Best Advice of 2018: Wisdom From Successful Contractors

Here’s a look back on some of the best pieces of advice contractors shared in the pages of Dig Different magazine in the past year

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It’s again that time of year that is typically reserved for some reflection. Here we reflect on some of the industry knowledge that has appeared in Dig Different magazine in 2018. A lot of contractors are featured in the magazine over the course of a year, and whether they have decades of experience or are still fairly new to the industry, there is often something to learn from their experiences:

“Someone told me years ago that if you operate a safe company, you have a successful company. I don’t short-cut anything — there’s too much at stake.” — Jose Moraga, owner of J. Moraga Construction Inc., on safety


“We know what we have to charge to stay in business. You’ve got to pick and choose your battles. Most guys become low bidders just to get their foot in the door, but we’d rather go in and explain why our prices are what they are. Those kinds of companies are going to do five or 10 times the business I do but at 50 percent less profit margins. You just hope that customers understand it’s no bargain to go with the low bid and get low-quality work.” — Ronnie Baron, owner of Pro Serve Inc., on pricing jobs


“When you’re entering a new market, you don’t spend a lot of money as if it’s going to be a sure thing. You’ve got to be financially prudent.” — Rex King, owner of King’s Sanitary Service, on choosing to buy a used vacuum truck instead of a brand-new one when he first began diversifying his service offerings


“When times are booming like this and you need specialty skills, it can be tough to find the right employee. You don’t have a lot of guys out there on auger boring machines or tunneling machines. It can be pretty difficult, and that’s why when you get good guys, you work hard to keep them.” — Ernie Romero, co-owner of Horizontal Boring, on the importance of retaining employees


“We spend around 5 percent of our annual revenue on advertising. From my standpoint, if you’re a business owner and have employees, it’s your responsibility to not build a business just on word-of-mouth referrals. You owe it to your employees to advertise — get your name out there with a consistent message. I tell people I’m no marketing genius. I just use good, practical common sense. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out you have to be active in your community and advertise. Advertising tells people that you’re a legit, professional outfit.” — Darrin Black, owner of Black Plumbing, on marketing


“If our customers have to wait for us to show up — if we have to tell them ‘No, we can’t get to you right now’ — we feel like it’s time to look at adding another truck. If you tell a customer no too many times, you begin to hurt the relationship.” — Mitch Louis, co-owner of 4 Warriors Hydro Excavating, on using customers as a gauge for determining when to expand the truck fleet


“Sometimes it comes down to making more money just to have more problems. Our equipment is paid for. We don’t have tons of overhead weighing us down. Our growth to this point has been for our clients.” — Chris Angelo, co-owner of J. Angelo Industries, on business growth


“We take a lot of pride in having our equipment look clean and presentable. We take a lot of pride in what our guys look like. We give them all proper uniforms with company badging and names. People see that. They see a respectable company, a professional company, that takes pride in its staff and equipment and in the job that they’re going to do.” —­ Kris Norris, owner of NCM Hydro Vac Services, on company image


“If we send out a guy with a hydroexcavating truck to locate a waterline, and he’s already done excavating for waterline installations, he has a better idea of where to look, how deep the line might be, and what it will look like. Cross-training is vital for us. It’s good for employees, too, because there’s always stuff to be done. Our guys like it because it’s not the same job day after day.” — Malcolm Chartier, superintendent with M.L. Chartier Excavating, on cross-training employees



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