‘Bama Paving Company Survives ‘Low Times’ by Adding a Service
Sealing the Deal
By Brittany Luthi
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Never does this old proverb ring more true than in a recession. Just ask a business owner who has survived his share of low times.
Mark Alexander, owner of Alexander Sealcoating & Striping Inc. in Montgomery, AL, knows all too well the heat a recession brings. Having pushed his paving and sealcoating business through the recession of 1992 and the 2008 economic troubles, he knows the ins and outs of running an efficient company.
To keep his business afloat, Alexander employs crewmembers with integrity and passion to do good work, all powered by a fleet of high-quality, reliable equipment.
Alexander Sealcoating began in 1959 as a parking lot paving company focused on residential and commercial asphalt jobs, such as paving, hot-tar crack filling and parking lot layout.
Mark Alexander took the business over from his father, in 1989, and bought a trailer-mounted 550T sealcoating machine from Neal Manufacturing to broaden its offerings. He chose Neal because it was just two hours away in Anniston.
But it was more than convenience that sold him on purchasing his next Neal machine, and the one after that, and the one after that. His experience with the company matched what he had heard, Alexander said, and the product quality and level of customer service led him to loyalty with the company.
He didn’t know it at the time, but adding sealcoating to the company’s offerings would significantly grow the established business, and ultimately keep it running.
Integrity, Quality Workmanship
Although Alexander describes it as a “nothing special small business,” those who have benefited from the family-owned company’s work disagree.
With years of experience in traffic flow and close attention to quality control, it maps out what makes the most sense for each business. The company looks at not only the end result (a new parking lot), but the construction phase as well, to ensure that businesses can stay open through the project with little interruption. Its typical job is about 11,000 or more square yards, which mainly
encompasses parking lots for shopping centers, apartment complexes and military bases.
Its expertise and reputation are what give Alexander Sealing the confidence to guarantee the company’s work. But until it offered sealcoating, it couldn’t complete the entire job for its customers.
Without sealcoating and striping, Alexander said, they weren’t getting as much business as they could have overall. And although the sealcoating portion of the business is only about 20%, it had a bigger impact when it came to booking jobs.
Plus, transferring to a full-service company meant Alexander Sealcoating could potentially be the only company working on each parking lot project in the Montgomery area.
“When you offer sealcoating and striping, property owners are more likely to call you to do the other jobs,” Alexander said. “We didn’t want businesses going to anyone else for parking lot-related work in this city and beyond.”
Just as he suspected, adding sealcoating made it a full-service parking lot company and helped it “seal the deal” for more clients.
Since the expansion in 1989, Alexander has kept up with the growth by purchasing two additional Neal 550S skid-mounted machines and a DA-350 Dual Applicator, which can apply sealcoat with both squeegee and spray systems.
The Anniston company even fabricated a one-of-a-kind unit into the back of one of Alexander Sealing’s trucks. It uses an auxiliary motor so that two of the hydraulic-powered piston pumps run independently from each other. This way, crews always have a backup pump.
And Alexander also purchased a 5,000-gallon skid storage tank with an electric super sand pump. “The ESSP is crucial to our success, and it’s the reason I buy Neal. There’s no alternative,” he explained. “Diaphragm pumps aren’t even on my radar because of the maintenance and ‘rebuilds’ they require, and I don’t like downtime.”
Neal’s ESSP has 75% fewer parts than traditional air pumps. Leather cups tightly seal the plates to prevent material from leaking. While diaphragm pumps require daily flushing to prevent the rubber seals from degrading, operators can run as much as 200,000 gallons through before Neal’s leather cup seals wear, depending on the sand load. Further, users need to flush them only once a year, which can save up to 30 minutes per day.
Aside from the easy cleanup, Alexander said these units also help the crew work more efficiently.
While diaphragm pumps can handle as much as 2 pounds of sand per gallon, Neal’s pumps easily move as much as 8 pounds of sand per gallon. Since they can move more mix through faster, the crew is able to put down more than 150,000 raw gallons per year on residential and commercial projects.
The skid- and trailer-mounted units also are capable of transferring as much as 100 gallons of material into the tank per minute, which is the fastest transfer rate on the market.
With the 5,000-gallon storage tank in the fleet, Alexander can mix material overnight. The crew hauls it to the site the next day to fill the truck and sealcoating machines to save mixing time on the job.
“We still have to spend the time mixing the materials, but we can do it when the project closes down for the night,” Alexander said. “That way, the next day we can be as efficient as possible, because our seven hours of mixing materials is already done.”
Surviving the Struggle
Aside from overall efficiency, Alexander recognizes that the livelihood of his company came down to the 1989 expansion. Without adding sealcoating, it’s not likely the company would have survived the recessions of 1992 or 2008.
Alexander said the company has always had good financial planning and a solid work ethic. Even so, he said, getting through the 2008 recession was the most difficult time the company has seen.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve done. Only one out of every four companies in our industry made it. We were losing 50% of our gross income. It was extremely tough to make it work,” Alexander said. “If it weren’t for those low-maintenance Neal machines – and the sealcoating aspect of our business – we wouldn’t have made it.”
All five of the company’s Neal machines and the storage tank are still in operation today – even the first unit that Alexander bought 25 years ago. He and his crew continue doing each job well, with a dedication to quality work and keeping customers updated on each job’s progress.
“Success, to me, is a repeat customer,” Alexander said. “That’s what we work for – doing a really good job to get hired again in the future.”
In other words, seal the deal. Every time.
Contact Brittany Luthi, a Public Relations Writer with Ironclad Marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.