Residential contractor builds a base in Silicon Valley.
When Alan Hynes completed his formal education in Scotland and moved back to Northern California in 1998, he could have gone to work for one of his brothers, an established construction contractor.
But Hynes wanted to work on his own, and sought to break into the business as an independent contractor specializing in concrete foundation work. As an Irish immigrant with a degree in civil engineering, he found the going tough, as his relative youth and outsider status worked against him with general contractors and homeowners, alike.
Finally, Hynes won a bid on a job and delivered superior work, going above and beyond what was called for in the specs. The word spread, and within a short period of time, he gained acceptance and more work. In 2005, Hynes bought his first piece of equipment, a Cat® 318B L Hydraulic Excavator, to service high-end residential clients in Silicon Valley. Since then, he has added nine more pieces of Cat equipment, and his company has grown from a small core of employees to a general range of 16 to 20 people.
Much of the work performed by Alan Hynes Construction centers around the Los Altos Hills, Atherton, Palo Alto and Woodside areas—affluent communities at the southern end of the San Francisco peninsula. The homes Hynes works on range between $4 to $60 million. Because basements are not subject to property tax, affluent homeowners are constructing elaborate living spaces that include gyms, media rooms, entertainment areas and more.
With the education he received in Scotland and Ireland in surveying, soil analysis, structural design and project management, Hynes and his crew are the perfect fit for the job.
“I have a big advantage over my competition in that I carry out all of the excavation, drainage and concrete work for all of these houses that I construct,” Hynes says. “Whereas the general contractor might need two to three subcontractors, I take care of everything. So, there’s kind of a synergy built in where I can save time, and also make sure that there are no parts missing along the way. It leaves more time for the project manager to follow up with bids for all the other trades; he doesn’t need to be checking every step along the way.”
Hynes prefers to stay small, working two or three jobs at a time so that he is able to maintain oversight and quality control over all aspects of the job. In the beginning stage of a residential project, he will utilize his Cat 320C L or 318B L Hydraulic Excavators to complete the mass excavation and backfilling. On some of the larger projects, he will use both and then move those machines to the next jobsite.
Then he uses his mini excavators to carry out the drainage work around the perimeter of the foundation and dig trenches for utilities.
“What’s nice about having three mini excavators is that sometimes I will need to have all three of them working,” Hynes says. “Sometimes I don’t always need all three, but it costs me more money in the long run not to have the equipment that I need for the project, instead of having one piece of equipment, but then holding up my other projects and upsetting my clients.”
Hynes says there are many times where his 305.5 or 303 mini excavator is too large for the work at hand, and the only mini excavator that can get the job done is the 302.7D excavator.
Where Hynes adds value to a project is by virtue of his training and education. He can take a set of plans and determine what will work best, and what improvements he can contribute.
“At the early stages of a project, the general contractor will come to me and ask ‘How can we value-engineer this project to keep the cost down?’” Hynes says.
“And also how we can move the job ahead in a timely manner? I recommend what I think is the best design with the soil conditions that we face. The project manager can then go back to the design team, and they can make the adjustments to the plans if they agree with my suggestions to implement them in the actual construction phase.”
The Peterson Cat advantage
Hynes started out purchasing a Cat Hydraulic Excavator, and has continued to accumulate Cat equipment in expanding his fleet. A lot of it had to do with the fact that he liked the initial treatment he received from his sales representative at Peterson Cat, who advised him on selecting the right piece of equipment for the job, minus the sales pressure.
“I never felt like he was trying to take advantage of me or charge me too much,” Hynes says.
And, for those times when Hynes has financed an equipment purchase through Cat Financial, the Peterson rep took the burden off him by processing Hynes’ credit report and having all of the paperwork ready for him to sign. Hynes was able to take advantage of zero percent financing when he purchased some of his smaller pieces of equipment.
“It’s not like I had to go through a bunch of applications,” Hynes says. “As soon as I was ready to buy the machine, I obtained Cat financing straight away, and at zero-percent financing, or at a good rate.”
Hynes is glad he started out with a Cat machine, and sees the reliability and dealer support as integral parts of his success.
“If you don’t start off with Caterpillar— let’s say you buy another brand—you have already made the first fatal step,” he says. “I started off with a Cat Excavator, and from there I was able to order more machinery, and it just streamlined my experience with ordering and purchasing parts. My experience with Cat equipment and Peterson Cat has helped me get to where I am today.”
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT CAT EQUIPMENT
“Running both concrete and excavation work and not having a full-time mechanic, the reliability of Cat machines is very important to me,” says Alan Hynes, owner of Alan Hynes Construction. “And since I bought my first piece of Cat equipment in 2005, I have had no major issues. Just having the reliability of not having to worry about breakdowns is very important to me.”
Hynes also likes the fact that many of his attachments work on multiple pieces of equipment without any hassle.
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT THEIR CAT DEALER
“I don’t have a full-time mechanic, so if I have a breakdown on site and the machine is immobilized, Peterson sends out one of their service trucks right away, and their techs determine the problem and fix it as quickly as possible, or bring the machine back to the nearest Peterson facility for repair,” Hynes says.
He also likes the fact that when he needs another piece of equipment, it is available from one of Peterson Cat’s locations in Santa Rosa or San Leandro. He likes the fact that he can buy equipment new or used, and that his sales representative will search as far away as necessary to get him the piece of equipment that he needs.
“We have environmental laws that are very stringent in California, and he makes sure that I comply with them, and I am not going to have to give up the piece of equipment I am purchasing anytime soon because it’s not in the correct emissions tier.”
Hynes also likes Peterson’s parts drop locations. Hynes can call Peterson’s parts department late in the afternoon with the parts he needs for his equipment. The parts are left at the San Rafael drop location and he can then pick them up very early the following morning, near his house, without having to travel all the way to the dealer.