One of the comments heard at the recent National Pavement Expo was from contractors who have to compete with fly-by-night pavers or sealcoaters who damage the market by undercutting reasonable pricing and providing shoddy, unprofessional work.

The question heard often, in one form or another, was "What's a reputable contractor to do?" One answer is to take the offensive and educate your market, because the only way these charlatans can be successful is when they prey on consumers, generally homeowners, who simply don't know any better. So here are some steps every contractor can and should take to protect his business.

  • Develop a web site and direct prospects to it.
  • Print professional literature, including business cards. Your literature should look good and it should be four-color. It should list your services, address, phone number, state business license number (if applicable), insurance, and web site. Your business card should contain much of the same information.
  • Present a professional estimate. Use a pre-printed form that includes the same information as your business card. Break your estimate down into all the services you will be providing. Even if you don't price them separately make sure to list them so your customer knows what you will be doing for him.
  • Obtain product sheets from your sealer supplier and present them with your bid.
  • Schedule appointments for providing estimates, be on time, and look professional.
  • Develop a one-page marketing piece to leave behind with the homeowner that outlines the benefits of working with a professional contractor and also warns consumers of how to avoid hiring a fly-by-night operator.
  • Contact local newspapers or radio stations and offer to be a professional reference for pavement maintenance topics.

These steps won't prevent all abuses by fly-by-night operators but by educating your customers you will make it more difficult for fly-by-nights to make sales, making it more difficult for them to damage your market and the industry, and protecting your livelihood in the long run.