Pure Grit and Machine Control Drive Success for Kansas Contractor


When an F5 tornado killed Alan McClure, young cousins Jake and Nick were left to run the family excavation business, Alan’s Excavating.

Despite being thrust into leadership positions at a young age, the duo built up their skills, reputation and crew of top-notch employees in the Greater Wichita area, growing the business to 20 employees and $5 to $7 million in annual revenues. Alan’s Excavating handles anything from the development of large commercial projects down to ponds for local farmers.

Jake, who serves as president, and Nick, as vice president, attribute their success to more than two decades of machine control utilization and an insatiable desire to overcome challenges.

“The biggest thing that keeps me motivated, and I think a lot of our guys, is the more complicated projects, the stuff that people don’t think can be done in a week, and we go do it in a week,” says Jake.

Nick agrees, saying, “It seems like a good challenge keeps us entertained…keeps us wanting to come back for more.”

Check out the video above to learn more about how the 2023 Contractor of the Year finalists have upskilled their workforce to increase productivity.  

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Jake McClure (00:07):

I was pretty much born into it. My dad started dragging me along at a very young age. And I rode with him in equipment through my whole childhood, basically, and in the company at 14, getting a paycheck.


I was 19, and we went down to Longview, Texas to pick up a semi that dad bought. And I was driving the semi back. Dad was in Mom's car in front of me. And we ate dinner in Oklahoma City. And it was a pretty bad storm coming, but the way my dad was, we kept going. And of course the storm, it was getting really bad, so we pulled underneath an overpass. But he's in the car in front of me and I'm behind him in the semi. The tornado comes over the top of us. I stayed in the truck, Dad stayed in the car. And the car was light enough that the tornado sucked the car out underneath, took it way up in the air, and drop it on stump, and he passed.


Commercial site grades is probably the biggest thing that we do. And then, with all the infrastructure stuff that's going on right now, a lot of municipal streets and road and construction, a lot of reconstruction work in smaller towns, but in some of the bigger cities, as well.

Nick McClure (01:23):

When we get done with the job, or we pull on a job, it's topnotch. It stems all the way from our employees to our foreman starting a job, from our estimating as far as that goes, when the first point of contact is with our estimator all the way to the end when our last operator leaves a job topnotch.


We are a small company and everybody gets along like we're cousins or brothers or sisters. We just get along really well. Everybody knows everybody's kids, their names, their spouses, just very family oriented.

Jake McClure (02:01):

The biggest thing that keeps me motivated, and I think a lot of our guys, is the more complicated projects, the stuff that people don't think can be done in a week and we go do it in a week. And that goes to my guys, because the ones in the field making it happen, and we're just kind of helping them along the way. And I think our younger guys that have been working for us are getting a lot more experience, and the left hand's knowing what the right hand is doing. And I think, the last two years, it's really shown. We're doing a lot more work with less people. So, we are able to take our truck drivers and put them in equipment on bigger projects, because they have the capabilities of operating. We need eight pieces of equipment running on the job for two days, we will pull those truck drivers out, let them run equipment, and hire some trucks for those two days while they're running the equipment. And then, when we get done moving the dirt and we're down to putting the base aggregate down for the pad or the parking lot, or both, the truck drivers will get out of the equipment, jump back in their semis and start bringing us the material. And it works really well for our operation. It's pretty impressive what our crew can get done.

Nick McClure (03:11):

We're always up for a challenge, especially in the dirt world. It seems like just a good challenge keeps us entertained, keeps us wanting to come back for more, I guess.

Jake McClure (03:26):

Nick and I do like equipment maybe a little too much, and we like to have nice iron, because we're running it a lot of the times, as well. So, our fleet is made up mainly of Caterpillar. A lot of it is new. And it's got all the latest and greatest technology on it.

Nick McClure (03:43):

The most change is, we went from walking on the job site, hammering stakes in the ground with an eye level, to complete machine control, today.

Jake McClure (03:53):

We bought our first machine control technology in 2003, so we're going into our 20th year. And we currently pretty much have it on everything support equipment wise, from excavators to dozers to motor graders. And it's made a complete different company out of us. It's freed up guys that were doing the surveying before. And we're getting grade right the first time. And our quantities are working out a lot better. But we've been doing it for 20 years now, so it's just the norm, here.

Nick McClure (04:24):

Who would've ever thought that this technology has went from what it was to now? Pretty excited about the future, to see what's next, these electric drive machines, all the above.

Jake McClure (04:37):

The industry has changed. When we first started, we would give our bids out and we'd go do the job. A lot of times they weren't getting other numbers. Maybe they disliked working with us and not somebody else. Nowadays, it's low bid. Everything is low bid. The general contractors don't see the value in the contractor that they know that's going to do the job right, the first time. They're just looking for the low bid. That's probably the biggest challenge that we face these days.


The best advice I was ever given was right when we first took over the business, was hire good people. And if you hire good people and like-minded people, then good things will happen. And that's what we did, and that's the key to our success.

Announcer (05:23):

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