Struggling Economy Doesn't Stop DMO Striping

Nathan Witthuhn and Dianna Newton have achieved steady growth since beginning the company when the industry was at its worst.

Nathan Witthuhn, owner of DMO Striping, is pictured completing striping work. DMO Striping offers services including crack fill, striping, sealcoating and infrared asphalt repair.
Nathan Witthuhn, owner of DMO Striping, is pictured completing striping work. DMO Striping offers services including crack fill, striping, sealcoating and infrared asphalt repair.

During 2009, several contractors succumbed to the struggling economy closing their doors, and those that survived were faced with a tough market, making cutbacks and restructuring their businesses. In the midst of these changes Nathan Witthuhn and Dianna Newton decided to challenge the odds and open their own pavement maintenance company, DMO Striping.

Three years later, DMO Striping, located in Molalla, OR, is seeing a continued growth with hopes of opening a Wisconsin location in the future.

Witthuhn began the company focusing on infrared repairs while working another job in the winter. Now, DMO Striping offers clients services such as crack fill, sealcoating, striping, and infrared asphalt repair. Nearly all of the work is commercial, and roughly 30% of the business is generated from subbed-out projects.

In the beginning, Witthuhn received help from his family and friends allowing him to start the company. "If it wasn't for them we wouldn't have been able to start the company because the first couple of years were pretty rough," he says. "You have a learning curve to the whole thing, learning how things are done, getting enough money to get the things you need — it's hard."

Witthuhn believes that having the right contacts and people surrounding your company can be a huge benefit to achieve success. "Finding a way to get things done has opened up quite a few doors," he says. "To have the contacts, over the course of three years it's taken to get the contacts, and the right people around us to do that and we are still working hard to do that. You really need to be open to everything because that really helps the client."

When starting a new company it is essential to set it apart from the competition. Customer service is one area that Witthuhn believes DMO Striping exceeds its competitors' services. "People will call companies for months to get a bid, but we always get them a bid on their project," he says. "When we show up to do a job, we show up in presentable apparel with our logo on it. We do what we say we are going to do."

New companies have several struggles in the first year, but Witthuhn encourages contractors not to get discouraged. One way he maneuvered through the beginning was setting goals and working to achieve them. He continues to set goals with future endeavors including purchasing a bigger shop, maintaining three to four crews, and having enough work to keep his staff full-time.

As a young company, contractors may find clients are leery to accept their bids due to the limited years the business has been around. "One of the pitfalls for a newer company is people don't think you are going to stick around to help them out if something goes wrong," Witthuhn says.

To combat this challenge, Witthuhn uses several avenues to show clients his knowledge of the industry and reassure them of his success. "If they are really serious about getting it done we get them the information they need such as references," he says. "We also talk with them via email, over the phone, or in person. You have to let them know that you know the products, how thick the paint is coming out of the machine, what is actually in the sealcoat, how long it is going to take to cure, and what the product is going to do. Being able to rattle the answers off without stumbling is important." He also believes it is essential to show pictures of previous work on a company website as well as updating information on Facebook to connect with clients.

Along with using social media and a website, Witthuhn has found success in using other Internet-driven technologies. "Google Maps has extremely cut my time down," Witthuhn says. "One project I put a bid in was 480,000 sq.-ft. and I was able to collect the data and put together a price in roughly three hours with Google Maps. Before that, walking the property I would have spent 7 to 8 hours to get all of the information I needed." Google Maps has become a common tool used by Witthuhn to complete bids for most projects.

Starting a new business will require hard work and determination, but if contractors are ready to learn they can achieve success. "Anyone who thinks they can see the pot of gold at the end of the tunnel is sadly mistaken," Witthuhn says. "Anyone can do this, but not many people can do this well. It takes years to get really good at it."