Best of 2021: Contractors Offer Advice and Insight

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

Best of 2021: Contractors Offer Advice and Insight

West Coast Hydro Vac Services, Port Kells, British Columbia, Canada

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 2021. 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:

“I don’t go after the big projects anymore. I like the bread-and-butter stuff because it’s out there every day. There are a lot of big companies out there that chase big-dollar projects, where their guys are gone for six months. Then they come home and the company can’t get those smaller customers back. I like this kind of work because every day you’re on a different hole — it’s always something interesting and fun. And you’re not beating up your trucks every day.”

— Chad Porter, West Coast Hydro Vac Services, Port Kells, British Columbia, Canada, on why he prefers focusing on smaller daylighting jobs that account for 80% of company revenue

“The main reason I’m in business is word-of-mouth referrals and our customer service. I’m on my phone 24/7. I’m always accessible and available to explain things to customers. And I go to every single job site in person and meet customers face to face. It’s all about building relationships.”

— Marisa Beaver, Sewer Experts (a division of Mustard Seed Construction), Commerce City, Colorado

Southern Directional, Alabaster, Alabama
Southern Directional, Alabaster, Alabama

“It helps a lot when you’re not confined to one particular niche, such as fiber optic lines. We continue to respond to economic and political changes. We adjust to what our communities and clients need, whether it’s building new municipal infrastructure or relocating utility lines to accommodate a new emphasis on improving highways. If customers see your integrity and the quality of your work, they’ll ask you to do more. It’s a more gratifying way to grow as opposed to following some kind of master business plan. Sometimes when you try to force things, you pursue avenues that don’t match your vision.”

— Tina Calma, Southern Directional, Alabaster, Alabama

“We bring a lot of tools to a location. We generally do a layered approach — electromagnetic locaters, say, then ground penetrating radar. Most of the time our techs have the standard set of tools right with them. We bring what will be needed to get a job done and all for one price. That’s different than some companies, who roll out this or that tool and then charge additional per hour if another service is needed.”  

— Aaron Reitz, Baker Utility Partners, Arcadia, Indiana

Torovac Services, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Torovac Services, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“Most trucks around here are basic white, which makes it hard to tell one company from another. But our trucks look so cool that it’s not unusual for people to take pictures of them as they drive past. Our trucks driving down the streets are a huge marketing tool.” 

— Kristal Rotundo, Torovac Services, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“The Vermeer 40x55 allowed us to pivot to longer, larger-diameter bores and chase drilling work for transmission lines installed by government-owned utilities. This purchase marked a tipping point for us because it also turned us from a sub-contractor into a prime contractor. Everyone has smaller drills. So when you buy a big one, it separates the men from the boys, and allows us to chase that powerline work. It’s not that the work pays 10 times better. It’s just that you’re not competing against what seems like 1,000 other companies. There are a lot more opportunities for getting pipe stuck when you do longer and larger bores. Not many people want to deal with that kind of risk and liability. You really have to know what you’re doing when you’re boring a 20-inch hole.”

— Mitch Willie, Axis Vac & HDD Services, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

“We just grew too fast. It caused a lot of stress because it was too hard to manage things. When you grow too fast, it’s harder to get the right leaders in place. And without that, you have safety issues, attitude issues, quality control issues and equipment issues because things just aren’t being taken care of at all levels. It’s just a total snowball effect. And even though we still were capturing work and making money, it made me very uncomfortable, especially after we had a couple of on-the-job injuries. I peeled back the layers of the onion and found some rotten spots. It definitely was a painful reckoning. I outgrew my boots a little. But it also gave me a little bit of a reality check and made me a better businessperson and a better manager.” 

— Jeff Seidl, Elexco Inc., Seymour, Wisconsin


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