Laying Down Great Foundations for Customer Relationships and Parking Lots

Asphalt Specialists, Inc.

For Asphalt Specialists, Inc. (ASI) in Pontiac, Michigan, there’s much more to the job than delivering that expert smooth pavement for a commercial parking lot. It’s about building relationships with customers, suppliers and dedicated employees who go into high gear in prime paving season from spring to late fall.
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Asphalt Specialists, Inc. works hard to provide a long-wearing product that will stand up to harsh Michigan winters – and has a solid track record of doing just that for more than 25 years.

“From the middle of the spring to late fall, it’s game on,” says Dan Israel, President of ASI who also manages employee relations and social media.

“We work nights, Saturday, Sunday – whatever it takes to keep the client’s business open and running. We work around their schedule. And we are very open and upfront with the truck drivers and the field workers during the on season, because we are working like crazy,” says Tim Baugher, Sales.

Baugher says being open and communicative with customers and employees is a big part of what sets the company apart from other pavers in the area. Although competitive, the industry isn’t always considered friendly and transparent, and ASI is working hard to change that perception and grow its labor force.

“Some other companies would spend less money, but we want to give people a product that is going to last,” he says. “So we are very honest in dealing with issues they may be having with their parking lots. We will fix the problems, not just pave over top of it and hope it stays.”

It’s this direct and honest approach that won over customers when brothers Dan and Bruce Israel started their own striping company as a summer job. The company grew and quickly became a full-time commitment. The siblings decided to sell their striping company in 1988 and then bought a dump truck, a roller and a small paver to launch an asphalt patching company. That was the beginning of ASI.

Now the brothers have 170 employees, six asphalt paving crews, 10 dirt crews, and their own equipment fleet of pulverizers, milling machines, trucks, pavers, bulldozers, rollers and compactors. “Having our own fleet of machines to complete the work allows us to control the quality and schedule for how the work will get done.”

Another key differentiator in the market is that ASI is a full-service design-build company. It has in-house engineers that work closely with clients to design and construct a parking lot with a plan in place to meet their expectations, from start to finish. Customers are kept in the know about project timelines and ASI prides itself on delivering jobs on time and on budget.

The company’s specialty, and most of the work requested, is the reconstruction of existing sites, where it focuses on a solid and lasting foundation. “We start with underground,” Bruce Israel, Vice President, explains of the initial troubleshooting process. A site visit is always step one for photos and analysis. “If there are certain spots that are causing issues, if there is cracking or if there is standing water, we will deal with that. Depending on the ground, if you have sand or clay, you will want to have a stone base once you’ve identified any problem areas.”

ASI is in fact one of the only companies in the region to offer complete soil stabilization, a process where cement and lime are poured with the actual soil to provide strength. “If we have ground that is troublesome where we are sinking in with our machines, we do a lot of proof-rolling to test the soil at that time, because if you place asphalt over top of that it’s not going to be very stable and will crack over time,” Paul Myers, Sales, explains.

Essentially, full-depth reclamation (FDR) takes ASI’s soil stabilization service one step further. FDR rebuilds worn out asphalt pavements by pulverizing the old asphalt and base materials. They are mixed with cement and compacted to produce a strong, durable base for an asphalt surface and smooth, quality paving.

Indeed, ASI’s reputation has led to it building a satisfied and growing customer base. The company does a lot of commercial parking lots, including ones for hospitals, churches and large corporations without impacting ongoing operations. In 2018 alone, the team completed 550 main projects, along with small jobs for asphalt patching.

A major highlight in 2017 was a fast-tracked $1.9-million design-build project for a Magneti Marelli auto systems manufacturing plant. The project included a retaining wall and parking lot expansion. Given the additional construction elements, ASI brought in designers and worked closely with Oakland County and Independence Township to get site plan approval and permits to make sure everything was up to code. In just eight weeks, ASI completed the full construction of the parking lot expansion, a 25-foot-tall retaining wall, utility improvements, concrete curb and gutter and, of course, asphalt paving.

Customers like Magneti Marelli do not have to worry about separately contracting with designers, site contractors, asphalt contractors, trucking companies or concrete contractors, as ASI includes the entire work scope under one package.

“The client was over the moon,” Baugher shares. “They were very happy with the work we did and how long it took to do it. It was pretty quick and we worked around their schedule so we didn’t affect their operations during construction.”

It’s that kind of commitment to the work and customers that drives word-of-mouth referrals and builds employee culture, which is of course a focus for recruiting new employees.

The company prides itself on promoting from within and helping boost the careers of homegrown talent, Anna Skelton, Corporate Communication Specialist, says. It provides classes for people to get their commercial driver’s license to move into trucking for its operations. “We’re a big company, but we’re close-knit and ASI really is a great company to work for.” Skelton herself started out as an administration assistant and was promoted to her current and well-suited role in communications.

Next on the agenda is the launch of a new marketing campaign and new website to showcase ASI’s strong employee culture, customer service and innovation as a design-build paving company. ASI is rolling out a new mission statement that sums it up best: “Relentlessly striving for excellence in customer service while focusing on establishing lasting relationships with employees, suppliers and customers.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

December 8, 2019, 1:54 AM EST