Aztec Paving, a Family Legacy
Pat Ferry is a fourth-generation asphalt professional. His great grandfather, Peter L. Ferry, performed paving and grading work in California in the early 1900s. “I even have a set of plans he wrote out to pave a street in Glendale, California, in 1912,” Ferry said.
In 1960, Ferry’s grandfather, Pat Ferry Sr., opened Ferry Brothers Construction with his brother, Jack. When Jack Ferry wanted to retire in 1970, Pat Ferry Sr. started Aztec Paving Inc., an asphalt paving and maintenance contracting company in San Diego.
Today, Pat Ferry Jr. is an estimator/project manager at Aztec Paving, but he’s been hooked on the asphalt industry since he was a kid. “It felt like a sandbox, but with bigger toys,” he said. He remembers sitting at his grandfather’s desk as a kid—the same desk where his father, Bob Ferry, now sits as the president of Aztec Paving—and thinking about when he might one day lead the company.
If you ask Bob Ferry, he’ll say he never steered his son into the family business. “But I think any youngster growing up around heavy equipment is going to want to drive it someday,” he said. “That’s probably what steered him in that direction, going to play with those toys on Saturday.”
That’s how Bob Ferry got into the business. “If it wasn’t baseball or football season, I was working at Aztec every Saturday,” he recalled. “I was my dad’s shadow.”
He began working at Aztec full time after graduating high school in 1974, first with a shovel. He then graduated to a rake, then a roller, then a paver. He even drove a haul truck for four years. By the time he started working in the office, he had seven years of field experience. “How can you estimate a job when you don’t know how to do the job?” Bob Ferry said. “You can’t replace starting from the bottom and working your way up.”
That’s what he did when Pat Ferry joined the family business in 2017 after graduating from San Diego State University. “I never saw myself doing anything else,” Pat Ferry said. “I think continuing the family legacy is what hooked me.”
Working for the family business was never a question for Bob Ferry, either. “You’d be a fool not to see how great it is to own your own business and provide for your family,” he said. “Why would I have done anything different? It was never a question.”
Follow Aztec Paving Inc. on Instagram and TikTok @aztec_paving_inc.
Aztec Over the Years
Aztec Paving performs asphalt paving and pavement maintenance work around San Diego. The company’s bread and butter is homeowners’ associations and property management associations.
Although half of the company’s work is asphalt paving and 10 percent is concrete paving, pavement maintenance (the remaining 40 percent) is perhaps what the company is most well-known for throughout the city.
In the company’s 51-year legacy in San Diego, people have come to recognize Aztec’s name. The company’s name recognition reinforces its commitment to quality work. “We’ve been around more than 50 years,” Pat Ferry said. “Our name means something to us.”
Aztec is regularly asked to bid apples-to-apples jobs, but if the specs aren’t right, they take time to work with the client to ensure they understand their options. “We walk them through what they can expect to happen based on the original bid versus what we’d recommend,” Pat Ferry said. “We won’t do poor quality work that the customer won’t be happy with down the road.”
Often, the client takes their expertise into consideration. For example, a property manager recently submitted an apples-to-apples bid that was off the mark. “I actually laughed when I read the bid specs,” Pat Ferry said.
The client’s parking lot had major cracking and tree roots had begun uplifting sections of the asphalt throughout, but the client was asking only for crack filling bids (and specified what Pat Ferry knew to be a sub-par crack filling product). The client took his recommendations. Aztec won the bid and left the client with a superior pavement compared to the original bid.
“We often go out to do an estimate and get a phone call back from the customer saying the bids they got are like Mars, Earth and the moon,” Bob Ferry said. “I usually tell them to throw out the high and the low and go with the middle, which is usually where we are. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve usually known us for a long time.”
Although the bulk of Aztec’s business is repeat customers, showcasing the quality of its work on social media has helped bring in new customers. “I think maybe half of our new customers come from social media, especially among the younger generation,” Pat Ferry said.
Several years ago, the company invested in a drone to capture photos and videos of its projects. “My motivation with posting on social media is to demonstrate the fact that we do quality work,” Ferry said. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Keys to Consistent Customers, Quality
In order to get (and keep) repeat customers, Aztec is committed to sticking to the schedules it gives its clients. “We finish things when we say we will,” Pat Ferry said. “Most of our customers are repeat business, and we want them to keep coming back to us.”
He attributes the company’s ability to stick to a schedule to its experience working similar jobs for decades. They also don’t have many rain days, which helps keep the company’s schedule on track. Usually, the company only loses around 20 days a year to rain, and that’s mostly because they won’t pave or sealcoat if the chance of rain is more than 20 percent. “People working elsewhere in the country probably laugh at that,” Bob Ferry said, “but we don’t want to take any chances with rain.”
Another key to the company’s success is a low turnover rate among Aztec’s employees. Pat Ferry attributes this to good pay and a stable work environment. “No one is fired for making a mistake,” he said. “Accidents happen. If you make a mistake once, nine times out of 10 you’re not going to do it again.”
Paving in southern California, where there is no off-season, also helps with employee retention. Aztec’s senior estimator has been with the company for 32 years. The company’s main foreman started at Aztec around the same time as Bob Ferry, and the foreman’s son has been with the company since the 1980s.
“It’s a family affair here, both in the office and on the crew,” Pat Ferry said. Some employees have been around so long that they still refer to him as “Little Pat,” his childhood nickname, “even though I’m nearly 30 years old.”
Some day, “Little Pat” will be leading Aztec Paving and sitting at the desk where his grandfather and father have worked to grow the company for more than 50 years. “Even though I’ll be leading the company one day, I think I’ll always see it as my grandpa’s and my dad’s company, too,” he said. “I want to make them both proud. I want to see Aztec Paving last another 50 years.”