What worked best for you this past season?

Discussion in 'Seal Coating Forum' started by BIGBOY2008, Oct 10, 2008.

  1. BIGBOY2008

    BIGBOY2008 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 146

    Now that this season is just about over im looking back at what i did and how i did it. Im asking myself what did i do right and what did i do wrong? Does anything need improving and how can i make these improvements?

    This was my first year sealing residential driveways.

    One thing i did wrong was worry that i may have had my pricing per square foot set too high and i spent a little too much time double checking my estimates in relation to worrying if i should drop them a penny or two pennies per square foot. I soon came to the conclusion that it wouldnt have mattered i had dropped them one penny, five pennies or even ten pennies. That there are basicly two type of people i gave bids to... those who could afford it and those who could not afford it. The minute i heard the phrase "fixed income" i didnt spend a lot of time attempting to aquire that job.

    One thing i did wrong when first starting out was to quote a couple of 8000 to 8500 square foot jobs too cheap and im darn glad these folks were too tight to take me up on it. Thats two times i finally realized it might be good for people to be stingy.

    So far as pricing is concerned i learned my best policy was to quote one penny over what i actually wanted to make pers square foot and if they wanted to negotiate that price i would allow them to bring me down one penny. I think this gave some of them a sense of empowerment by knowing that even though fuel and material prices are on the rise that they werent completely helpless in being at the mercy of often unpredictable material and fuel costs.

    I dont have a full scale spray unit and im working out of 55 gal barrels. From the customers point of view i can see the difference between a guy who comes in with fully equipped spray unit and a guy who comes in with a pickup truck with a trailer loaded down with 55 gal barrels. I know the guy with the fully equipped spray rig can do three drives to my one single driveway.
    But this is what i learned. I was told by several customers that i was the first person who bothered to use a string trimmer to edge the grass and dirt in such a manner that they could see where the grass and dirt actually met the asphalt. That i was the first person who used water pressure to clean and flush debris out of cracks several days prior to filling the cracks. That i was the first person to use water pressure to clean the edges of the pavement and the first person to seal those edges all the way down to the ground level with a thick nap roller. Several folks told me that my previous customers had recomended me in such a manner that they were quite willing to pay me more than they would others due to not having to worry about getting ripped off.

    My primary weakness is i dont have a fully equipped truck and with the present state of the conomy and the rising prices of material and fuel costs theres no way im going to take out a loan to buy one.

    But i did learn that by modifying my techniques and making some simple design changes to my barrels i can do the work without having to hire a helper. I also learned that by paying close attenton to details that others would commonly overlook the customer feels their money is being better well spent. Details such as personal appearance played an important role in me getting some of my better paying jobs. I often heard phrases such as "This one guy stopped by and i just didnt like that way he and his helper looked".
  2. shepoutside

    shepoutside LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,208


    You have figured out what will separate you, from most, if not all others. Anyone can apply seal-coat, but only a few, can do a proper job, which people do not mind paying for, and will re-hire you, and referrals are a major source of jobs. In the end, the driveway is your signature, so if it's good, that alone is a major sales flyer for you. Brag about the job you do, tell people why your price may seem hirer, but be a better value. If it is based on price only, let the other guys have the job. Start making good profit, at fewer jobs, then chase a lot of jobs, that are not as profitable. A second helper can be a good thing, but it is also overhead, so if you can keep it a one man show, this will work in your favor too. Most helpers are paid at the job site, but also paid to ride to and from that site too, so they can be a major expense. Don't worry about the equipment to much either, a great job, is you best sale card.
  3. sounds like your on your way,i would drop the pressure washing thing,once you get busy you wont have time for things like that.
  4. shepoutside

    shepoutside LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,208

    Yes, that's the one thing I would drop, overkill, plus adds a day, and a second trip. Go for one stop sealing. ( you do 1 or 2 coats?)
  5. BIGBOY2008

    BIGBOY2008 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 146

    If its a new drive way i will do two coats if its already been sealed and its condition is not too bad i will do one coat.

    I dont pressure washing the entire drive way...i only do the cracks and edges.

    I had a buddy make some tips where i could blow debris and grass out of the cracks and blow the dirt off the edges/shoulder of the asphalt. It doesnt take long to edge with the weed eater and clean the cracks and the edges.

    Ill normally do all my prep work and set my barrels up and add water to the sealer so that im ready to start well before day break the next morning. Ill do prep work and barrel set up for two drives on one day and then seal those two drives on the next day. I plan jobs in such a manner that they are either in the same town or the same neighborhood.

    It can be dificult doing this type of work without paid help.
    As soon as it is light enough to see im laying sealer down and some days im working ten to twelve hours straight through and without taking breaks. Its hard to find good help and i always buy them lunch and pay them what i would like to get paid if i were in their shoes. But a lot of them only want to work enough hours to buy smokes and beer. Despite the fact i told them the day before we would be working eight to ten hours ive had them walk up to me at 12:00 noon and tell me they want their six hours of pay because they are going home. And im noticing they are keeping a ten foot air space between me and them when they are asking for their six hours of pay. They knew they were deliberately screwing me over by doing this.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2008
  6. black-top magic

    black-top magic LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    I personally like to give my customers options, do they want cold pour or hot crack filler? do they want primer over oil spots? or a round-up treatment? when bidding explain to them why they might want the better treatment, but then tell them the price. If they want more give them more, but remember some people just want their driveways to be black and don't much care about the rest. For them give them what they want at a fair price and do fair work, but don't waste the extra effort on them.
  7. BIGBOY2008

    BIGBOY2008 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 146

    One of the best moves i made this past season was to make it a habit of constantly having a pen and note pad in my shirt pocket. You wouldnt believe how much time this helped me with managing my time.

    I would often make my daily phone calls but end up forgetting one certain call where i would have to come back to my office to use the phone at lunch. Saved me gas by not having to drive all the way back in order to make one single phone call. No more going for supplies and then getting three miles down the road and then having to turn around and go back for something i had forgot.

    Truth be told im probably THE BIGGEST PROCRASTINATOR IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Its easy for me to think it wont hurt to wait until tomorrow to do some things. But with it all written down on paper it forces me to realize the if i dont get moving ill never get everything done in time to come out ahead.

    Ive realized the importance of having business cards on my person at all times during the day. There are times i can be standing in a Lowes check out line with five people in front of me. I can turn what would otherwise be dead time into productive time usage by handing a business card to a home owner. It is quite possible that the home owner could have a 4000 sq ft drive that might need sealing. That home owner could also have two neighbors with similar drives that are due for sealing. All it takes is about ten seconds of conversation to hand a business card to someone.
  8. BIGBOY2008

    BIGBOY2008 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 146

    What about the rest of you guys... what changes or improvements did you make this past seaon?
  9. puddin' pie

    puddin' pie LawnSite Member
    Messages: 95

    what about the ladies!!!!!!!!! :hammerhead:
    i find that good service and quality workmanship is the key. don't give discounts
  10. shepoutside

    shepoutside LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,208

    For me, discounts work very well. Most people like to think there getting a deal, myself included, so I offer discounts in many ways. I have a coupon on my web page, offer discount at spring home shows, etc. I also make them all different, so I can log, or keep track of where or which marketing is working, so I can tweak it as time rolls on. I have been amazed how much business my web page brings in. I have also put my web page out there, on ever-thing, as many people surf the web. A good web page is must IMHO. I did huge work in Toronto this year, as a result of the web page.

    The other thing I did this year, was get a blackberry. Now I get instant e-mails with-me at all times. I can respond to a e-mail, which is usually a request from the web site, and can jump on a quote, or whatever right away. Many were amazed that a short time after they e-mail me for a quote, I could reply with a price. I have also used goggle earth to help quoting, saving time to drive out to every job.

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