Oscar: I’d like to welcome to the studio today Michael Curry, CEO of Atlantic Southern Paving. Thank you so much for being here today, Michael.
Mike: Well, thank you very much for having me.
Oscar: On behalf of the Entrepreneurs Organization, I’d like to congratulate you for earning your rank on the Inc. 5000 2014 list of the fastest-growing, privately held companies in the United States. Congratulations.
Mike: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Oscar: Tell us a little bit about your company.
Mike: Atlantic Southern Paving was established in 1992. It is a family owned business. The founder was my father, Mickey Curry, and I came into the business in ’92 working my way up. We are a pavement maintenance and construction company. We are based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but we also do work nationally for some big-box retailers.
Oscar: Excellent. It seems like your company is going through a very strong growth mode. What do you attribute that to?
Mike: I attribute it to taking the risk and bringing on some good people. I attribute it to some other organizations which was the EO organization in helping me out and kind of giving me a vision, and seeing the long-term of where I probably want to go with the company. I made some good hires, and with that was able to reach out to some clients and that’s really what is taking us to the next level.
Oscar: You mentioned vision. What is the long-term vision of your company?
Mike: The vision of our company is to be the number one pavement maintenance service provider not only in the state of Florida, but throughout the country. Like I said, we do work with some big-box retailers throughout the country, so they’re the one that are helping us take it to the next level.
Oscar: Michael, what would you say is unique about your company?
Mike: What I would say is unique about us and our space is pretty much the technology, the systems, the processes that we have input over the last 4 to 5 years, and I think that’s what’s helped take us to the next level, so to speak, and try to get us to where we want to go.
Oscar: Has your business model changed much since it was launched?
Mike: Yes. Back in 1992, as I mentioned, it was a family owned business. We started as pretty much a mom and pop. My dad started it with the help of my mom, and we just started as a small company, and they grew it to a couple million dollar company, and then once I got out of school, we kind of ramped up and decided to, let’s take this thing to the next level. We did that from ’97 to about 2004 is when I became the president of the company, and in 2004 is when I put the vision in to where we wanted to take it. Hired some folks in 2008, and took our national model, which is different from where we started just the local, and the national model’s helped us get us to where we are today.
Oscar: Great. How were you able to fund your growth?
Mike: Fortunately we’ve been very conservative over the years through the down times in 2008, 2009, we were extremely conservative, saved up the money, and were able to take advantage of some of the good buys that were out there from the material and equipment standpoint. Also other assets and buildings that we purchased. That’s kind of what helped us as far as financially get to where we are.
Oscar: Excellent. Have you ever used a creative or perhaps slightly unusual sales tactic? If so, can you describe it?
Mike: I don’t know if it’s unusual, something that’s new to us, we do more of a team-based selling. Something we’ve started over the last couple of years, and we’ll go to folks and bring our sales manager, our production manager, the account manager and even myself depending on the client and who it is. It kind of shows how much that client or business or project means to us, so that’s kind of something a little bit different as far as a team-based selling perspective.
Oscar: Interesting. Have you ever turned down a client?
Mike: Sure. Absolutely.
Mike: We’ve turned many of them down for the simple fact of once you start to meet them, get to know them, and figure out maybe they’re looking for things that you can’t perform in from either a timely manner or whatever the case might be, sometimes it’s just not worth taking on certain projects and the headaches that might come along with it. Knowing that up front and then trying to do the project and trying to get paid on the backend is extremely tough, and sometimes it’s just not worth it.
Oscar: That makes a lot of sense. Conversely, have you ever fired a client?
Mike: Yes. We have. We’ve done it, I think it was once or twice. We just told them we are not the contractor for you at this particular time whether that’s the way that they were themselves or that was coming from a higher up, we just told them that our model just doesn’t fit maybe what they need at this particular time.
Oscar: Since you became president in 2004, what was the toughest decision you had to make as the company’s leader?
Mike: I would say it was the national model that we decided to roll out in 2009, 2010 right in there. I think it was the biggest risk, and so far it seemed to pay off, but it was a roll of the dice, and with hard work and determination and could help it’s helped us get to where we are today.
Oscar: Is that what you’re most proud of in your business, or is there something else that you gives you warm feelings when you think about it?
Mike: Yeah. I would say definitely that, because it’s been a sense of accomplishment but so far. We still work hard each and every day at it, because at any given time we know it could go away for whatever reason. Also as I mentioned before, it’s a family business so I’m able to see and go to work with my dad each and every day, my brother each and every day, and we work together in certain aspects of the company. I think it’s an accomplishment for myself knowing that my father actually started the business back in ’92, and we’re able to take it where it is today. It’s an accomplishment for me, because I can see where he sees where it went.
Oscar: I’m sure you’re makes you very, very proud of the journey of your business.
Oscar: Tell me, when you first started with the company, what did your average workday look like compared to today?
Mike: When I first started, I actually started out in the field so it was a little on the rough side. I started with a broom and a shovel. Those work long, hard, hot days. Then when I came out of school, and I got into the production manager side of it, it was, those were longer days. They were pretty stressful, hectic, running the operations and that kind of thing which is tough. Then it switched to the sales side which is a different style of tough from the sense of meeting quotas and having to be able to sell jobs to get guys in the field that need the work, so we’ve got to sell job in order for those guys to work, so that was a different type of different route.
Then from now as the CEO/President of the company, the days are early. Could be 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 in the morning some days depending on what’s going on until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. There are sleepless hours. You’re constantly thinking, we’ve got roughly 65 employees now, so the way I think about it, you’re providing for 65 families where before I maybe only had one or didn’t even have a family at that time.
Oscar: Michael, you have a fantastic company, you’re very passionate and seasoned entrepreneur. I would like to make an investment in your company. I’d like to invest a million dollars, how will you invest the million dollars and deploy those funds into your company?
Mike: Maybe through acquisitions, I would think. Through acquisitions in different parts or regions of the country and where we’re working now, I think that would be very, very beneficial for us. Also for maybe in the manufacturing side of it. Our supplies are 40% to 50% of what our costs are, so if we could get some kind of the manufacturing and be able to cut our costs, I think we be even more beneficial to the company.
Oscar: Great. If I give you some magical powers, for just a couple of minutes, and you had the ability of going back in time from when you first took control of the company, you had the ability of changing a decision you made, it could be in reference to a hire, strategic direction, or anything else, what would you want to change?
Mike: I think it would probably be the technology. We’ve input that over the last couple of years, but I would’ve loved to have taken that maybe ten years prior. I think we would maybe where we are today eight to ten years prior to where we are now if it was the technology side of it. Some of the folks that we have now are helping with that, and I think the technology is really what would help us.
Oscar: Great. Being that you have some magical powers, let’s take advantage for another minute or so, look into the crystal ball, and tell me how the business climate will change in the next five years, and how it will impact your business.
Mike: I think we’ve seen it over the last few years is it’s becoming more commoditized than it has in years past. What we need to do is to figure out how and why we can differentiate ourselves from the competition out there, and, like I just mentioned, the biggest thing is the technology through systems and processes, through technology, automation, paperless, that kind of thing. I think that is one of the key ingredients.
Oscar: What one word describes Michael Curry as an entrepreneur?
Oscar: In your opinion, yourself included, are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
Mike: Great question. I would say that they are born, for sure, it’s just in them, but I also think that they can take it to the next level with hard work, determination, and just the will and want to get to where they want to be.
Oscar: All right. How do you define success?
Mike: Success for me is being able to first and foremost provide for my family. Give them and be able to provide for them things that are necessary and obviously some luxury things that would help them throughout their life. I think that’s the biggest thing, and also the team that we have and we’ve built, being able for them to work hard and get some of the things that helps them in life. That’s success for me.
Oscar: Beautiful. Michael, if you were to brainstorm an idea or you’re trying to solve a problem or looking for generalized guidance, where do you go to for that today?
Mike: Try to get by myself somewhere. I’m an outdoors type person, so if it’s on a boat, golf course, whether it be on a lake, out in the woods, whatever it might be, that is what I enjoy and take me to a place where I can think and kind of dig deep is the outdoors.
Oscar: Who inspires you?
Mike: My parents.
Oscar: Great leaders are always learning. What’s the best source for you for new knowledge?
Mike: I would say EO, Entrepreneurs Organization, has helped me back in 2007/’08 when I came in as a thirst for knowledge, and the group I’m in, the forum I’m in, and the people and the folks that I’ve met has given me the opportunity, and I believe I was able to take a lot of those opportunities and capitalize on them through the MIT program. I try to get to as many as the workshops and other things, the learning events. Trying to get to those and capitalize on them as much as possible.
Oscar: If EO went away for you today, how would that change the trajectory of your life, if at all?
Mike: I think it would definitely change, but I also think that there are so many great folks that I’ve met within EO in general that I would be able to either, A, turn to them, talk to them and be able to converse. Whether it be in time of need or whatever it might be. I’ve just met some extraordinary people.
Oscar: Beautiful. As a leader, how is Michael Curry making a mark?
Mike: Trying to get back in the community. I’m Vice President of the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center. I was a high school football coach for fifteen years. I try to do a lot of local events through the local organizations. I grew up in South Florida, so I think where I am now, I’m able to give back into the community. I think it’s important for me.
Oscar: Share with me, if you would, one of the coolest experiences you’ve actually had yourself either professionally or personally.
Mike: I would say probably through a vacation through Europe. y wife and I went to the Swiss Alps in Zermott, and we skied over there and basically traveled Europe prior to having a family for the first five years. I think it was an amazing, amazing experience for me as well as for, and it was really, really great. Fantastic.
Oscar: Great. What was the boldest move you’ve ever made in your life?
Mike: Probably going forward when my father asked me back in 1997 when I came back from school, is this something you want to do full-time. My parents had given me the opportunity, if you want to do something else, take a run at it. We’re here for you to fall back on. I think the biggest, the boldest move was to say, you know what, this is what I want to do, I want to be a part of the family business. It was probably the boldest move.
Oscar: When you hear the words trust and respect, what does that mean to you?
Mike: It means a lot. As the leader of my business, I want all of my entire team to trust and respect me, so I take that with pride, and everything I do, everything I say, I live up to those words and live by them. We’ve got an amazing reputation not only our family in general, the business, and there’s a lot pride in that for the trust and respect, and to be able to live by those words is pretty powerful.
Oscar: If you were to start a new company tomorrow, completely unrelated to your existing business, what would it be and why?
Mike: I would say it would be something where you can work remotely. Nowadays with technology and people are running businesses from all over the world, they could be sitting anywhere at a pool or whatever it might be, but I would have to do, I’m not sure of the actual business itself. I would try to have something to where I’d be able to leverage the relationships that I’ve built and we have built over the years through trust and through respect and with technology. It would be something along those lines. Exactly what, I don’t know, but those components would be involved in it.
Oscar: Fantastic. Michael, it has been an absolute pleasure having you in studio today. Thank you so much for helping to fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in South Florida, and again, congratulations for your fantastic ranking on Inc. 5000 list. Thank you so much.
Mike: Thank you so much, Oscar. Appreciate it.