By Michael Blake
Three short years ago Barts Asphalt was not even a thought in the mind of owner Kyle Bartholemew as he was completing his degree in public accounting. As a summer job Kyle worked for his local road commission patching potholes and repairing other pavement defects, but at that time it was just that, a summer job. Kyle’s first summer post-graduation his local road commission decided to contract out asphalt repair services. Seeing this as a great opportunity Kyle formed Barts Asphalt and was awarded one of fifteen bids for the county road commission to fill potholes that summer. After a successful summer season, Kyle took a full-time job as a tax associate that fall. During his year as a tax associate, he was able to gain valuable business knowledge and strategies which gave him the confidence to quit his consistent job and follow his entrepreneurial spirit and focus on Barts Asphalt full time.
Barts Asphalt originally contacted KM International to purchase a 2 ton skid mounted asphalt hotbox for pothole patching but with the support of the KM staff along with the business skillset, knowledge, and ambition of Barts Asphalt owner Kyle Bartholomew Barts has grown into one west Michigan’s premier full service asphalt contractors.
Question: Why did you decide to invest in an infrared and hotbox?
Answer: An infrared unit and hotbox were some of the first equipment purchases I made. I was originally looking for a way to differentiate myself from the local competition so that I had a more affordable and less time-consuming alternative for asphalt repairs. The infrared unit and hotbox set up is a fantastic way to create high profit margins with limited capital. For smaller contractors, these high profit margin jobs allow for working capital to grow quickly thus allowing for expedited growth into other service offerings.
Question: What advantages has the infrared repair process brought to your business?
Answer: The number one advantage to infrared repairs is the cost effectiveness for smaller areas that would traditionally be cut and replace. We are able to come in at a much more affordable price than the competition and offer a fairly similar result. This has resulted in our bids getting approved at a higher rate and getting more referral business from ecstatic customers.
Question: When have you found infrared repair to be most useful?
Answer: From a contractor’s point of view, I have found that infrared repairs are most useful for smaller projects that allow a two-man crew to quickly and efficiently repair the asphalt, rather than having to mobilize a couple different pieces of equipment to complete a cut and replace. I have also found infrared repairs to be exceptionally useful when customers have asphalt that needs to completely ripped up and replaced, but may not have the funds to do so in that particular fiscal year. The infrared repairs allow for us to create an asphalt “band-aid” that will help to allow them to gain a few more years out of the asphalt to save up for a paving project. While cut and replace would also be an exceptional repair for this situation, it does not offer the client the best cost-benefit.
Question: What would your advice be for someone thinking about investing in an infrared and hotbox setup?
Answer: My advice would be that it is always better to offer your customer a wider variety of options to complete the job. Within the asphalt repair and maintenance business, there are not too many service offerings. Being able to differentiate yourself from the competition with an infrared unit and hotbox offers a great competitive advantage and may allow for more clients to come your way!
What started as a summer job has grown into one of west Michigan’s fast growing asphalt maintenance companies offering customers an array of pavement related services. Three years in and Barts Asphalt now has 3 asphalt hotboxes, 2 KM International infrared machines, and a plethora of other equipment. Barts has grown from a single contract with the local road commission to offering repair work, sealcoating, crack repair, and line striping to commercial, municipal and residential clients.