Arrow Asphalt had a theme song it would be Willie Nelson's
"On the Road Again" —
because that's how the company's crews do their job.
three locations the company's 36 employees work 11 months
of the year traveling throughout the eastern United States,
keeping equipment productive, keeping themselves on the payroll,
and keeping cash flowing in — all without having to
fight the highly competitive pricing that can afflict a local
it is largely this willingness to travel, combined with the
company's proficiency at juggling job schedules, equipment,
and hotels — while keeping in mind the employees' family
lives — that has enabled Arrow Asphalt to grow from
a $45-a-day summer sealcoating job to a place in Pavement's
2005 Sealcoating 100.
Asphalt President Fletcher Christie says the full-service
pavement maintenance company has averaged more than 30% growth
over each of the last three years, outgrowing two facilities,
most recently a 6,500-sq.-ft. operation, with plans to move
into a new 10,000-sq.-ft. building next spring.
been a matter of doing a good job and being willing to go
where the work is," Christie says. "It's not as
easy as it might sound, but it sure has been effective."
as a sealcoating company in Youngstown, OH, Arrow Asphalt
today works out of two additional locations: Kitty Hawk, NC,
and Pittsburgh, PA. A fourth operation in Tampa, FL, is scheduled
to open this year. The sales mix varies from location to location,
but on a companywide basis 85% of sales are to commercial
and industrial customers. Sealcoating accounts for 45% of
total sales, 45% of sales are paving, 5% are cracksealing,
and 5% are striping.
says that he became a full-service pavement maintenance firm
simply because he wanted to sell "service" to his
customers, providing them with any pavement maintenance service
was important, but sealcoating is what has worked for us and
we're going to keep it that way," Christie says. "The
paving, cracksealing, and striping has all come along because
of the sealcoating, so we're trying to stay focused on what
has helped our company grow and allowed us to be prosperous."
of its dedication to customer service and it's willingness
to go where the work is (crews have worked in every state
east of the Mississippi except for northernmost New England),
Arrow Asphalt handles a variety of jobs from an established
stable of high-profile customers including CSX Railroads,
Toys 'R' Us, State Farm Insurance, and Roadway Express.
approach is to give our customers the best of everything —
materials, service, equipment, and employees. So we educate
our employees on just how important the customer is. The customer
is our bread and butter and we try to exercise extraordinary
care in dealing with a customer. That's something I'm very
proud of," Christie says.
small enough to be flexible enough to handle that kind of
work — at the same time we're large enough to handle
the bigger jobs. And that's the niche we want. The big contractors
can't fulfill that niche — but we can."
large" on $45 a day
getting to this point took a little doing, as Christie started
in 1982 sealcoating a neighbor's driveway.
remember getting the money and thinking '$45 a day. I'm living
large!'" Eventually he added a 300-gal. unit; a 1,000-gal.
spray truck; "sweated" on a 500,000-sq.-ft., two-week
job; added a used 2,000-gal. spray unit in 1994; and in 1995
took on a "make-or-break" 4 million sq. ft. job
from Polivka Surface Engineers. "I was as nervous as
can be," he says, but he completed the job in eight days.
He says it was at that point that he began to consider what
kind of pavement maintenance company he wanted to run, and
he received some help from his sealer supplier.
Christie (right) and Larry Rich, owner of the local
SealMaster, who suggested that Arrow Asphalt continue
to travel for jobs.
Larry Rich guided me," Christie says. "He said 'You
might want to consider traveling the way you have been. Why
would you want to beat your head against the wall battling
local contractors and their competitive pricing?'"
that's what he's done, opening Kitty Hawk in 1995 and Pittsburgh
in 1999. Christie says virtually 90% of the work in Kitty
Hawk, managed by his father Bill Christie, is recreational-type
work such as tennis courts. "There's virtually no work
in the summer there, it's either the fall or the spring,"
he says, which gives Arrow an opportunity to move personnel
and equipment there and do work into November and then move
back again in the spring.
Kitty Hawk is not a staffed location, Pittsburgh and Youngstown
operations, both managed by Fletcher Christie, are fully staffed,
doing residential, commercial, and industrial work. The Tampa
operation will be managed by Frank Buffano and will be staffed
and modeled after Pittsburgh, which has a sales mix of 65%
sealcoating and 35% paving.
care of the crews
an operation like this your people are absolutely key,"
Christie says. Arrow Asphalt runs a full-time residential
crew that stays local, and several production crews that travel
to where the work is. "Most of the time we'll have a
crew out of town 10 days or so then they'll come back and
work seven to ten days from the main office. We try to trade-off
on trips like that and also on weekends."
for juggling crews, jobs, hotels, and other assorted tasks
fall to his best friend of 20 years, Carl Dohar, operations
Asphalt's operations foremen and operations manager
Carl Dohar (far right).
the backbone of our operation," Christie says. "He
gets us up and running and he keeps us up and running. I don't
know that I know anyone who has a more thorough understanding
of this business and how to work with the people in it. We
wouldn't have the degree of success we've been having without
on the road the company puts employees up in hotels and provides
daily meal money in addition to the employee's salary. Because
some jobs are quite a distance away from "home,"
employees also are paid for their traveled time.
want everybody who works with us to make money. I feel you
get the best out of people that way," Christie says.
In addition to paying its employees better-than-average wages,
Arrow Asphalt provides medical and dental insurance, an IRA
plan that includes a company match, one week paid vacation
— that can be taken during the busy season — after
the first of the year (two weeks after five years), and end-of-the-year,
performance-based cash bonuses that are handed out at the
annual Christmas party.
says his goal is for Arrow Asphalt to reach $10 million in
annual sales. "We'll work to get there and then we'll
work to keep it there, just keep it steady," he says.
"At that level I don't think it will be unwieldy or out
of control. You know what they say, 'pigs get fat, hogs get
slaughtered.' I want to keep it manageable and that means
to keep it the way we're going.