On Record: Quotes from the construction front lines

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Equipment World Editorial Director Marcia Gruver DoyleEquipment World Editorial Director Marcia Gruver Doyle

When they’re not dodging snowflakes, our editors relish this season, since it’s the time when we visit our Contractor of the Year finalists. We’re still in the middle of making the rounds, but are already hearing great quotes from the front lines. Here’s a recap:

Starting a business gets in your blood. When managing editor Amy Materson visited Chris Fink with third-generation Dale’s Paving of Bossier City, Louisiana, she was struck by how the company has gone way beyond the “paving” moniker. While his father stuck to asphalt paving, Chris has expanded into concrete work, homebuilding, and even a car wash business. “But Chris still loves the smell of asphalt,” jokes his wife, Tracey. “If someone made a cologne that smelled like asphalt, he’d wear it.”

Equipment is still an integral part of what keeps them in the business. “Buying equipment is a disease,” claims Richard Gordon, Baystate Engineering, Holliston, Massachusetts. “My dealer calls me up and talks about 0 percent financing and I start drooling.”

New talent? Bring it on. Yes, searching for talent can be disheartening – for example, one finalist did not have a single applicant pass a drug test in a year’s time. But a number of the finalists talked about their love of bringing new blood into the fold. Scott Kelly with Enterprise Trenchless Technologies, Lisbon Falls, Maine, wants them to be more than an employee, though – he wants them to embrace the company’s culture. “What we do is not the norm,” he stressed to Wayne Grayson, our online managing editor. Case in point: the company has a two-level gym, and gives bonuses to employees who reach their fitness goals.

Loyalty counts. Danny Williams with Dan’s Marine Service, holds up his foreman, who’s been with him for 24 years as one of the best – even though at times pay was slow. “He stuck with me,” says Williams, “and I’d do anything for him.”

And so does legacy. Fink’s father Dale kept meticulous paper records, all of which he’s faithfully scanned so he can access them digitally. Now when one of his father’s former clients calls, he has everything at hand. “It’s really cool to be able to not just access his specs, but all of his notes,” Fink says.

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When you’re a third generation operating engineer, there’s no other place to go except construction.  “We watched our grandfather operate equipment when we were kids, and begged to go to work with our father,” says Danny Giangiulio, who with brothers Tommy and Greg runs Glendale Excavating in Voorhees, New Jersey. Adds Greg with a laugh: “It’s not that we had any choice in the matter.”

We ask all finalists what advice they’d give to contractors just starting out. I’ll part with Gordon’s answer: “You’ve got to communicate. You cannot close down in a rough spot. If you shut down, stop returning calls, you’re done.”