out by the live demo area. Only one contractor introduction happened in an elevator. I was headed back up to my room, and a guy walked on at the last second. Neither of us were wearing our PAVE/X badges yet, but he LOOKED like an asphalt guy. I've been doing this job long enough, that I now believe that I can spot a blacktop person. I decided to test that, and just asked him directly, "Here for PAVE/X?"

He said, "Yup! You?" and I told him that I was here for the same reason.

That was Keaton Coley, who works for Aegis Asphalt Construction. When I got to my room, I told myself I needed to try and remember his name, so that if I saw him again out on the show floor I wouldn't look like a jerk. Of course, when I did run into him again that night at the hotel bar, along with the owner of Aegis, Brian Sugg, it had left me.

He tried to help me remember by relating it to Batman. As in, Michael....Keaton. Over the course of the next few days I kept running into Keaton and the crew from Aegis, and it felt like I had to introduce them to the readers of the magazine. They haven't been doing the work as long as some people, but they have a seriously bright future.

How Things Got Started

For Sugg, his early introduction to the business is similar to what many people in the business can relate to. When he was young, his grandfather first introduced him to the blacktop work, and from there it really never left him. All during his school years, it was a side hustle that he would go back to continually.

"Back in 2009 I started the company after a career with big construction firms," Sugg said. "I just started as a weekend hustle or weekend warrior kind of setup, but I continued to put a lot of my energy into it over time. Then for the start of the 2018 season I left my career job and devoted 100% of my time into just asphalt."

The business had finally reached a point where it was able to support the transition, "It's been really nice growing the company the way I did, because I was able to do it very slowly and learn all of the ins-and-outs of operating a business."

When he went full-time, Aegis had six people on the crew, working an estimated 1000-1200 hours in a season, and, now, they have about fifteen core employees. Almost triple the crew size in just five seasons. 

Keaton joined the team in 2020, and, interestingly, he came on originally as just a temp worker. What set him apart almost immediately was a serious work ethic, and a supercharge entrepreneurial spirit. He took to the work and the lifestyle quickly. 

When I was 19, I was working in south LA, sweeping construction sites 5 days a week, for forty hours, I would watch the superintendent, direct all the guys, and keep the jobsite going, and I always thought I could see myself in that position, In 2020 I found myself in Oregon.   Keaton said. "Becoming a part of aegis, I felt I think it was kind of just lucky timing too. When I moved up here, Brian was growing the company and needed someone to fill the maintenance role. And I think just he saw the drive in me. I really didn’t have a clue what was going on, but with trust and great interest and investment . I started with managing small residential driveways and continued growing. I am now Currently overseeing all the pavement maintenance, from estimating, developing systems and training new members”

Since joining the team, Keaton has helped grow the commercial maintenance work greatly, and they now do some of the most visited parking lots in there area of Oregon, while looking to expand into the municipal market, as well.

"Kudos to Keaton, because he made himself available," said Sugg about his employee. "Where most guys are, you know, laid off when the rains come and hours go down, he made himself available. We started showing him the different processes and computer systems we we're using and he was able to really pick it up and run with it. By doing that, he really created the position needed to support him in the offseason."

The Pacific North-West Is No Joke

In there little corner of Oregon, there can be some unique challenges that you don't often see in other parts of the country. Perhaps, the biggest in their area isn't one you would ever guess. "Moss," said Sugg. "You're dealing with carpets of moss. I mean, here we have a sort of shortened seasonal work window, but definitely the moss. It grows in every damn shady spot.

Besides that, in their specific community, they also deal with a fair number of clients and potential clients who have never had any previous maintenance work done. When trying to sell or explain a service, that can be a hurdle sometimes.

"A lot of our commercial clients have never done any sealcoating, and they don't really understand the process," Sugg said. "So, in our conversations with them we have to educate and communicate a lot with them about it and how it works, how to keep their business open, and what the product really offers them."

"Many of them just think it's black water on the ground," explained Keaton. "That's been a real opportunity for us to explain this service that can add years of life onto their property, protect it, and improve it esthetically. It takes time, but we're making progress."

Sharing In The Success

Brian Sugg takes the plan very seriously, and, after the years he's spent in his market area, his immediate goals for the company are to reach that $5 million mark, as they are putting in some improved controls for in-house management and systems, and, of course, he wants to see the business continue to grow well beyond that as the years continue. However, he also wants to see his employees grow in their own way too. 

"Our true goal in say ten years is employee ownership," said Sugg. This really blew me away. I wrote about the benefits of employee ownership back in the January 2023 issue of the magazine, and I'm a firm believer in it. However, Brain was the first pavement maintenance business owner to bring it up to me.

"We're trying to lay the foundation for that," he said. "Establish a strong culture through our mentors, increase our value in our community through our quality, and eventually we want to get to that point. That's what we would like to do."