By Brian Hall

Well, it happened again, we blinked and another year has gone by. By all accounts, 2019 was a busy year and slow, steady growth is predicted for 2020. Chances are, you’re reading this issue at a trade show or local asphalt meeting, or maybe just to pass the time during the slow season. Many regions are shut down this time of year while others are gearing up. Maybe you are somewhere in the middle, looking for that “40 degrees and rising” day. In any event, now is the time to be looking ahead and planning for success. This month, let’s discuss what successful asphalt and related companies are doing to insure smooth sailing when the plants open.

Maintenance. We talk about it all the time, but winter rebuilds and maintenance should be top priority. I’m talking about much more than fluid changes and greasing. Winter time should be the time for top to bottom re-working of every machine. Those unseen nooks of your paver, grader, tack equipment and brooms are screaming for attention and when the machines are idle, they are ripe for attention. If you take the time now, while the machines are idle, the pressure is off your technicians to get the job done so the job can be done with more accuracy. Here’s an inside tip; winter is a slower time for your equipment dealerships as well. Make a trip to the location you prefer and offer them a deal. Let them assess your machine and after you agree on the repairs and maintenance, leave the machine with them to work on at their convenience. In return, you should expect a break on the bill and maybe even payment terms that include paying for the repairs and picking the machine up when the season starts. This allows flexibility for both parties.

Education. The winter season is a great time to hone your skills, whether it’s best paving practices or new management skills. While many of the national trade shows offer programs, state asphalt association will conduct classroom training that is second to none. These groups invite some of the top experts in our field to give cutting edge seminars that are certainly worth your team’s time. Many of these meetings offer roundtable discussions that give your team the opportunity to get personal time with the experts and discuss trends and pitfalls that come up every day. Be sure to call on your equipment manufacturer as well. Even if they don’t offer in house training, they are always willing to do on site product training that will certainly pay dividends down the road.

Human Resources. Certainly our most valuable assets are the men and women that put in the long days in the heat striving for smooth joints and acceptable density. The biggest issue that plagues the paving crews that are forced to lay off workers in the winter is making sure they come back in the spring. Hiring good help is a challenge anytime, but if you have to do it year in and year out, well, that puts you behind before you can start. The answer is typically found from within your organization. If you build a working culture that breeds success, you will no doubt attract and maintain the best crew in town. Investing in your team during the season is easier than you think. These folks are your family, so treat them as such. When top performance is rewarded, the slackers will be easily weeded out as the ones that consistently pull their weight will not allow sub-par quality to exist. Ask them what they need from an employer. I think you’ll be surprised at how inexpensive their requests are.

The slower winter months are a great time to take a deep breath and look back at the challenges of the prior year. What did you do right and how can your company replicate those practices. Even more importantly, what were some aspects of your year that you would just as soon not repeat? Look outside the paving industry at some of the best practices of successful friends and neighbors and see what their secrets are. I think you’ll find that every successful story has a lot in common. Time to write your own.

Brian Hall is the territory manager of Mid South Region at ST Engineering LeeBoy, Inc. You can contact him at Article sponsored by LeeBoy and Rosco.