Are You Listening?

In February I was able to visit my brother Bill in Corona, California. During the visit we talked about his contracting business, Landmark Site Contractors.

Bill and a partner started the business in 1996 as a paving company. By 2001, they had purchased two paving machines and had about 28 full-time employees on the payroll. They also had a smaller concrete crew they kept busy with curb and gutter work and the occasional flatwork, and also employed one grading crew.

Their favorite jobs were “turn key” projects; ones in which they take a project from the ground, or in this case, underground, up. With their particular mix of employees and equipment, these jobs proved the most profitable. However, they accepted many other assignments where final paving was the only portion of the contract they got.

As an example of the type of jobs they were doing in 2001, two projects demonstrate their versatility.

  • In Coachella, they placed concrete flatwork on a project involving three schools,
  • In Victorville, it was 100,000 sq. ft. of asphalt in a residential tract.
  • They also placed 4,500 lineal feet of curb and gutter, and sidewalks as well. On the paving portion, they used 1,500 tons of asphalt over a 12-inch, class 2 base. After final construction of the housing tract, they overlaid the final 1-inch layer of asphalt as a finish coat to bring streets to final grade.

But around 2006 things begin to change, jobs were harder to get. At bid openings, where there used to be five or ten contractors bidding a job, there were now 20 to 30. When there are that may contractors bidding on one job, someone is bidding low and not making any money.

Bill didn’t want to work for free, so he began looking around for different types of work. What he found was park construction. He had been doing jobs with underground work (power, water, drainage and sewer), grading, cement work, asphalt and planters. A park has all of the same components, but instead of lots of asphalt with a few planters it is a lot of grass or sports fields with parking lots around them. The best part about the parks is there were not a lot of contractors bidding on the work.

From 2006 to today Bill has been building parks.

I have never heard Bill complain about the state of the industry or the economy. He has always been watching and listening to what was happening in the world around him.

  • In 1996 there was a place for a small niche Asphalt paving contractor and he filled it.
  • In 2006 that niche was disappearing so he began looking for his next niche. What he found was park construction.
  • Now in 2011 the work on parks is slowing down and Bill is already looking for his next niche.

This story illustrates how successful businesses need to always be aware of change and be proactive in response to new opportunities. Take a fresh look at your industry. How can you position your business to ride out change and prosper in a changing world.

4 Comments

  • Vanessa

    June 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm Reply

    hi-ya, I like all your posts, keep them coming.

  • Andre Kahr

    June 22, 2011 at 7:33 am Reply

    This is an excellent post that beautifully illustrates the true meaning of “going with the flow”. My feeling is this sentence “He has always been watching and listening to what was happening in the world around him” may be the key to the kind of psychological approach to life that makes it possible to reinvent yourself and/or your business depending on circumstances. Good for Bill!

  • Randal DeHart

    July 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm Reply

    Bob,

    This post says it all!

    Having been involved in construction and construction accounting most of my life and have seen quite a bit of the “Good, The Bad & The Ugly” to paraphrase a movie title with Clint Eastwood in contractors and their strategic approach to running their firms.

    It appears Bill has a firm grasp on staying in front of a starving crowd and becoming successful.

    Please accept this standing invitation to buy you and him a cup of coffee and learn more about his strategy and vision for the future of his firm the next time Bill visits the Seattle area.

    Warm Regards,

    Randal

  • Von Zuehls

    January 26, 2012 at 4:56 am Reply

    The best Asphalt company I have ever seen!

Post a Comment