It’s been a journey. And he’s just getting started.
For Mike Willhite, the founder and owner of Willhite Grading & Excavation, he always knew he’d be a business owner; in fact, it never occurred to him he wouldn’t be.
“My father was an entrepreneur,” says Mike. “He was a roofer and had other businesses, so, based on his example, I never thought I’d work for anyone but me.”
His career began in high school in San Luis Obispo County, California where he worked on a local family farm and ran with the “ag kids.” It was through the example of hard work, perseverance and appreciation of the land that his passions took root.
“I was fascinated with the skill level their son had who was my age and already owned his own equipment,” he says. “I owe this family so much because it was then and there my decision was made to enter the earthwork field.”
From California to Alaska and back, Mike has witnessed and endured rough seas, staggering landscapes and rock-hard terrains. As a result, he is stronger, smarter and has become a role model for small business owners and young operators. And he says it all starts with choosing the right partner. His relationship with Cat® dealer, Quinn Cat, was the right choice years ago, and continues to play a critical role in his business’ success.
“In my six years of owning my business, I have only had two down days due to equipment malfunction and Caterpillar was there to fix the problem quickly and efficiently,” he says. “Down time is our worst enemy in the earthwork trade!”
“DIRT WORK IS ART. JUST BECAUSE THE OUTSIDE IS PRETTY DOESN’T MEAN THE INSIDE IS AS WELL. WHAT YOU DON’T SEE NEEDS TO BE AS HIGH QUALITY AS WHAT YOU DO.”
Mike’s work ethic and attention to detail is a model for operators to follow. “Dirt work is art,” he says. “Just because the outside is pretty doesn’t mean the inside is as well. What you don’t see needs to be as high quality as what you do.”
Throughout 2018, we’ll profile Mike and share his story. From his childhood in California, to his time in the United States Coast Guard, to the excavation business he plans to one day leave his son. It’s an evolving journey creating a lasting legacy. Take a look at Mike at work.