- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: James Logan
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
In 1979 Doug Declusin started Sunland Asphalt with just two employees. Since then, the company has grown to 360 employees with locations in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. Headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, Sunland Asphalt is an industry leader in full-service asphalt paving, maintenance and specialty contracting.
While working as a carpenter framing houses, a friend recruited Declusin into the seal-coating business. When the supplier decided to open a distribution center in Phoenix, Declusin began cold-calling contractors in the area to sell the product. “After one season, I had sold so much of the product that the supplier concluded that there was a market in this area,” says Declusin. “They decided that they were going to open a plant right here in town and put us out of business.”
In order to prevent a territory battle, the owner of the company decided the Declusin’s sales numbers were reason enough to invest in him. “To get us started he gave us a machine, a trailer and a blower and a preferred price on sealer,” Declusin explains. “We took the startup gear and went into the contracting business.”
Standing out from the crowd
Integrity has been the key factor in the growth and success of Sunland Asphalt. “We do what we say we are going to do when we say we are going to do it,” says Declusin. “That’s the culture that this company lives by. We stand behind our work 100 percent. If there is a problem with a job we fix it.” With a solid standing with the Better Business Bureau, Sunland Asphalt’s track record speaks for itself.
Before starting any paving project, Sunland Asphalt has already planned each project from start to finish. Using modern equipment, the company’s crews receive continuous training in use and installation. Sunland Asphalt’s expertise in all areas includes a thorough, on-site inspection to become familiar with the specific requirements of a property and prevents future maintenance costs.
Sunland Asphalt serves numerous market niches including pavement-maintenance, which exists primarily in the private sector. “This section of the business focuses mostly on mobile home parks, parking lots and shopping centers,” says Declusin. “We’ll rip it out, redo it, seal coat it, crack seal it and stripe it. We’ll work on anything that has to do with a parking lot.”
The company also maintains a highway-maintenance sector, which acts as a public-works division for Sunland Asphalt, “We do a lot of coatings and overlays for highways,” says Declusin. In 2012 Sunland Asphalt established a new construction division. The primary focus of this division is commercial site work including warehouses, schools, office complexes, retail stores hotels and restaurants.
Sunland Asphalt has also recently established an infrastructure division. “We hired some extra help and their task is building roads and highways from scratch,” Declusin explains. “They are also working on structures such as bridges and tunnels.”
The company is currently challenging itself in a relatively new market. Declusin has led his company into the sports complex building industry with Sunland Sports. “It involves artificial turf, football fields and running tracks,” says Declusin. “We’ve been doing that on and off for 20 years but are now just launching a division to focus on that market.”
Sunland Asphalt has received multiple awards and recognitions as an industry leader. In January 2015, the company was awarded the Distinguished Tennis Facilities Award by the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA). The project was Troon Country Club Tennis Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Troon Country Club was in need of a comprehensive solution to resolve issues with three asphalt tennis courts that had sustained significant structural damage.
The original courts had been covered with a rolled turf and acrylic infield system, which had failed. Following a routine site analysis, Sunland Sports concluded a full demolition, redesign and reconstruction of the courts was the best solution. The company designed a post-tension overlay system to meet the projects specific needs and budget.
In 2014 Sunland Asphalt was selected as the winner of the 2014 Arizona Transportation Partnering Excellence award for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) SR-264, Tuba City Window Rock Highway project. The preservation project involved a 12.8 mile stretch of highway along SR-264 from the town of Steamboat to west of Burnside Junction. Sunland Asphalt’s team navigated several challenges including traffic safety, guardrail removal and installation, an environmentally sensitive area, weather and timely communication due to the remote location of the project.
Sunland Asphalt performs more than 4,000 jobs per year. Each job ranges from $1,200 to $12 million. Self-performing 90 percent of the work, the company does maintain a network of suppliers and subcontractors when required. The customer satisfaction and relationships that Sunland Asphalt has established has in large part been due to the selective approach the company takes when choosing strategic business partners. “Managing our subcontractors is just as important as managing our own personnel,” says Declusin. “It’s our name on the line if they don’t perform.”
In maintaining a steady workflow throughout the recession, Declusin credits his accounting system for job-costing every project. “We perform more than 4,000 jobs per year and we job-cost and review every one of them,” says Declusin. “We are also a very transparent company. We report our earnings and performance to the management team as well as anybody in the company who wants to know.” Sunland Asphalt also offers an employee stock ownership plan. “We are 30 percent employee-owned which creates what we like to call ‘ownership thinking’. We like our employees to think like owners.”
This philosophy has certainly been beneficial for employee retention at Sunland Asphalt. “We have a very low turnover ratio,” says Declusin. “We have employees that have been with us for 25 years.” The average tenure for a Sunland Asphalt employee is 10 years.
When measuring success, Sunland Asphalt has numerous performance indicators to review. While examining the standard results such as profit, and general and administrative expenses, the company is also tracking sales records such as proposal counts, dollars per proposal and sales per associate. “We’re basically a marketing organization that just happens to do contracting,” Declusin explains. “We have a staff of 20 salespeople and every month we have [a] meeting to discuss last month’s numbers as well as projection[s] for the next two months.”
Declusin attributes the success of his company to the employees. “In all sectors of the company we have the best employees in the business,” says Declusin. He credits the company’s ability to attract such competent employees to Sunland Asphalt’s. “We share more information with our employees than most companies do. They know how the company is doing and they know how their jobs are doing. Everybody’s compensation is tied to profitability.”
Declusin is optimistic about the U.S. economy improving in the private sector. In the past five years, Sunland Asphalt has doubled its annual revenue, and expects to almost triple in the near future. “We just completed our five year plan and we are projecting 65 percent growth in the next five years,” says Declusin.
When away from work, Declusin can be found skiing, mountain biking and playing golf. “I’m stepping down as chairman of the board of the Association of General Contractors, so I plan on having some free time to enjoy those things,” says Declusin.
Sunland Asphalt continues to progress as an industry leading company in the Southwest.
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