Contractor turns high school job into life-long career

MI contractor started his operation as a junior in high school.

When Mark Yeager was a little kid, he would pass his summer days by going to work with his dad, who was in the asphalt business. In 1978, when Yeager was a junior in high school, his dad suggested that he start a business of his own.

"I borrowed $900 from my pastor, got a pick-up truck, my dad talked to a couple sealer manufacturers he knew and I bought sealer from them, and I went ahead and started knocking on doors," explains Yeager.

Yeager Asphalt, Saginaw, MI, quickly expanded from a two-person sealcoat operation into a full-service driveway and parking lot maintenance provider. Yeager says that he added services over the years as his customers demanded them and as they became practical for the company. He added driveway and parking lot paving in 1980 because at that time there weren't many paving companies in his area that were willing to do small jobs. He says striping was an easy service to bring on board because it gave him the ability to control where and when striping would take place, instead of having to be at the mercy of a subcontractor's schedule. Today the company has 22 employees, a sealcoat manufacturing plant, and offers sealcoating and cracksealing, paving, snowplowing, and StreetPrint, which turned out to be a great addition for Yeager Asphalt.

"When I first started doing StreetPrint, that helped my normal operations grow a little bit more than what it already was because now I could put in a brick border or an address at the end of a driveway, something that no one else could do, and it wasn't that much more expensive for the customer," he explains.

Yeager says he doesn't do any more marketing than anyone else in his area but is always busy. He says while the black and lime green color scheme on Yeager Asphalt's trucks and equipment makes his company highly recognizable to potential customers, his heavy work load is attributable to his reputation as a quality contractor.

"You can market and advertise all you want, but if you're not doing the best work, people know," Yeager says. "What have really helped us grow are referrals. And I know because we ask people how they heard of us and the percentage of people who say we did work for their friends, uncles, or neighbors is very high."

Yeager says that no one is perfect, and he's not afraid to accept that. This, too, he feels, has helped his company grow.

"The thing about me is if there's a problem with a job, I'll go back and take care of it right away. There are certain circumstances where things can't be perfect," he says. "A reference from someone where you went back and fixed something for them is a better reference than if you didn't have to do that. There's nothing better than having someone say that something happened and I went back right away and fixed it."

Yeager seems to have few concerns about the future. He's satisfied with his employees, several of which have been with him for about 20 years, and is content with the size and scope of his company. One concern Yeager does see for any pavement business built around driveway and parking lot work is the government's role in keeping the road pavers busy.

"The main thing in our industry is we have the main guys with the asphalt plants who do the roads, the real big projects from the state and government. As long as the government is still allocating a lot of money for the construction and reconstruction of roads and highways that are already there, as long as they keep the tax money flowing, that will keep those people out of my market," Yeager says. "They will be so busy doing roads that they won't even think about doing the smaller parking lots that I do, whereas if they didn't have these larger projects they would have to start bidding on the projects that I do."