Entrepreneur does it his way, with help from Cat ® equipment.
In the late 1990s, Aaron Ware was working in corporate engineering for McKee Foods. With just a high school diploma to his name, Ware rose quickly through the ranks of the maker of Little Debbie snack cakes.
But after five years at the company, Ware felt like there was something more for him beyond the security of the corporate world. Around the time that Ware’s father elected to retire from McKee in 2000, the pair had purchased a backhoe loader for digging and clearing on their property in McDonald, Tennessee, outside of Chattanooga. Ware and his dad started performing a series of small jobs with the backhoe. One thing led to another and eventually Aaron left McKee and started his own excavating business.
“When I left McKee, I knew I was earning a good paycheck every week,” remembers Ware, 37. “In many ways, I had it made. But the opportunity to follow my entrepreneurial instinct and start my own business was really strong.”
Now in its twelfth year, Aaron Ware Excavating performs work ranging from light commercial to residential site preparation within a 70-mile radius of Chattanooga. With six employees and eight pieces of equipment, the company’s work runs the gamut from excavating and finish grading roadbeds in subdivisions, to erosion control and drainage. Ware also does regular excavation work for a poured concrete wall company in Chattanooga.
“Most everything around here is steep terrain, and we wind up getting most of the hard jobs—they can be dangerous,” Ware says of the hills and ridges that make up the landscape of southeastern Tennessee. “It’s a challenge, but it beats getting bored working on flat ground.”
Given the uneven terrain that Ware Excavating encounters on a regular basis, Ware preaches safety to his operators.
“I tell them that we are together more than we are with our own families,” he notes. “So I don’t care how long it takes to get something done, as long as it’s done right. I tell my guys to take their time and use their heads.”
Doing it right
Ware bids jobs as competitively as he can, as if he’s the one paying for it.
“We try to be fair and honest with everybody,” says Ware. “If I give someone a price on something and it goes over, I eat it. If I tell someone I’m going to do something, I do it. If we do it, we do it right. I think this has a lot to do with what has kept us in business during the recession.
“Once you go into business for yourself, you no longer have one boss like you have at a company,” Ware continues. “I have more than 200 customer contacts in my smart phone, and each one is a boss. I have to please and take care of each one of those people. It’s a whole different world. I won’t leave a job until the customer tells me he’s happy.”
Recently, when Ware’s crew was clearing and grading a site for a new home resting on a steep hill, he was able to convince his customer that the driveway needed to extend up the left side of the hill rather than making a shallower cut down the middle.
“Everyone who has seen the driveway has told me that he did me a favor,” says the customer, Steve Tamplin. “It’s almost like the man had a slide rule in his brain, and walked me through everything, and really took his time.”
During the recession, Ware Excavating was working five to six days per week. Now that things are picking up, the company is operating seven days a week.
“If I take a day off, my conscience bothers me because I’m not doing something,” Ware explains. “I just enjoy it.”
Specialized attachments help
Ware’s crew was excavating an extension of a power line that runs over Fredonia Mountain when he realized that he needed a attachment that would help him cut through solid rock. He called his Cat® rep at Stowers Machinery, Wes Reece, who brought him a T9B trencher with carbide teeth that attaches to his 299D Compact Track Loader. “It worked great, and it sped up the process tremendously,” Ware says.
Ware’s crews perform a lot of small excavating work, and run into difficulties in the colder months when compacting clotted dirt after digging ditches. Once again, Stowers’ Reece provided the solution with a power box rake. “Once you get through, it lays the dirt down as smooth as the surface of a table,” says Ware.
In another case, Ware’s crew frequently drives a small dozer through a wooded area as part of installing a steel fence before it starts work on a project. The problem is that the dozer has difficulty maneuvering around too many small trees. The solution: a grinder/ mulching head attachment for a 299D Compact Track Loader.
“Now, we can put the grinder on the front of the skid steer and zip right through there and grind it up and leave a mulch, which will keep anything from eroding,” Ware explains. “It’s a big drum that goes on the front of the skid steer, and it’s like a big milling head. You just attach it to the 299D and run over the tree with it.”
Ware finances new equipment purchases through Cat Financial, setting everything up on a four-year payment plan. He has purchased several pieces of both new and used equipment. Ware also rents specialized attachments like a hammer on an as needed basis from Stowers Machinery.
For Ware, it’s about having the ability to do a job on his own terms. He took advanced math classes in high school with the idea he was going to be a dentist. But, with a work ethic grounded in the painting and carpentry trades as a youth, he went in another direction, which evolved into his own business.
“I don’t care what it is, you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing,” he says. “I’ve got a really good group of employees, great equipment and a solid customer base. For me and my crew, it’s taking pride in what we do.”
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT CAT EQUIPMENT
“Cat equipment is built a lot better than any of the other brands,” says Aaron Ware, owner of Aaron Ware Excavating. “You get on it, and it feels like you’re on a solid piece of equipment. My operators and I know that we can depend on Cat equipment to help us get our jobs done in any kind of working conditions.”
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT THEIR CAT DEALER
Ware has tried at least four other brands of equipment. In one case, he had to wait two weeks for a hydraulic line.
“If I need something from Caterpillar, I usually have it the same day. At worst, it’s here by 7 a.m. the next morning,” Ware says. “That keeps me up and going. And if I have any problems whatsoever, the service department at Stowers Machinery is awesome. If I encounter something I can’t fix myself, they will talk me through it. I have nothing but good things to say about Caterpillar and Stowers—they take care of me. I tell them all that I feel like they’re family. They are there to help me on a daily basis.”