Self-taught sealcoater builds business from the ground up

Contractor quits job at nuclear power plant, grabs sealcoating wand.

Dan Miner, owner of Quality Seal in Hanford, WA, is a self-taught sealcoater. He began his business eight years ago as an alternative to a career as a shift worker at his community's nuclear power plant. By attending pavement shows, gathering tips from equipment and materials dealers, and through trial and error, Miner has built his two-man operation into a business that employs six workers and services both residential and commercial markets in sealcoating, sweeping, crack repair, and striping.

Sealcoating is Miner's bread and butter, accounting for about 75% of his business. In mid-October, when the sealcoating season is over in Washington, he turns to sweeping to keep busy until spring. Miner believes in keeping Quality Seal diverse and plans to add paving to the list of services his company supplies in the future.

"This way we can offer the customer everything," Miner explains. "If someone wants to add on to a driveway, I have to contract that paving out. I want us to be able to do it all ourselves."

When it comes to getting the word out about the services Quality Seal offers, Miner says the phone book is a good place to advertise, but also finds a lot of new business prospects at a local home show held in his community every spring. Miner says business is up about 30% this year over last year, and he believes much of that has to do with the exposure he gets at the home show. Miner has sealcoating samples available at his table so people can touch, feel, and see how sealcoating can improve a pavement.

"I find myself educating people," Miner says. "If we do a home show, it really enlightens people. And at the same time, you run into a lot of professionals that have businesses, like dentists and doctors, who are there shopping themselves."

When it comes to attracting new customers and retaining old ones, Miner believes in the power of appearance. He keeps his equipment looking clean and new, and believes the appearance of his machines has an impact on whether people will want to do business with Quality Seal.

"We strive very hard to keep our equipment clean, because clean equipment gives you more business," Miner explains. "Once every two weeks, regardless of what the schedule is, the guys show up and plan on changing all the oils on all the equipment and other maintenance and wash, wax, and clean all the equipment. And we go heavy on the wax, because sealer comes off easier if you have a heavy wax coat."

Miner says the biggest challenge he faces as a pavement maintenance business owner is educating the public on the importance of using reputable companies when it comes to pavement maintenance — a lesson that everyone who uses any type of service should consider. He says every summer his community sees fly-by-night sealcoating operations that come to town, offer extremely low prices for sealcoating, do a terrible job, and then leave town. These operations leave customers angry and sometimes leery of sealcoating or other pavement maintenance services. Miner's advice to consumers: "You should always hire someone who's in the phone book, so you can call them up and complain if you have a problem and they can respond to it."