While B&B Paving started with only a truck, a roller and a paver, the partners were determined and “unafraid.”
Whether they are credited with inspiring, pushing, demanding or teaching, many construction company owners acknowledge the impact their fathers have had on their success. B&B Paving is no exception. A steadily growing paving contractor in Bangor, Maine, B&B is owned by Bruce Paradis, and his story begins as far away from construction as you can be.
“My first job was stocking shelves at my father’s grocery store in Fort Kent,” recalled Paradis, “I made $5 a day and learned right away that being told to wipe down a shelf meant emptying it completely, wiping the shelf, wiping every single can, and putting them back one by one…my father was a perfectionist.” It’s no surprise that his dream was not to be caged up, and Paradis went to school in Presque Isle (Maine) to learn to be a truck operator.
He began hauling chips and then logs from the woods to the mills in Canada, but after a while he was ready to do something else, so in 1992, when he was approached by Bruce Terrio with the plan to partner up and buy a paving company that was going out of business, he quickly agreed. They rented a truck and bought a paver and a small roller, came down to Bangor and set up shop.
“We were not afraid, and we were ready to do anything.”
The two partners spent most of their time going door-to-door getting their name out there. Before long they had some small jobs and hired some people from up north to come help them.
“We knew their work ethic was the same as ours,” said Paradis.
Paving season in northern Maine is May to Thanksgiving and the first year of their work was mainly driveways.
By the next year, Paradis bought out his partner and continued growing the company, still doing everything — finding the work, quoting, and “making the turns,” meaning laying the asphalt.
“I quoted and worked seven days a week.”
But soon his father started to tell him, “It’s time for you to hang up your coveralls.”
According to Paradis, his father insisted that he had to hire the right people, train them and let them do their job, while he focused on estimating, planning and making sure all the details of each job were perfectly lined up. Besides his father’s advice, something else happened that convinced Paradis to retire his workclothes — “Falling off a machine and breaking my knee in fourteen places helped push me to doing desk work instead of operating equipment,” he said, “but it was a good thing actually, because I had to sit back and look at the bigger picture, study upcoming jobs and how we could do the best we could on them, using our men and machines most efficiently. I could not think about those things while I was on the machine.”
Paradis has become an efficiency expert and his single-mindness has paid off well. By 1997, B&B Paving was up to 10 employees and they started getting work from general contractors. He bought extra trucks because he could rent them out and with his name on them they were good advertising as they drove all around Bangor, “Making us look a lot bigger than we were.”
His equipment buying philosophy is interesting; he’s always looking for good opportunities and will buy a good machine even when he doesn’t need it, “Because I know that if I have it, I can bid bigger jobs,” explained the savvy former shelf-wiper.
Nowadays he’s buying new, and choosing bigger and bigger pieces; one good example is the Cat PS360C roller he owns, one of the few in the state of Maine.
The company is headquartered in a new building with plenty of room to service and store its equipment. Twenty men and four foremen operate a fleet that would make many a larger company proud.
“We take good care of our machines,” said Paradis. “Everything is clean and in good shape, we know that the equipment reflects the company.”
There is a real process to how they work in teams, always aiming towards efficiency. There is a lot of preparation; Bruce and his people do not want any surprises on the job and site assessments are an important first step.
Besides efficiency, Paradis’ other core values are treating people right, and telling the truth.
“I tell my men to always be honest with the customer. If you make a mistake, tell the customer and then fix it. They will trust you if you do that.” Regarding his workers, Paradis explained, “We don’t roll our workforce. We give them the high hours that they are after during the week, asking for an occasional weekend here and there if we are up against it with a job, and I treat them like I would like to be treated — they are very important to the success of the company.”
Since 2008 his company has started traveling farther and will now go 100 mi. in any direction to work on a job.
“We also rent out our reclaimer and planer with our own operator, and they will go anywhere in the state of Maine.”
Part of Paradis’ planning includes a close watch on the weather and sending two of everything to a job, so the work is seamless. He also believes in helping those companies he works with, loaning trailers or trucks to a company in a pinch.
How about the future? Paradis acknowledged that times are tough and bids are tight. Their response is to protect uptime and to focus on productivity. They also believe in being flexible, supporting their customers however they need it.
“We leave Fridays free, because there are always emergencies coming up and we want to be able to take care of them,” explained Paradis. “Paving is the last step in a bigger job. The last link in the chain many times. My customers need it done and they know they can count on me. Whether it is a parking lot for a store to open, parking for a condominium or hotel, whatever it might be, or a major roadway before the summer tourist season, I understand the importance and we get excited about rising to the challenge.”