Cat equipment helps young landscaper do more with less.
Like a lot of teenagers looking to earn summer pocket money, Kent Muir started cutting grass when he was 14.
But it turned out to be more than a passing job for Muir. It was while cutting lawns and trimming bushes for a residential landscaping company in suburban Pittsburgh that Muir saw his future.
The following summer, Muir transitioned from cutting and trimming to landscaping. At the age of 19, he started doing his own landscape design work.
“I worked for a small firm just doing basic trimming and grass cutting for high-end customers, and that gave me the bug,” Muir said while taking a break from a landscape job at an NHL hockey player’s new home outside Pittsburgh. “The firm owner did it part-time, and I wanted to do it full-time.”
Four years ago, at the age of 26, Muir decided to jump all the way in, starting his own business, Good 2 Great Landscape Co. (G2G). He and another employee, Mark Graham, got together in May 2009 and purchased the assets of the company they worked for and started G2G. (Graham has become a silent partner.)
Knowing he needed the right tools to serve an upscale clientele, Muir purchased a Cat® Skid Steer Loader at the outset.
“I’ve had Cat toys since I was a little boy,” Muir said. “Everything we have is Cat equipment.”
Built to last
In its day-to-day operations, G2G utilizes smaller pieces of Cat equipment such as a 236 Skid Steer Loader and a 303.5C CR Mini Hydraulic Excavator to perform big jobs. Operator Matt Collavo says the Cat machines are mighty mites, capable of performing tasks typically done by larger machines.
“In my past job, I ran a lot of different equipment—almost every major brand—and we do jobs with Cat equipment that honestly, I don’t think the other brands could handle,” Collavo says. “It’s pretty impressive to see what they can do. We’ve dug complete foundations with the mini excavator.”
G2G builds a lot of specialty walls with natural stone, and sometimes it requires lifting boulders that weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
“We are lifting them with a multi terrain loader and our mini excavator,” Collavo says, “and we are doing this work in some rough areas, with grade changes and not on a flat surface.”
In a typical week, the machines run 60 to 70 hours. Muir’s crew stays on top of fluid levels and oil changes, and greases the machines on a daily basis.
“We run the machines hard, and they handle it,” Collavo says. “Maintenance-wise, we never seem to have any problems.”
G2G utilizes several Cat attachments in the course of its work, including a landscape rake, which Muir says is indispensible.
“It has saved us countless hours raking yards out and just preparing lawns,” Muir says. “It’s like a power rake that rakes up all the stones and roots and prepares the ground to plant grass seed. And we end up with a great finished product.”
For some of the bigger hardscape installations, G2G rents larger pieces of equipment from the Cat Rental Store.
“We have rented an 825H Sheepsfoot Roller for compacting, and another 303.5E CR Mini Excavator when we are super busy,” Muir says. “Renting has definitely been a major part of our operation, because it provides the flexibility that we need depending on the scope of work we are faced with.” Muir uses Cat Financial for all of his equipment purchases.
“Cat Financial plays a key role in our business,” Muir says. “We look to Cat Financial for our equipment related financing needs, whether it be installment sale contracts or leasing.”
Muir started the business at probably the worst possible time with respect to the direction of the economy. Yet, in the first year, G2G grew from five employees to 12, and in the following year to 22 employees during the peak season. G2G had revenues approaching $2 million last year.
“We haven’t seen any signs of slowing down,” Muir says. “We let our work speak for itself. We typically work for a higher-end clientele, so they are not as sensitive to the ups and downs of the economy. Our philosophy is simple— as long as you’re willing to work smart and not afraid to get dirty, there will always be plenty of work out there.”
G2G gains a lot of work through established contacts with home builders. It also does repeat business with homeowners, and enjoys plenty of word-of-mouth referrals. The company builds strong relationships with its customers, as they do repeat work for them.
“We work with our customers after a job is completed so we can maintain it to ensure that the job looks great for years to come,” Muir says. “We have a really strong client list and rely on that instead of looking for new customers every year.”
G2G is always looking for new trends and technology when it comes to running the business. The company strives to be paper free, as it keeps track of all expenses and hours on hand-held computer tablets. That way, all information is available at any time and can be passed on to the customer, Muir says.
“Our work approach is quite the opposite,” he adds. “We try to create a simple and classic look once jobs are completed so they are still relevant 50 years from now.”
One of G2G’s strengths is not saying no to new things, Muir says.
“We will try anything once, and if it doesn’t work, we move on. We started off doing plants only. Now we are doing lighting, irrigation, border work and brickwork. So, we just try new things and try to be creative with our ideas. This approach and our Cat equipment have worked very well.” OTJ
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT CAT EQUIPMENT
“We like the reliability,” says Kent Muir, owner of Good 2 Great Landscape Co. “Since we are not a huge company, we don’t have a lot of room for machines being down. We pretty much use our machines every single day. So, we needed to make a decision about having reliable machines or something that was cheaper and not as dependable. And based on the performance, it has been well worth the decision we made. Everything we have purchased has been brand new, except for one machine, and we have never had a serious problem.”
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT THEIR CAT DEALER
“Cleveland Brothers is a very integral part of what we do,” Muir says. “Our salesman is very responsive, and we get needed parts the same day or the next day. Our uptime is important to our Cat dealer.”