Expansion of services may be a good thing

By Jeff Winke

Growing an asphalt paving business can be a challenge. There are numerous concerns with obtaining and keeping good employees, how best to cope with supply-chain issues, and how best to diversify the services offered with the adding of new capabilities being a key to growth and success today.

Diversification as a business development strategy is when a company develops new products and services or enters new markets beyond its existing ones. The strategy has emerged as contractors want to be a single source for their customers, bringing in additional revenue across different industry segments.

Diversifying into asphalt paving striping has for many contractors become a natural next step.

“Adding line striping to your offering will certainly benefit your customers as you now will be a one-stop shop for them,” stated Mike Vangstad, global product marketing manager – Pavement Products for Graco, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota. “There is no need for your customers to find a separate company to do the line striping after the asphalt job is complete. This greater capability will allow you to close more bids.”

It makes sense to add striping when relying on other companies to do the work becomes cumbersome.

“Sometimes, striping is a ‘make or break’ for many CapEx projects in our industry,” stated Mark Estrada, senior VP for Marathon Solutions Group, LLC, Houston, Texas. “From a commercial mill and pave to full road/highway projects, adding striping as an internal service provides full control of the striping project from start to final bill.”

Having clear, quality asphalt striping is the finishing touch to a paved parking lot or newly repaired or seal coated project. Not only is parking lot line striping important to the functionality and safety of a location, it also improves the appearance. Clean, clear lines that don’t show signs of wear give the exterior of a business or office a fresh look and show care for the maintenance and appearance of the facility and its grounds.

A building owner needs to ask themselves the next time they inspect their parking lot if the lines are still clearly marked or are there sections where paint has worn away, and can they clearly see the lines on three sides of the space during the day and night or during sunny or rainy conditions to determine if restriping is necessary. And of course are the handicap spaces still highly visible and clearly marked?

“I think adding striping to an asphalt paving contractor’s business is the right move,” stated Marvin Joles III, owner of Wis-Coat, LLC, Lone Rock, Wisconsin. “It allows the contractor to get jobs done quicker, create more margin and adds to the ‘one-source’ feel that benefits customers.”

Wis-Coat is an asphalt paving and maintenance contractor that also provides sealcoating, crack-sealing, patching, line striping, parking lot accessories, gravel, recycled asphalt, as well as small concrete needs.

Adding striping to a contractor’s multiservice mix can offer advantages.

Joles said, “The advantages of offering striping as an in-house service is that the contractor can close more deals, can have greater quality control over the striping, and can have a greater profit margin because they do not need to subcontract the service. And their customers can get back on their paved surface more promptly.”

Maintaining greater control over the work and improving a contractor’s margins are certainly points in favor of adding striping to a contractor’s services offered.

“If you’re looking at adding striping to your existing asphalt business,” Vangstad said, “you need to consider the following three things:

  1. Do you have the manpower to do this? Labor is scarce in most markets right now and you certainly do not want to negatively affect your current business.
  2. Do you have the expertise to perform line striping? If not, maybe you need to bring new employees onboard or find someone to train a select number of your current employees.
  3. Do you have the equipment to effectively get a quality job completed in a timely fashion?”

There is a tremendous range of equipment available as well as accessories that will help get the job done faster with less labor.

“Your equipment needs really depend on the type of jobs that you are doing,” Vangstad said. “Restripes of existing sites versus new projects, which require layout and a greater skill set. For basic restripes, there are a few walk-behind options for those on a budget. But if you are striping on a frequent basis, it’s worth your investment to purchase a line striper that can support two guns and an automatic system like our LineDriver is a must.”

Clearly equipment and supplies are a part of the considerations to take into account when deciding to take on striping within a business to achieve an all-encompassing service.

“Certainly, the cost of machines and maintaining them need to be considered,” Joles stated. “You’ll want to ask yourself, will it make more or less efficiency depending on the margins per hour and the time invested getting over the learning curve to make investing in a new business service worthwhile?

“We have found that the customers who ‘need it done fast, so we can open back up’ benefit the most from a contractor’s striping capability, versus the customers who only have a few stalls to stripe and we can provide to them more affordably without going outside to incur even the ‘minimum’ that a subcontractor would charge.”

Adding line striping can widen the possibilities for new business.

“From top to bottom, striping brings in many different types of customers that can benefit from and have needs for striping,” Estrada said. “Whether it be that McDonald’s that’s trying to pass their HQ inspections or the strip center trying to address and prevent liabilities. Every parking lot you pass is a potential customer. Of course, your main target customers should be the ones that respect your work, pay quickly, and are as transparent as possible in their business dealings.”

For many contractors diversifying into asphalt paving striping may be a good thing in terms of a business expansion that will yield more profits. No matter how the future unfolds, it appears that pavement striping and marking will be a part of it. The need is there. And it will almost be certain that in the future there will still be a rude driver in a busy parking lot hogging two spots to protect their ‘precious’ car from door dings …even if the driver may at that point be a robot!

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through jeff_winke@yahoo.com