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Pop Quiz, Monday with Dan Zurcher

Dan Zurcher
Photo credit: Dan Zurcher

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
My name is Dan Zurcher.

What is your job role?
My job at American Striping is to answer any question related to pavement marking and/or starting this best, small business. That’s my role. I stripe parking lots. I started 28 years ago. I’ve done it all. I had no one to answer my questions or guide me. I’ll be that guy for someone else now. I am also in charge of running large CNC tables that we use to manufacture stencils needed for the industry. That’s secondary.

Tell us about your company?
The American Striping Company was started in 1992. We stripe streets, parking lots, playground games and warehouse floors. Our Manual; How I Stripe a Parking Lot, has sold almost daily since 2007, into (10) countries. We also manufacture street and parking lot stencils all day, every day for the industry. Our Blog has several entries. Our Patented Glass Bead Dispenser is on hold as we move toward manufacturing in-house.

What do you love most about your job?
I love hearing from individuals. I love answering their questions. I love talking to customers. I’ve heard grown men giggle while telling me about completing their first striping job. They were scared, but they did it, and now they want more. I’ve had clients pull me aside, at a Trade Show, and tell me how striping paid their bills. I have emails citing how a husband is smiling again. I spoke to a lady who owns the only Pavement Marking Company within 400 miles. This is the best part of my job; listening to these stories.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
I believe my Mom and Dad motivated me and I also believe (1) certain happenstance motivated me personally. My Mother is the one who made the chore list. She’s organized. She can lead. My Dad was a factory, steelworker. He also upholstered on the side. He took evening classes to learn that trade. He also officiated football. I’ll never forget watching him run beside a High School football player, stride for stride, 90 yards, into the end zone. I say that I get my organization from my Mom and my entrepreneurial DNA from my Dad. My other motivation is that I was broke when I started. Friend, when you’re broke, it has nothing to do with money. You sit at the edge of your bed and question every decision you ever made. Bottom line, I get up because I want to help.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
My co-workers inspire me with mere discovery. They’re right beside me, but because they’re younger than I am, they are in a different world/era/ time zone. They’re just like you, and I were when we were younger but, their world is different than what we had. We talk about relationships, the news, hobbies, even wrist watches. We also talk about how the shop runs. We talk about products. We talk about ideas. We talk about the future. All this encourages me to ask another question and certainly answer theirs, if only for the sake of discovery. I may not know everything about the business, but, I know how to ask questions, and I know how to listen. Those are the books I’ve read. It’s the relationship that I value most. I hope that I have helped those who I’ve worked with because in return, discovery, of this sort, inspires me.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
The conversations are fun. They’re open. I’ve been put in my place many times, and they’re all good. We work as a team and go home! Next, I do not allow any messing around, no paper airplanes, no scaring anyone. I have a motto; control yourself or someone else will. ( Think; “you’re grounded.” If you don’t control yourself, someone else will. ) If someone is made to jump or dodge, there are large machines, and there could be trouble. Next, there are (2) things that make laughter. (1) Sing the stupidest song out loud and wrong. It’s funny when they get long, involved and rhyme. (2) I’ll hide something — no big deal. If I see a co-worker pour a cup of coffee and set it down, I’ll wait until they’re not looking, move it 8 feet away, and leave the room. That’s it. I teach; get done and go home. Everybody knows every job. We all self-initiate. Work smart, together and go home. I think fun at work has a place. I also think fun is defined individually. I think the small crowd who’s worked for me / with me, has laughed a number of times throughout every day. I know for a fact, I’ve laughed every day. I hope this is a good answer.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
I wonder if I’ve taken certain aspects of my company to the highest level. I have a copyright. I have a patent. I am well known, across this nation, within my field. But, I’d like to help so many more, outside my field. I am convinced that in every city there’s someone who needs an idea. I have an idea. That’s what I struggle with; reaching that crowd. If you know of anyone that needs that hand up, send them my way. Help me with that. Give me that hand up. I’ll give them that hand up.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
If you truly want your product to be in the hands of a client, sometimes you need to view the manufacturing process as an art. I patented a dispenser that allows tiny glass beads for cascading into a wet paint stripe. The paint dries and holds the beads. When the headlights of a car shine onto these stripes, the glass beads twinkle allowing the driver to see the stripe more easily at night. My Glass Bead Dispenser also converts to a handheld version. It’s too expensive, for me, to manufacture in small batches, but clients want it. Finally, after a year, I found the right machine to manufacture most of it in the house. Sometimes, if you don’t know what to do or don’t have the answer, just stop. Stepping back, rethinking, waiting for an answer, isn’t quitting. Risking more than you are comfortable with is not the answer. View it as a canvas. It’s not someone else’s vision. It’s yours, for a reason. It may be art.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in your industry?
I’d tell someone who is just starting out to pick (1) small parking lot to re-stripe. Here’s why; there aren’t any big jobs, only little ones stuck together. If you can stripe (7) lines, like a job I had, you can stripe (16) lines, like another job I had. Just turn around and stripe the other side. ( If you can mow your own yard, you could just keep going and mow the neighbors too. ) There aren’t any big jobs. There are only little ones stuck together. If you do get a job with 400 cars/stripes, as I have, break it up. If you’re nervous, plan on 100 stripes per trip. You may be surprised. You may just finish up earlier than what you think. Here’s why; once you’ve seen one parking lot, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Keep that in mind when you’re parking at the grocery store, the dentist’s office, the bank, the restaurant, at work, anywhere. Again, there aren’t any big jobs. There’s just a bunch of little ones, stuck together.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:

My Site is; www.AmericanStriping.com
My Twitter account is; @AmericanStripe

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Written by Ricky Singh, MBA

Founder & Editor of The Startup Growth

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