“What ever happened to the good old days?” I asked myself as I was planning a sales trip recently. “Make it black and don’t look back,” used to be our industry’s motto. Well, not anymore.
As I travel the country talking to commercial paving contractors, one of the most asked questions is, “What’s the typical job for one of your pavers?” My favorite response to them is, “How long is a piece of string?” The answers to both of those questions are just as ambiguous.
I recently sat in a meeting with a contractor and his paving crew discussing upcoming jobs for the week. His schedule included driveways, parking lots, a subdivision and even some light DOT work. I asked him what his most challenging job was going to be and his answer surprised me. It was the driveway. He said he knew what to expect from the other jobs, but the driveway presented the greatest number of unknowns.
He told me that he knew what the DOT inspector was looking for, and he knew the General Developer of the Subdivision and what his requirements would be. The Parking lot? No Problem. It was on grade and ready to go. But the driveway? That was another story.
We live in an age of information. The homeowner of today does his homework. With a few clicks on the internet, the homeowner believes that he is a paving expert. At that point, the contractor’s job is to satisfy the homeowner’s requirements and expectations so he can get paid in a timely manner. That means for the paving contractor of today, there’s no pulling the wool over the eyes of today’s consumer. If we do, we could find ourselves on the Daily News!
Besides the challenges of working with homeowners, let’s talk for a moment about parking lots and how they present new designs and expertise that wasn’t needed just a few years ago. Today’s big box store parking lots are very different from the Mega-Mart parking lots of yesterday. In the new designs, islands and medians dot the landscape along with multiple entrances and exits. Gone are the days of a truly rectangle parking lot where you are in and out.
Today’s contractors aren’t only paving pros, they are artists. I challenge you to go to a jobsite, pull up a chair and watch these men and women do their jobs. When the asphalt hits the paver, it’s like watching a symphony. Each player has an instrument, and they use it to perfection.
My hat is off to today’s paving contractor. Their business is not the same business as when their Grandfather started the company. I’m betting too that it will be just as different when their Grandkids take over the business as well.