By Brian Hall
Welcome to 2022. We are almost 2 years separated from “Two weeks to flatten the curve.” While the past 20 months or so have been a challenge for most, one thing that has stood the test is the construction business. We are staring down the barrel of a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill on top of an already healthy backlog. That being said, a new year brings a new opportunity for greatness, especially in the paving industry where subtle differences in your business approach could mean the difference in success and mediocrity. So, without trying to sound like every other person, it’s time to ask, “What are your asphalt resolutions for 2022?” Here are some of my own and some I might suggest.
Learn Something New. Here’s a softball to start with. What do you have planned for this winter to help you do a better job this year? How about attending some networking sessions with your local or regional trade organizations? They can give you some great new contacts as well as gaining new insight on trends and even new regulations that affect your general area. When is the last time you attended a class at a trade show? The industry is changing, have you kept up. And, speaking of trade shows, they are a perfect place to learn something new. The exhibitors are not only experts on their product, but industry experts. Test them out on their knowledge and I will guarantee it with be worth your while to attend.
Re-learn Your Paving Equipment. Even though you might be on your equipment every day, there are a lot of components you might take for granted. The best way to do this is to call your dealer product support team and invite them over. They will be glad to re-train your crew on the machine and remind them of proper operation and maintenance. The key here is applying what you learn all season long.
Find a New Way To Gain New Customers. What do you bring to the market that none of your competitors do? Every average paving company paves a driveway or a parking lot, but how many offer pothole patching as a service for municipalities? How about infrared asphalt repair? Does your company pave precise enough to be a running track specialist? What happened the last time you got a call to pave a 6 foot walking path or chip seal a failing county road? What do all of these applications have in common? Less competition which means higher profits. Is it more satisfying to cut another $100 off your profit so you can barely break even or name your own price because you are the only game in town? There are plenty of ways to create new markets, you just have to have the foresight and planning to make it a reality.
Learn a New Skill. I’m talking mainly to the crew members here. Take the initiative to make the jump up the ladder this season by showing the supervisor you are ready to take on some new responsibility. Easy, right? Nope. Nothing worthwhile is. There are a couple of things you need to do. First, find someone who is good at what they do and find out how they do it. How does the Screed man make that perfect hot joint every time? How does the Supervisor deal with all of the issues of the day and not get frustrated? Secondly, go to school. There are plenty of training sessions available to make you a more valuable member of your team. Your efforts will never go unrewarded, but as with anything else in life, hard work is the key.
Be a Mentor. Did you get to the position you are in today on the first day on the job? Of course not. More than likely, someone you trusted took you under their wing and showed you the ropes, let you fail and most importantly, picked you up and showed you the right way. Now it’s time to pay it forward. Find someone you think can be a contributor and take them under your wing and be their mentor. This investment will pay dividends in low turnover because yours is a company that invests in its team.
One of my favorite authors once said “You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read.” This certainly applies in our industry. Asphalt is an ever changing art. Each year new challenges arise and if we don’t refresh and change with it, our business will die, or worse yet, we’ll end up sitting in an office not being able to smell that beautiful bitumen smell.
Brian Hall, LeeBoy Territory Manager. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org