Recently we were featured on the UK site Earthmovers via the Diggerman Blog. Below is a link to that article by Nick Drew.
CAT. It’s no secret that I’m a huge supporter of this company. I love the look, I love the color, and I love the brand, but I’m here to tell you it goes much deeper than just the superficial.
I began my journey into the world of iron in high school on an old farm tractor. I can’t even remember the brand anymore, but from there I was fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of a local family who owned a backhoe service in California.
I have fond memories of this place, running around their shop, changing oil with their son on various types of equipment, working with their father as a laborer on different types of jobs around the county, even splitting wood with the grandfather on his ranch during the weekends and generally being exposed to another life, a life I had never seen before.
I was fascinated with the skill level their son had who was my age and already owned his own equipment. At the time he seemed to know so much about this world and I guess he did being raised in it. I owe this family so much of my life because it was then and there I think my decision was made to enter the earthwork field.
As my career progressed I soon joined the U.S.C.G and moved off to Kodiak, Alaska. It was in Alaska where I was first exposed to the CAT machines and it’s not in the way you would think. It was the CAT marine engine that truly entranced me. I remember the old fishermen going back and forth about Detroit’s, Volvo’s, CATs and how the men who had CAT engines in their boats were always so proud of them. I think it was then I took notice of the Caterpillar brand. Let me say I’m not here to debate the quality of different CAT marine engines as I’ve seen problems with all brands of engines, especially while on the seas of Alaska, I only share my life experiences and what has lead me to my decision to be a one brand company.
When I got home from AK I went directly to work in the oilfields, then went on the road running fiber and building cell sites all over the country. I remember always being on rental machines and how much the different brands seemed to feel and run. The one tractor that I never got that pit in my stomach about was the CAT’s and the Deere’s, they always felt so much better to climb on to then the rest of the makers.
As many of you know the debates about equipment strengths, and for that matter, weaknesses is ongoing and never ending! I will be the first to sit here and tell you CAT is not the best in every category and every machine. I for one think the final drive power of a Kubota is awesome, the mastery of the Mecalac is mindblowing, and the strength of the Doosan and Hitachi are impressive.
I’m here to present one question to the reader. “What’s that worth?” I’ve spent 22 years in this trade and I can tell you with great confidence that lots of power, strength and speed comes with costs and I’m not talking about upfront machine costs.
I’ve spent many hours with different manufacturer engineers and the one group who seems to get it are the CAT engineers. They understand there is a fine line between useful power and destructive power to the machine. I honestly must say this is probably why when I walk up to an older CAT machine, it seems and usually is, in far better condition than the rest of the machines of equal age and hours.
Yes, I’m saying CAT is not the biggest, baddest machine on the job! Your Bobcat may get 1 more cycle in per minute, Your Deere may lift a thousand pounds more then the CAT, but what’s that really worth in the long run? In my professional opinion CAT has found a perfect balance between power and machine life. Their machines controls are intuitive, easy to learn and much research is put into operator fatigue and comfort. I like to say you can perform surgery with a hatchet or a scalpel but which one do you think will produce the best result despite the skill of the surgeon. I for one choose precision over brute force.
Obviously this is my opinion and we all have our own, and we all know the old saying about that, so I’m just going to share my perspective as a small business owner. Many ask “Why choose CAT especially being a start up and the high costs?’‘ Here is my answer to that question. I chose CAT because I was a start up! I had no yard, no money and no infrastructure. I had only a vision for how I wanted my company to look and run.
I did however know that CAT, and to be more specific, Quinn Caterpillar had the infrastructure I so badly needed. Let me say that I did go to other manufacturer dealers and quite frankly, many looked at me like I was crazy. I didn’t have much for credit, no established company, and only a goal. I first walked into Quinn Catt of Oxnard, California in 2011 when I got my C12 license for earthwork. I sat down with the rental manager and explained my situation, my company and my goals. I was frank and upfront, and when I walked out I had a few forms for a line of credit with the rental department. I filed them out not expecting much, and in a short time, to my shock and amazement, was approved for a modest rental line of credit with Quinn CAT. I was off and running. Someone stepped up and took a chance on me and I was grateful.
I’ve been working with Quinn CAT for 6 years now and honestly I don’t see them as merely someone I buy and rent equipment from. They are my partners in business. By choosing CAT I was able to leverage myself into the class of work I wanted to be in. I was able to present a professional front. I had the support and infrastructure of a huge company, allowing me to focus on the job at hand. It took me almost 3 years to buy my first piece of equipment and I was able to do this by creating trust with CAT, via its rental department. I made sure CAT was paid on time, I took care of their equipment, I communicated with my reps and took advantage of the recourse CAT had, and when it was finally time for me to take the big step of being an equipment owner, CAT was there with open arms to help me into my first 2 machines.
I get emails from young entrepreneurs all over the world asking me “how and what did you do to get started?” Well I chose the right partner for one. In my 6 years of owning my business I have had only 2 down days due to equipment malfunction and CAT was there to fix the problem quickly and efficiently. Down time is our worst enemy in the earthwork trade! Sitting idle waiting on parts, return phone calls, and mechanics can mean the difference between success and failure. CAT backs their product, they have what I need if I need it.
My advise is use your reps. I have an amazing team of Caterpillar reps who care about my company. These men and women know that in the end my success equals CAT’s success. I understand that they get a bad rap on social media sometimes and I guess being at the front of the pack it’s expected. There will always be bad apples no matter who you work with, but this has simply not been my experience. As a new business owner you must understand that service and quality cost money, we should all get that, so I say choose wisely.
I’m not here to push Caterpillar or its products on anyone. Find the dealer who offers the best support for you and your needs. Remember your time is limited and valuable, don’t waste it on machines that don’t perform just because of cost. Put your bravado aside and choose a manufacturer who will stand behind their product and choose a machine that will last for the years of work you will need them for. I couldn’t be happier with my decisions and I did not make them based on cost, I made them based on building a company that would last and perform. I made them based on support!
CAT has been key to that success and I would change nothing. I run a CAT fleet because it’s efficient. I deal with one company for all my needs no matter where I am in the state of California. I know CAT will be there to assist if needed. Don’t over complicate your business! We all can’t have full time mechanics, and when I use a CAT mechanic, I know my work is documented and backed up. So I ask this. Is CAT equipment expensive? In my eyes no, it’s fair for what you get in return if you choose to use the systems they have created to support your fleet.
In closing I say this to the new guys and maybe even some of the old. Get to know your reps, they do care. Let them come to your jobs, let them call you and check in on your needs. They have knowledge and access you may not even know about. Don’t be afraid of new technology, do not disregard it for it’s the future whether you like it or not. I’m here as proof that this approach works.
You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to start your company. With Caterpillar I spent nothing upfront. They have amazing finance terms, they understand your business and will work with you to achieve your goals. Take advantage of what they have to offer and if it’s not CAT, make sure your dealer is serving your needs as good as mine are being met, because in the end you are what matters.
After a great visit to ConExpo this year, we put together this great video showing what the experience was like. It was great meeting other online dirt workers from Instagram and around the construction community.
ConExpo is the world’s largest construction trade show and expo. The 2017 event brought together 130,000 construction professionals and enthusiasts to view the latest developments in heavy equipment and technology for all parts of the construction and agriculture industry.
For Willhite Grading, a premier grading and excavation company serving Santa Barbara and Southern California, this construction event is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and friends from around the world as we gathered to discuss how to best handle the unique challenges that come up in the world of construction.
Michael Willhite owner of Willhite Grading & Excavation demonstrates a quick way to set grade using the Trimble LR50W receiver and magnetic mount. This mount can entirely cut out a need for ground man grade checking during bulk out finish grading or even footing excavations leaving your ground man to attend to other work and cutting labor out of your budget.
Construction hiring can be a challenge in today’s environment. My name is Michael Willhite, owner of Willhite Grading & Excavation, a grading and excavation contractor based in Santa Barbara, California. This is my interview with Construction Equipment Magazine on working to overcome today’s hiring challenges.
Article originally appeared on Construction Equipment.
Young adults are increasingly turning away from a profession in the trades, and construction companies are suffering from a lack of skilled labor to replace an aging workforce. Mike Willhite, a 40 Under 40 in Construction Equipment winner, may have found a way to reach millennials and pique their interest in construction work.
When searching for new hires Willhite goes to Instagram, or rather Instagram comes to him.
As the owner of Willhite Grading & Excavation, Willhite has created a robust social media presence, particularly on Instagram. Between his three accounts (@willhitegrading, @miniearthmovers_daily, @GXearthworxapparel) Willhite has racked up roughly 27,000 followers.
But Instagram “likes” and “comments” aside, many users who find Willhite’s business on the app, are using it to network and land a job in the construction field.
Which is exactly what Carlos Garcia did, a young worker looking for an opportunity to learn about heavy excavation work.
Garcia contacted Willhite via Instagram’s direct message feature and expressed an interest in working for his company. Willhite first browsed Garcia’s account to see whether or not he would be an appropriate fit for his company.
“If they’re smart, they’ll be running their Instagram how I do. I run my Instagram like a business. I keep it professional. I keep it on topic,” Willhite said.
Garcia’s photos demonstrated to Willhite that he was proficient in operating basic compact equipment and open to learning more about heavy excavation work.
“I would call this guy a landscaper-type quality operator, which means they know how to run mini equipment and they know how to work on the top-level, but they don’t understand deep excavation,” Willhite said.
Garcia’s novice skill level was not a deal breaker for Willhite, instead it turned into a dialogue of what Garcia’s goals were should he be hired. And he was, his job progression started with the task of digging up roots using equipment the first month on the job.
Willhite also uses Instagram to hire skilled operators and trusts the social media platform over traditional methods of finding workers.
“I’m a small company,” Willhite said, “I can’t afford to blindly hire. Instagram allows me to pinpoint my hiring. I get a lot more bang for my buck.”