All posts by Steven Cole

Steven Cole (Economics, MBA – University of West Florida, Business & Innovation – Stanford University) 30 years experience in the parking lot striping business.  Expert in reflective visibility solutions.

Workers Comp / Compensation Insurance or Exemption

In the previous article we discussed obtaining liability insurance to not only cover accidents that may occur but also to assist you in getting jobs. In this article I want to cover Workers Comp Insurance and how it can protect you and your customer and also how it can assist you in getting jobs.

Workers Comp is designed to cover your workers or employees in the event they are injured on the job. If one of your employees hurts their back picking up paint buckets or trips and breaks an arm workers compensation insurance will pay them until they recover and can work again. The advantages of workers comp for companies that have employees that may get injured on the job are obvious. If you are on someone’s property workers comp will insure that if your employee is injured your insurance will cover them and not the property owners policy. This is a big deal to most companies that you will work for.

The first thing you should do is go to your states worker compensation internet site and see what the requirements are. Some states force you to carry workers comp for your employees and some don’t. Some make you carry it your self and some allow for you to be exempted. In Florida for example, all construction related businesses must carry workers comp even if they only have one employee. However, in Florida, corporate officers and LLC owners can be exempted. (exemption must be applied for) If you are a sole proprietor or partnership you cannot get the exemption.

If you are not required to carry workers comp then you have to decide whether it will be beneficial to you. There are two things to consider. Number one. Do you want to be responsible for the injuries of your employees or do you want to be relieved of this responsibility via workers comp insurance. Number two. Will having workers comp help you get jobs. The answer is yes it will. The owners of most larger properties will not let you work on their property unless you show them that you have “liability insurance” to cover them if you damage something or injure someone and “workers comp” to cover your employees if they get hurt on the job. If you are a small corporation or LLC you can get the exemption card and that will suffice. In most cases, the extra income you can make from additional jobs will more than cover the extra cost of insurance.

If your company is required to have workers comp and you don’t carry it you can be fined by the state plus you will lose out on most large jobs. If you don’t have to have workers comp you will not be fined but you will lose out on the same jobs. The choice should be clear but the best thing to do is consider your options and make the decision that will both boost your bottom line and cover you from unnecessary liability.

Obtaining a Liability Insurance Policy

For many companies, liability insurance is an option. However, for striping companies it is more of a necessity. Having a liability policy will accomplish two goals. First, it will cover you against liability if you damage something on someone else’s property. For example, say you get too close to a car and scrape it or say a person slips in your wet paint and injures themselves. You are going to want to be covered for these events even though they are unlikely. With that being said I want to go over the main reason for having liability insurance. It helps you get jobs! I can’t tell you how many times I have bid a job and been asked whether I carry liability insurance. If I did not have it I would not have gotten the jobs. Other striping companies that don’t carry it are now no longer competition on the nice jobs just because of that one item. (Another item they will ask for is workers comp or a workers comp exemption. I will cover that in the next article.)

The question many stripers have is what type of policy to get. If you are mainly striping and doing a little sealcoating manually now and then you may want to look into a specialty painting contractors policy. If you begin using heavy equipment that can injure someone you will need to step up to a more comprehensive policy. An insurance agent can help you determine which is best for you. Find an agent you can trust and make sure they don’t sell you more or less than what you need. The liability limit is something that customers look at. Get what you can afford and if you need to bump it up you can do that by calling your agent.

In conclusion, for a small striping company the liability coverage that a policy provides is comforting, but very few companies actually do any damage or hurt someone where they use that part of a policy. The main reason for having the policy would be making the customer happy and getting  jobs. For a larger company with heavy equipment liability is a must and is the most important reason to carry insurance. If your machines injure someone the policy will cover you. Without it you would be out of business. Getting jobs would be secondary in this situation.

Used Parking Lot Striper / Sealcoating Equipment

Used equipment is often available at prices that are a fraction of the retail cost. The question is whether this equipment is worth the investment. The answer depends on what equipment you are talking about, the condition and the price. Used, worn out equipment will be more of a headache than it is worth even to someone who knows how to work on equipment. However, well maintained, quality, rugged equipment may be a valuable asset to your company. Simple machines like roll around blowers, sealcoating tanks and trailers are fine to buy used. They can be repaired and refurbished and will last a lifetime in many cases. More complicated machines like stripers are important to your company and you cannot afford for them not to work. Equipment like this may need to be purchased new or refurbished.

The more mechanically inclined you are the more you can rely on used equipment provided it is priced right. If you are not mechanically oriented then used equipment may not be for you. Especially if the equipment is key to the operation of your company. If a blower stops working, that is easily remedied with a backup blower but if your striper stops working and needs to be rebuilt then you are out of business for a week or so. This can mean thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Some companies will have a nice primary striper and then as a backup they may purchase a used simpler striper for times when the main unit is down. The Trusco Manufacturing machines are nice for this purpose. They are simple and very easy to work on and make a great primary or backup machine. The same applies to sealcoating machines. Since this equipment is so important, a backup method of application is often a good investment. Used equipment is fine for this purpose.

Lastly, before you buy a lot of equipment, make sure you have a place to safely store it. Stripers need to be stored out of the weather and sealcoating equipment needs to be maintained and protected during hard freezes. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you. NOTE – a good place to find used equipment is

Buying a New or Used Parking Lot Striping Machine / Striper

There are quite a few parking lot striping machines on the market. The decision of which to buy can be a difficult one and is influenced by both your budget and your striping needs. This article is meant to point you in the right direction. We have reviewed many of the striping machines on the market today and have individual articles posted in our “Parking Lot Striping Machine Review” category. You can see these reviews by CLICKING HERE.  Also, when looking for a machine you will come across both new and used striping equipment (stripers).  A used machine is fine but a worn out machine is not.  Make sure you are getting a good quality used machine and not someones problems.  Also, make sure it is a good brand like Graco, Proline, Kelly Cresswell or Trusco Trueline.  You need to be able to find parts.

Line striping machines can be broken down into four basic categories:

The first category would be machines that are not capable of doing commercial work. This would be the spray can type machines or the type with a paint roller instead of a spray head. These machines are fine for what they were intended to do but should not be mistaken for commercial production machines. That is not to say that you should not buy one. I say this because the little machines sometimes come in handy for different odd spray jobs you may encounter. I use one myself. When I have one last line to do and there are cars in the way I will take out my spray can striper and do the last stripe. I also use it for putting down the small dotted lines for curved stripes. Then I use my big machine and connect the dots. The reason you would not use the machine for commercial work is mainly the expense of laying down a stripe. You have to go over the line at least twice to get a satisfactory stripe. The cost per stripe is several times more than a standard machine.

The next type of machine would be the low end commercial machine. These would be the pump up models for the most part. I would also put some of the small airless machines in this category. These machines will put out a good stripe but are not adequate for high production work. Trusco Manufacturing has a machine called the Model 20 which is in this category. It is great for shopping center owners who want to maintain their own parking lots and for small striping contractors doing small jobs but for large jobs it is a little on the small side. You would need to pump it up every few stripes which can become tedious after a while. I have seen where people have purchased the pump up models and later convert them with a pressure tank. This seems to work fine but buying a machine that is made for higher production work may be the better solution. There is a gasoline powered machine in this class called a Powerliner that has a small Robin-Subaru engine. It will put out a nice stripe, but is still a step below a full size model.

The third type of machine is what I would call a standard high production or full size parking lot striper. These are machines that are capable of putting out high production. There are several companies that manufacture these machines. Graco is probably one of the more popular companies. They manufacture the Graco Line Lazer or Laser. It has a powerful Honda engine and a high pressure pump that will pull paint straight from a bucket and spray perfect lines. Proline, Titan, Airlessco and Trusco all manufacture nice commercial machines. Kelly Creswell also makes an air atomized unit that is popular. These machines almost always have a detachable sprayer for doing curbing and stencils. You can also angle the spray head for curbs and bumpers. Having a high production striper can save many valuable man hours per job. The extra money you spend on the nicer machines is often returned to you in labor cost savings within the first year.

The last type of striper is going to be the large road stripers. Many of these are the type you ride on, tow or mount to a truck. While they are a necessity for road striping, they are too large for parking lot striping.

In conclusion, if you are only planning on doing small lots and always plan to keep your company small then the small pump up type striper is fine. If you are wanting to make more money and stripe larger lots the full size units are a must. Also, preventive maintenance is crucial with the stripers. Clean them after each use and keep the engine and pump maintained. If you can learn to work on your parking lot striper yourself, you will not only save on repairs but you will also reduce company downtime which is normally more costly than the repair itself.

ADA – Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act also known as the ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against a person with disabilities in areas of employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and government activities. In this article we will be discussing the implications that this act has on parking lot striping companies. In other words, what do you have to do when striping a parking lot to be compliant with the ADA.

Accessible Parking Spaces for Cars

Accessible parking spaces for cars must have at least a sixty (60) inch wide access area located next  to the designated parking space to permit a person using a wheelchair to enter or exit the car. These parking spaces need to be clearly marked with a sign and need to be located on level ground.

Van-Accessible Parking Spaces

Van-accessible parking spaces are to be the same basic layout as car accessible parking spaces except for three additional features needed for vans:

The access aisle should be ninety six inches (96″) instead of sixty to accommodate a wheelchair lift

Sufficient vertical clearance to accommodate van height at the van parking space and the adjacent access aisle. This vertical height is also needed on the route to and from the van accessible space.

Finally, an additional sign prominently placed that identifies the parking space or spaces as “van accessible.”

Minimum Number of Accessible Parking Spaces Required

ADA Standards for Accessible Design 4.1.2(5)

Total Number of Parking Spaces Provided (per lot) (Column A)

Total Minimum Number of Accessible Parking Spaces (60″ & 96″ aisles)

Van-Accessible Parking Spaces with min. 96″ wide access aisle Accessible Parking Spaces with min. 60″ wide access aisle
1 to 25 1 1 0
26 to 50 2 1 1
51 to 75 3 1 2
76 to 100 4 1 3
101 to 150 5 1 4
151 to 200 6 1 5
201 to 300 7 1 6
301 to 400 8 1 7
401 to 500 9 2 7
501 to 1000 2% of total parking provided in each lot 1/8 of Column A* 7/8 of Column A**
1001 and over 20 plus 1 for each 100 over 1000 1/8 of Column A* 7/8 of Column A**

Additional Features of Accessible Parking Spaces for Cars

A sign with the international symbol of accessibility must be mounted high enough so it can be seen while a vehicle is parked in the space.  Most counties have the exact height they require in their code.

If the accessible route is located in front of the space, wheelstops should be installed to prevent vehicles from reducing the width to below 36 inches.

The access aisle which is to be at least 60 inches wide must be level with no more than a 1:50 maximum slope in all directions.  It must be the be the same length as the parking space or spaces it serves and must connect to a route to the building. Ramps cannot extend into the access aisle.

The Boundaries of the access aisle must be marked. The end of the access area may be squared off or a curved shape.

Finally, two parking spaces can share an access aisle.  The access area would be between the two cars.

Three Additional Features for Van-Accessible Parking Spaces

Sign with “van accessible” and the international symbol of accessibility mounted high enough so the sign can be seen when a vehicle is parked in the space

96″ min. width access aisle, level (max. slope 1:50 in all directions), located beside the van parking space

Min. 98-inch-high clearance at van parking space, access aisle, and on vehicular route to and from van

Location of Accessible Spaces

Accessible spaces must be located on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible entrance. In situations where buildings have more than one accessible entrance with adjacent parking, the accessible spaces must be dispersed and located closest to these entrances.

In instances where accessible parking spaces are added in an existing parking lot, the spaces must be located on the most level ground and must be close to the accessible entrance. An accessible route has to be provided from the accessible parking to the accessible entrance. An accessible route should never have curbs or stairs.  Also, it must be at least 3- feet wide, and have a firm, stable, non slip surface. The slope along this route should not be greater than 1:12 in the direction of travel.

Accessible parking spaces may be clustered in more than one lot provided equivalent or greater accessibility is provided in terms of distance from the accessible entrance, parking fees, and convenience. Van-accessible parking spaces located in parking garages can be clustered on one floor if necessary to accommodate the ninety eight (98) inch minimum vertical height requirements.

Making your own Parking Lot Stencils

In this article I will to discuss creating your own parking lot logo & handicap stencils out of LDP or Low Density Polyethylene. This is not a complicated process and the most difficult part is finding the materials. Making your own parking lot stencils is very simple and very economical. You will need to locate sheets of LDP or Low Density Polyethylene. It flexible translucent material. Look in the phone book or search google for “plastics” or “commercial plastics”. You should find companies that carry plastic in sheets, rolls, etc.. GE Polymer Shapes is one of the most popular sources. A 4 x 8 sheet runs around $20. The material looks and feels like the plastic lid on a Folgers Coffee Can. Clear but also a little milky. You can see through it a little which is important as we discuss the next step.

Once you have bought some LDP sheeting you will simply take it to an existing marking like a handicap logo and lay the LDP over the logo. Then trace it out with an indelible marker. Take the sheet home and score around the outline with an exacto knife, pierce a corner and then peel the piece out. If you have cut deep enough the scored section will peel right out. Using this method you can create almost any stencil. The stencils your create will be almost indestructible because of the strength of LDP. You may want to consider purchasing stencils with small letters or lots of letters just to save the labor. As far as finding sample logos to trace, you should have more luck and get more accurate markings if you use parking lot markings that have just been put down and inspected. There is a better chance of these markings being compliant with current code.

To see more of our parking lot striping articles CLICK HERE.

How to Stripe a Parking Lot

This is going to be a very basic step by step article that goes through the process of striping a typical parking. This is intended to give you an idea of what you will be doing on a typical job.

1. Set up for the job. The first thing you will be doing is setting up your trailer for the job. Load your striper, paint, etc.. Everything you are going to need from paint to Gatorade is going to be either in the trailer or the back of your truck. Forgetting important items either means a trip back home or a trip to the store.

2. Arrive at the job. When you arrive at the job you will unload your striper and set up a work area. I like it to be near grass and water if possible. That gives me a place to clean my machine without getting paint on the parking lot. I normally go ahead and fill my striper with paint and run a test line or two. I also pull out any stencils that I will be using that day or night. Also, get your blower out and gased up.

3. Set up a Striping Zone. Next I choose an area to stripe that is nearest to me and I enclose it if necessary with caution tape, cones and whatever it takes to keep cars and people out. I then blow off the lines and make sure everything is ready for paint.

4. Striping the Parking Lot. Now I power up the machine and start striping. I always stripe in a logical progression. For example, if you have nose to nose parking with a center line dividing the two rows of cars you would never stripe the center line first. If you did then you would have to wait 15 minutes for it to dry before you could do any more striping. Instead, start doing the 40 foot lines and work your way to the end. Then you can roll back to the other end of the line and do one line down the center to finish off that section. You may have to wait a little for the last lines to dry but if you don’t want to wait you can knock out a few stripes in the next section, then roll back to section one and finish the center line. It is all common sense.

5. Move on to the Miscellaneous Items. Once the main stripes are done I start working on all the miscellaneous items. I do the white painting first, then go to yellow or blue if necessary. If you do white first then you can do a basic flush and put in yellow or blue. If you do yellow or blue and then want to go to white you have to completely clean out the machine or you lines will have a blue or yellow tint to them. Again, common sense. I usually go to yellow next and do any striping that needs to be done. Usually fire lanes and curbing. Then I move to blue after a decent flush of the machine. I do the handicap lines. I am then done with my machine. I clean it and put it away.

6. Rolling out any arrows or symbols. Once everything else is done and my machine is put away I take out a 3 inch roller and a gallon of paint (blue, white or yellow) and I start on the arrows, words, handicaps, etc.. If the handicap symbol is already there, which it normally is, I just use the roller and freshen it up. It always looks perfect and I don’t need a stencil. If its not there I have to use a stencil at least to get the outline down. Once I am done with my miscellaneous items I close the gallon bucket and put my roller in a bucket of water and close the lid.

7. I do one last check of the lot and then go home.

Tips –

Watch out for drunk people. They will go through any barrier you can set up. To keep them out try blocking off the actual entrance to the parking lot. Then also rope off your stripe zone. That is about all you can do.

Watch out for the parking lot vacuum truck. If you stripe at night you will most likely see the super vac truck. He will run over the entire parking lot so it is important to catch him before he does.

Watch out for the dumpster truck. Same rules will apply. Keep in mind these people are sometimes in a semi sleep state and are just running on auto pilot.

Watch out for people. If you are striping while the store is open you have to be especially careful of pedestrians. They will not even know you are there and will walk right through your paint and into the building. When near pedestrians work on small areas at a time and exercise extreme caution. Not only will they walk in your paint, they will also slip and fall in it.

To see more of our parking lot striping articles CLICK HERE.

Purchasing your Equipment

What type of equipment to purchase is probably one of the most difficult decisions that you will make as you start your business. Spending too much can leave you close to insolvent before you even get your first job. Spending too little can prevent you from being able to do the work people are paying you to do.

We had previously discussed equipment in the article on funding. I have listed below the basic equipment that an average striping and sealcoating will need.

1. Sealcoating machine – $100 – $3,000 – $20,000 (manually – affordable machine – expensive machine)
2. Striping Machine – $600 – $6,000
3. Trailer – $600 – $3,000 (5 x 8 trailer or an enclosed trailer) *
4. Blower – $50 – $500 (hand blower or blower on wheels)
5. Traffic cones – $5 – $15 each (you will need 6 – 10 cones)
6. Stencils – $100 (see article on making your own stencils)
7. Rollers, brushes, paint trays, measuring tape, angle tool, black spray paint, marking paint or crayon, roll of rope for making long straight lines – $100

* My favorite setup is a nice truck towing an enclosed cargo trailer with a ramp gate. Your equipment stays dry and safe and the sides and back of the trailer are great places for advertising.

These are the basics. Don’t try to skimp on a blower and use a broom. Your time is more valuable than that. Don’t think you are going to get your equipment out to a site with a very small trailer or in the back of a car or Jeep. You won’t. Don’t try to put down lines with a roller or a small spray can striper. The job will not look professional. Don’t skimp on supplies and then wait until you get to your first job at midnight to acquire them. Only Walmart is open.

Remember, time is money. Your time on the job is valued at about $50 per hour. If you save $50 and spend two unneeded hours then you are $50 in the hole and will go deeper each time you do a job. Good equipment will save you time on the job.

Think like a successful businessman. Don’t cut corners when you don’t have to. Be thrifty but not cheap. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it but if you know you are going to need it, get it.

To see more of our parking lot striping articles CLICK HERE.

Making Straight or Curved Lines

You would think that making straight lines with a striping machines would be automatic. Try this. Close your eyes while you are mowing your lawn and walk about 40 feet. When you open your eyes you will still be going the same direction but your line will most likely not be perfectly straight. The same applies to a parking lot striping machine. It is made to go straight but must be guided by the operator in order to create a perfect line. To create a perfect line with a striping machine you have to follow a benchmark like the old stripe, a chalk line, painted dots or a cord pulled tight. Again, when you are mowing grass, you always follow the edge of the last row. If you pull away you will miss areas and have to go back. If you overlap too much you will create more work for yourself. So a good lawn mower keeps their eye focused on the last row and follows that exactly. The same thing applies for striping.

For re-stripes the old line is normally clearly visible and is easy to follow. If it is a little crooked you can do some correction with no additional benchmark. However, if it is too far out you really should either pop a chalk line and follow that or pull a cord tight and use that as your benchmark.

I have personally found that using a chalkline is too time consuming and normally requires two people to do. My favorite way to mark straight lines is to take a roll of cord and pull it tight from one end of the line to the other.

I use an extension cord reel that you can get at Lowes or Home Depot and I roll a hundred or so feet of rope onto it. If I have someone with me I weight my end down and have them hold the other tight. If I am by myself I weight both ends down. After I stripe the line I just move both ends over and pull tight.

For curved lines I use dots sprayed on the ground with a spray wand. I double check the marks then start at one end and connect the dots to the other.

To see more of our parking lot striping articles CLICK HERE.

Advertising, Marketing and Promoting Your Business

Once you have gone through all the tedious steps of setting up, licensing and funding your business, you are ready to start working on a marketing program. Advertising, cold calling, an internet site, yellow page ads, logos, business cards, flyers, signs, and word of mouth are all components that make up what people refer to as “marketing”. Marketing is simply a way to bring supply and demand together. In other words, you are able to stripe a parking lot at a fair price. In your town there are hundreds of parking lots that need to be striped. Your marketing program is what will connect you to these customers. A good marketing program should have the following characteristics:

– It should professional
– It should clearly convey your message
– It should be as targeted as possible
– It should be as cost efficient as possible
– It should be as labor efficient as possible
– It should be systematic (versus disorganized and sporadic)
– It should get quick results
– It should get long lasting results

Fortunately, marketing a parking lot striping / sealcoating business is very simple and straight forward. This is true for two reasons. Number one, your potential customers are easy to identify. Number two, they are easy to reach or contact.

The first task you need to complete is to make a list of potential customers. They would consist of anyone with a parking lot and more specifically, anyone with a parking lot that needed striping. Finding these customers simply involves driving around your market area and recording addresses and names. This is the beginning of a process that will allow you to reach these potential customers with affordable targeted advertising. To reach other customers that you may have missed you would use a broader based advertising program so that customers that you did not identify initially but need striping could easily find you. I will begin with some target marketing ideas and then move on to a broad based marketing.

Target Marketing

To reach potential parking lot striping or sealcoating customers using a target marketing approach you can follow these steps.

1. Drive around your market area and list of parking lots that need striping. Record the addresses and any other information that you think is pertinent. For example, does the parking lot need striping only or sealcoating also. Are there any potholes. Maybe you want to take a picture for you records and for reference. Wherever you go you should be looking for prospects. Your wife, parents, friends, etc.. can also be very helpful in this effort.

2. Once you have compiled a list, go to the property appraisers internet site and enter the address to obtain the property owners name and address. This is sometimes out of the area which is fine. The owner is almost always the party that is ultimately responsible for keeping the parking lot in good condition. If a management company handles the property they will often forward the information you send them to that company. For shopping centers, call the number on the “for lease” signs in the windows of available units. Obtain the address and send a letter to the company that manages the project. There is no problem sending a letter to the owner and management company. For hospitals, malls, factories, and other similar businesses use the main address for the facility and write on the envelope “Attention Maintenance Supervisor”.

3. Send marketing packages to the individuals and companies that you have identified. The package should outline what your company does and present an offer to stripe or sealcoat their parking lot. Include your business card and any other information such as number of years in business, jobs you have done, hours of operation, insurance and workers compensation information. Make a list on your computer of who you have sent letters to. As you receive responses make a note of them for tracking purposes. After a few months resend letters to companies who have not responded. If you send out marketing information every few months to a person it should not be an imposition. If you send letters weekly it would be. If you notice that the lot has been striped just mark them off the list. A spreadsheet of composition book can be used to track you marketing efforts. This will be an ongoing process that will never stop. You may slow it down or speed it up if necessary.

This type of targeted marketing will usually get you all the jobs you need in a fairly short amount of time. All for the cost of a few rolls of stamps and some gas money.

Broad Based Marketing

Many times there are lots that need striping that you will not find on your own. They may be off the beaten path or out of your area. If a person needs their lot striped or sealcoated and you do not find them then they are going to need to find you. Broad based marketing does this by making your business information available to anyone who looks for it. They should not have to look very hard to find you. In fact if you are the easiest to find you will always get the first call. The idea is to accomplish this without spending a fortune. The yellow pages would be an example of broad based advertising. You can find below several broad based marketing ideas starting from the least expensive way to the most expensive way.

1. Google Local Business. If you search on for “google local business” and you should find links that will allow you to place your business on googles special local business section for free. When someone in your area types in parking lot striping your business along with pertinent information about your company will come up.

2. Yahoo Local Business. Do a search on for yahoo local business and you will get links into their free business listing area. This is very much like the google service and it is also free. Look for the “add business” link at the bottom of the page.

3. is a free advertising service that is very popular and available all over the country. It is localized in that there are special craigslist pages for most major cities in the US. Advertise on the one nearest you.

4. Business Website. Having your own website is and not expensive and is a great way convey large amounts of information to potential customers. There are many good companies that have online web building tools for you to use. Use a lot of content because google matches customers to you based on content. Make sure your title includes the city you are in. You would use something like Affordable Parking Lot Striping Los Angeles CA . This will let the search engines know where you are. Look at other striping company websites and see how they are laid out and you should get a good idea of how you want yours to look.

5. Local newspaper business & service directories. Most papers have a local business/service directory that are fairly inexpensive to advertise in. Put your business in as many of these publications as you can afford. It is often worth the money to pay a little extra to make your ad more visible than the rest.

6. Yellow Page advertising. This used to be the best way to reach people. It has also always been very expensive. Now, with the internet it has become less important. If you have a business phone you will most likely get a free listing. If you pay a little more you can get a larger inline listing. I personally would recommend an in column type ad or just pay extra to make the standard free ad bold.

7. Signs on Telephone Poles or the Roadside. Most counties do not allow very much of this but check with yours to see. Even if they are banned in your area you can always find a legal place to put them. A sign company can make affordable small signs for you that say Parking Lots Striped and then your phone number. This type of advertising it is fairly effective and will normally get you a few jobs each year.

Finally, bidding jobs is a very important part of marketing. It is the part of your marketing program that everything else leads up to. Sort of like stepping up to home plate. Dress nice but not too nice. Come in your work truck and not your wife’s Lexus. Make sure you show up on time. Make sure your bid sheet is neat and professional. Itemize different parts of the job without giving too much detail or making it confusing. Make sure the customer has all the information they need to make a decision. Include your business license , insurance and workers comp info on the letter at the bottom so they know these items are covered.

If you follow these basic steps you should be able to stay as busy as you want to be.

To see more of our parking lot striping articles CLICK HERE.

Finding Traffic Striping Paint

Finding affordable, quality parking lot striping paint is a must for any striping company. Every dollar extra you spend on paint comes out of your profit and goes into the paint stores pocket. Here is the most amazing thing. You will be buying more striping paint than they do. They buy from the manufacturer and sell to you. It should be the other way around.

In this article I want to cover the up front task of locating parking lot striping paint or traffic paint at a fair price. The information in this article is something that most paint retailers don’t want you to know. They would prefer you purchase your traffic / striping paint from their store at $15 – $20 per gallon instead of you getting it straight from the manufacturer and paying $5 – $10 per gallon. I also want to go over how to get your paint to dry faster in cool weather or at night. This will prevent you from having to buy more expensive quick dry paint.

Since a striping companies main product is paint, it goes without saying that you will be going through a lot of it. Mostly yellow and white and some blue and maybe a little red. In a given year you may go through hundreds of gallons of paint. Much more striping paint than an average paint store will sell or stock. They carry it for the once in a while user who just needs a gallon or five gallons. As a professional parking lot striper, you should never have to pay full price for paint.

Here’s how to find a manufacturer. First, visit several local paint stores and ask to see their traffic paint. Read the bucket and find out who the manufacturer is. Paint is heavy and expensive to ship so the manufacturer is normally going to be fairly close. Make sure to hit all the paint stores so you can develop a good list of traffic paint manufacturers. Write down the name of the companies, find the closest one with the best prices and call them. Set up an account and you are ready to go. You will find that their prices will be around $6- $9 per gallon. (At the time this article was written paint prices were up because of a resin shortage but this will not be permanent)

Also, try the internet. Search using Google for “paint manufacturers” or “traffic paint manufacturer”, etc.. There are several across the country and if you cannot find a local company you can always have a pallet of paint shipped direct. Shipping runs about $100 – $150 for a pallet.

Here is how you can get your paint to dry faster. Simply add a small amount of alcohol to it. NOTE – This is only applicable to water based or water borne traffic paints. Don’t try adding alcohol to oil based paints. We use Isopropol Alcohol from Kmart or CVS but you can also use other types. The paint manufacturer will normally let you know which type they use. I use about 3 ounces per gallon of paint or around a 16 ounce bottle for a 5 gallon pail. Again, check with the striping paint manufacturer about what alcohol is most compatible or do some tests yourself to determine compatibility. They will try to sell you their fast dry paint, but if you press them they will tell you what to use. I have been doing this for years and have not had the first problem. But again, make sure you test it out on a quart or so first. Note – fast dry paint straight from the manufacturer is fine but you will be carrying that plus your regular paint which doubles your inventory. Adding alcohol helped us to keep from having to carry two types of paint.

You may need to carry around $800 – $1000 in paint inventory. That number may need to be increased later depending on the size of your average job and how far you paint supplier is from you. That is around 15 – 20 five gallon pails of paint. Say 9 white, 9 yellow, and 2 blue. This is just an estimate based on our companies inventory level.

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Titan Speeflow Powrliner 800 (Speeflo Powerliner) Review

The Titan Speeflow Powrliner 800 (Powerliner) is an affordable entry level basic line striper capable of spraying quality lines for smaller jobs on pavement, grass or turf. It weighs only 65 pounds and has a simple, compact design making it easy to transport and handle on the job. Powered by a dependable Robin-Subaru 4 stroke engine. (1.6 horsepower) The Speeflow Powrliner 800 is equipped with an LX-40 spray tip that is removable and attached to the machine via a 25 foot spray hose. This allows the user to detach the spray gun and spray stencils, car stops, and curbing. This entry level Titan machine is designed to carry a 5 gallon bucket just like the larger machines. It also has an adjustable swivel front wheel like the more expensive parking lot striping machines which enables you to do straight and curved stripes.

The pros of this machine are that it is affordable and does a decent job of laying down stripes. The cons are that it is a less powerful machine and is not designed for high production work. You may need to thin your paint a little since the 800 series pump is quite small. Also, it is also not a machine that a novice could work on themselves like the Trueline machines by Trusco Mfg.

Model Number: 759-091
Maximum Tip Size: 1-Gun .019″
Max. Output: .33 gpm (1.3 lpm)
Max. Spraying Speed: 106 linear ft. (32.3 m) per minute @ 1.2 mph (1.9 kph)
Line Width Range: 2″ – 12″ (5 cm – 30.5 cm)
Max. Operating Pressure: 2500 psi (17.2 MPa)
Max. Hose Length: 50′ (15.2 m)
Power Source: 1.6 hp (.81 kW) Robin-Subaru Overhead Valve Engine
Pump Drive: Mechanical
Gun, Airless: 550-540, LX40
Hose, Airless: 316-513, 1/4″ x 25′ (7.6 m)
Tips: Airless Striping
Weight Unit / Unit Crated: 65 lbs. / 75 lbs.
Dimensions Unit: 41″ H x 31″ W x 60″ L
Coatings Compatibility: Waterborne traffic paints
Common Applications: Light-duty striping use on parking lots and athletic fields

To see more of our parking lot striper review articles CLICK HERE.

Line Lazer / Laser Line Striper by Graco

For decades, the Graco Line Lazer had been the standard for the parking lot striping industry. They are quality machines powered by Honda engines.

The Graco Line Laser or Lazer is one of the most popular parking lot stripers in the industry and has been for decades. They are easy to use and maintain and provide professional quality lines from the first day. To use the machine you simply insert the suction nozzle into your 5 gallon bucket of paint. Then crank the machine and stripe. It is just about that simple. Several adjustments are available to you to fine tune the stripe.

Graco Line Lazers feature a swivel wheel and ergonomic handlebars and are considered a very user friendly striper for both straight and curved lines. They are designed for both experienced stripers and for those who are new to the business or for sealcoaters expanding into striping. Graco Line Lazers are perfect for parking lot and sealcoat contractors, schools, government agencies, manufacturers and park departments. Because of its ease of use and versatility it is a great “cross-over” unit for striping both parking lots and sports fields.

A Graco Line Lazer / Laser will generally run from $3,500 – $8,000 depending on the model that you purchase. Some of the more expensive models feature line layout technology which helps you layout perfectly spaced lines by spraying little dots at pre-spaced intervals thus marking the beginning of your lines. When used properly this feature can reduce job time and increase precision making your company much more time efficient.

Those who want a self propelled striping machine can add a motorized Line Driver to any unit. The line driver lets you ride and stripe. Self propelled units are generally used for large parking lots or road striping and most stripers prefer the push type in small or medium parking lot applications.

The Graco Line Lazer / Laser Parking lot striper has been a popular choice among professional stripers for decades and will no doubt continue to be well into the future.

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Sealmaster Sandpup Sealcoating Machine Review

The Sealmaster Sand Pup is one of the more affordable sealcoating machines on the market. The base model runs around $3,000. With the base model you would feed sealer and sand to the unit via a 55 gallon drum. This is one of the least expensive ways to get a spray unit that will pump sand. Note – without sand the applied sealcoat will become slippery when wet and create a hazard as well as liability for the customer and sealcoat company.

The Sand Pup can also be purchased with a tank on a skid for a little over $7,000 and on a trailer for around $8,000. The skid unit is designed to be placed in the back of a pickup or on a trailer. The trailer model is designed to be towed. Both are self contained and self powered. All Sand Pup units will spray pavement sealers with sand which is an important feature.

All Sand Pup units are powered by a dependable Honda engine and are fitted with heavy duty parts. Also, all units can apply crack filler as well as sealcoat. A Sand Pup and Sand Pup II are available. The Model II has a larger compressor and pump for greater production. If you start with the basic $3,000 model, keep in mind that you can modify it yourself and add a tank and trailer at a later time.

All Sealmaster machines are well built and if cared for they will give you years and years of quality service. I would give the Sand Pup a fairly high rating overall. Especially for small companies or larger companies who want a second rig for smaller lots. The ony thing I would say is that you may be able to shop around and find a similar machine for a lower price. It is a choice between possibly paying a little more and having Sealmaster stand behind the product or paying less and dealing with another company. Sealmaster is a great company and having them stand behind the equipment you purchase is definately a plus.

To see more of our parking lot sealcoating machine review articles CLICK HERE.

Trusco Trueline Line Striper Review

The Trueline Family of stripers are rugged and capable machines. They are very affordable yet fully capable of doing commercial work. Because of their simplicity any one can work on the machine and downtime is close to zero. Click here for information and pricing on the Trueline Striper.

Trueline Stripers by Trusco are easy to use and very affordable alternatives to more expensive gasoline powered line stripers. Unlike the Graco, Kelly Creswell, Proline, Airlessco and other gasoline machines Truelines are easy to maintain yourself with no shop repairs required. The Trueline striping machines use a stainless steel pressure tank where thinned paint is fed into a paint box that slides along the ground. The box makes it possible for the machine to produce a nice clean line even in windy conditions.

Trueline has several models and each comes in a 5 gallon and a 10 gallon version. (Note- the model 20 which comes in a 4 gallon version only) The available Trueline machines are as follows

Models Available:
Model 20 – Pump up striper
Model 250 (battery powered)
Model 250 (CO2 powered)
Model 250N (Nitrogen powered) – (this is the model that we use)
Model 350N (Nitrogen powered-10 gallon tank)
Model T-2000 (self contained gasoline powered unit)
Model 220 & 250 APT (compressed air)
Spray gun
Glass Bead Dispenser
Solvent Cleaning System
Double Line Attachment

The following specifications are common to all models:(except model 20)

Welded heavy duty iron steel frame with 5/8″ axles.
10″ pneumatic tires, heavy duty steel hub, steel ball bearings.
4″ Spray Box – Heavy Duty Steel. Other box sizes available.
Drain hose to make cleanup a quick easy clean job.
Eight quart galvanized funnel with aluminum strainer.
Tank Brush for cleaning the inside of paint tank.
Parking Brake to keep the machine from rolling down hills
Simple viscosimeter to measure the paint thickness.
Fittings are made from Brass & stainless steel
98% assembled – Within 30 minutes you should be ready to stripe.

Trueline stripers have been around since the 60’s and are great for small to medium sized parking lots. They will do commercial work but may lack some of the extra features that the more expensive machines have. For putting lines down on the ground they are great. “I have personally used the Trueline machine and highly recommend it.” I had the 250 model and used a roller and a separate sprayer for curbs but it has never been a problem. If you do not want to use a roller then I recommend the Trueline Model T-2000. It has a very nice spray unit built in to it.

If you are looking for a very economical way to stripe either your own parking lots or do some commercial work then the Trueline Paint Striper is a machine to look into.

To see more of our parking lot striper review articles CLICK HERE.

Financing Your Business

At this point you have calculated how much money you need in a commercial checking account to fund your business until it reaches a positive cash-flow. Now you need to obtain financing. To finance simply means to provide funding. Funding can come either from your own resources or from other resources.

Your business has the best chance of success if funded by your own resources (non debt related). This way you can focus on making your business profitable without the burden of debt or a partner. Resources can come from personal savings or the sale of stocks you own. Selling personal assets such as a boat or an extra car are also ways of raising capital. If your business is successful you can buy new boats and new cars.

If you are not able to fully fund the business from your own resources then you will have to resort to secondary sources. These sources can be personal credit cards, a bank loan, a business partner, or a silent partner.

Personal credit cards or bank loans can be expensive, but do allow you to maintain control of your business. Also, given the profitability of parking lot striping and sealcoating, they can normally be paid back quickly at which point you have control over the business and no debt. Many banks will finance equipment and some equipment companies will finance the machines for you.

A business partner is another source of funding. Keep in mind that with a partner you lose control of the decision making process as well as half the profits. Never take on a partner that adds nothing but money to a business. You will regret it later.

A silent partner is another way to finance that leaves you in control of the business. However, keep in mind that they are still a partner and will get a share of the profits. If you go this way make sure to pre-plan a buyout agreement so that as you become profitable you can buy their portion of the company back.

Finally, whatever form of financing that you choose, make sure you get enough money to fully fund operations to a point of profitability. Remember, running out of money equals going out of business.

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Finalizing Your Funding Needs

I have compiled a list of the basic equipment that you will need to stripe an average parking lot along with the approximate price. I have also estimated basic operating expenses for three months and an amount to set aside for labor costs. These are only estimates and may or may not apply to your situation.

1. Sealcoating machine – $2,500 – $20,000 (can also be applied manually with no equip.)
2. Striping Machine – $600 – $6,000 (see our articles on striping machines)
3. Trailer – $600 (get at least a 5 x 8 trailer)
4. Blower – $50 – $500 (hand blower vs. rolling blower)
5. Traffic cones – $5 – $15 each (you need from 6 – 10 cones)
6. Stencils – $100 (see “making your own stencils”)
7. Rollers, brushes, paint trays, measuring tape, angle tool, black spray paint, marking paint or crayon, roll of rope for making long straight lines – $200
8. An inventory of striping paint (white, yellow & blue). You can count on having to keep about $800-$1000 in paint always on hand. You will also need an inventory of sealcoat. One hundred gallons if you are doing mostly small jobs and five hundred gallons if you are handling larger jobs. ($200 – $700)
9. You will need approximately $500 to cover initial insurance, your business license and basic office related bills for three months.
10. If you pay a helper you will need to set aside enough money to pay them until you get paid. $500 should be enough.

Minimum estimated amount of initial capital needed – $3,000 *

If you already have some of the items above your startup costs would be less. The main goal is to make sure you have sufficient cash in the bank to fund your business until you can generate a positive cash-flow. Remember that running out of cash often means going out of business. Planning ahead can prevent this.

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Estimating Your Funding Needs – Intro

Once you have formed your company and gotten your permits and licenses, you are going to need to establish how much money you will need in the bank to fund operations.

Having adequate financial resources to fund your business can make a difference in your companies success or failure. Few mistakes are more devastating to a new business than making unrealistic assumptions about finances and the capital needs of a growing company. Simply planning ahead can help you avoid these problems.

Before funding your striping business you will need to identify all potential start-up costs. Some of these expenses will be one-time “start-up” costs such as equipment acquisition, incorporation fees, deposits, permits and licenses, etc.. These are generally non recurring costs. Some will be ongoing such as the cost of utilities, inventory, accounting fees, etc.. These expenses will be recurring and will initially need to be paid from start-up capital until the business has a positive cash flow. The goal is to establish how much money you are going to need in a checking account to fund start-up costs until business profits can take over.

Your ongoing expenses will fall into two categories, fixed and variable. Simply put, fixed costs stay the same regardless of the number of striping jobs you have going. Your telephone, power, or accounting bill is an example of this. If you were to have no striping jobs for a year you would still pay these bills. Variable costs will vary according to job volume. Paint, gas, and labor costs would be examples of this. As your job volume increases so do these costs. Keeping this in mind will assist you in setting aside enough money to accommodate growth.

As stated above, as your company grows, so does the need for working capital. Working capital is simply the amount of money that is needed in inventory and in the bank to pay bills. For example, a small striping company may need $5,000 in the bank and $1,000 in paint inventory. As that company grows it would need to increase both of these items. If a company shrinks it would require less. Oftentimes business owners are confused because they expand sales only to find that their profit is being absorbed into working capital to support the growth. Additional capital expenses, such as equipment, will also absorb profits. The thing to remember is that as growth levels out cash-flow will return to normal.

A simple way to understand how profit can go up and cash can go down is to look at a typical series of jobs. Let’s say you start a $5,000 job. You purchase paint, spend money on gas and pay your helpers. You finish the job and send then invoice to the customer. At this point you have made a profit but you actually have less cash. Let’s say that in the meantime you start three more jobs. A week goes by and the check for the first job comes in the mail. However, you have already invested the profit from the first job into the three new jobs so there is nothing left for you. After three weeks the new jobs are done and you have plenty of cash in the bank. Then you get more jobs and you have to purchase an extra striper. Also, you need to leave more cash in the bank to cover growing inventory demand. Cash goes down and you still have not taken a paycheck. This seems alarming, but it is actually a good thing. Business will eventually level out and since you have reinvested your profit back into the business you now have the capacity to take on several jobs with no need for additional capital. Finally, you can start taking a salary and draws. Think of it as walking up steps. Each step takes an effort but leaves you higher than before.

After you have considered all these things, simply make a list of your equipment needs and costs and add a few months of operational bills to that. Put together the funds necessary to cover all of these expenses and deposit them into your commercial bank account. This money is for your business and not for you to live on. You should have money for that somewhere else.

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Obtaining Licenses & Permits

Almost all businesses are required to obtain a business license or permit to do business in the county they are in. Some businesses and occupations are required to be licensed by the state as well. Begin by checking with your county business license office to see what licenses you will need. If you are within the boundaries of a city your will most likely need a city and county license. You will sometimes need a license for each county or city that you will be doing business in. Begin with your own county and as you get jobs out of your area obtain the proper licenses. If you know you will be doing jobs in an adjacent city or county it is a good idea to go ahead and get the proper licenses ahead of time. A license will usually run about $25 per year and once you get one you will receive a renewal form annually so you won’t have to remember to renew each year.

In some states and counties an additional contractors license is required. This is rare but you will run across this in a few places. If you are required to get this additional license it is not the end of the world. Look at it this way. A lot of your competition will not want to study for a test and pay an extra fee for the contractors license. That leaves you with less competition and the ability to demand higher prices for your work. In the end it can actually work to your advantage.

When you get your license, you should probably go ahead and apply with the state for your Tax ID number if your state requires that. If services are taxed in your state you will need that number to file a return each quarter or each month. If you are a Sub S Corporation or an LLC doing business under S Corp regulations then you will definitely need a Federal Employee Identification Number or FEIN. This is basically a social security number for your business. Easy to get and used when you pay yourself and once a year during taxes.

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