Business: Green State Excavating
In business since: 2020
Location: St. George, Vermont
Doosan equipment: DX50-5K mini excavator
Doosan dealer: G. Stone Commercial
Having the skills to work with a homeowner directly can be a competitive advantage.
That’s what Mike Hassett found after starting his business, Green State Excavating, located near Burlington, Vermont. Mike says he rarely works for general contractors but instead focuses on working directly with homeowners.
“I have no problem sitting in someone’s kitchen and explaining what we’re going to do, why it costs what it does, what the yard will look like through the process and what it’ll look like at the end,” Mike says.
Before starting Green State Excavating, Mike co-managed the sales department of a local automotive dealership. Years of sales experience have sharpened skills that serve him well today.
“Having a background in sales and customer service has given me a huge edge,” Mike says. “It’s a market that a lot of guys in my industry won’t go after because they don’t want to deal with picky customers.”
Most of Green State Excavating’s jobsites are on existing residential properties. Common tasks include fixing existing grades, repairing driveways and septic lines and doing light demolition.
Mike says that because most homeowners don’t have the same knowledge level as a general contractor, they tend to ask more questions and have more concerns. He thinks those questions can be misinterpreted as distrust by some in his industry.
“It’s really not,” Mike says. “I don’t mind taking phone calls. I don’t mind showing up on an afternoon to explain what’s going on. And it’s really helped to keep customers comfortable.”
For the work he’s doing, Mike says his Doosan® DX50-5K mini excavator with an optional long arm, an angle blade and a hydraulic thumb is the right combination of size and productivity.
“It’s the biggest excavator I can pull with my pickup truck and trailer,” Mike says. “I have another bigger truck, but I don’t want to lose the ability to move the excavator with any of my trucks.”
A recent job installing a water line and a 700-foot electrical run on a homeowner’s property was a good example of why his DX50-5K fits his work, he says.
“With the long-reach arm, you don’t have to reposition the excavator as much,” Mike says. “Then, when you get behind a garage and it’s tight, the 1-inch tail swing helps a lot. It’s great in confined spaces.”
He uses the thumb to move rocks littered throughout the mountain soil. He admits that at first, he thought the angle blade was a gimmick. Now he says he would never buy a machine without one because of the time it saves.
For example, when backfilling a trench, Mike angles the blade and reverses the excavator parallel to the ditch in a straight line. The machine’s angled blade pushes the dirt in like a dozer would, and he can keep moving the mini excavator straight without repositioning.
With a normal, straight backfill blade, he says he would have to position the excavator perpendicular to the trench, push a pile into the trench, and then reposition the excavator to move the next pile.
“The angle blade saves a ton of repositioning,” Mike says.
Mike leases his DX50-5K from G. Stone Commercial in Middlebury, Vermont. When starting his company, he knew he wanted to lease all his machines. He wrote thousands of leases at his former job, and Mike chose G. Stone Commercial in part because Doosan sales specialist Jamie McCray impressed him with his knowledge of lease terms.
“Within an hour, Jamie had the numbers,” Mike says. “He explained the differences in leases. He could answer any question. He’s straightforward.”
Mike says even when another dealer came in with a slightly cheaper quote on an excavator, he chose to work with G. Stone Commercial and sales specialist Jamie McCray because of their customer service.
“G. Stone and Jamie are just so easy to work with,” Mike says.
Mike leases his equipment because he likes the dependability of newer equipment. He also likes having an agreed-upon residual value of his excavator with his dealer.
“A lease gives me a checkpoint after three years,” Mike says. “If, after three years, the construction market is still good and the excavator is worth more [than the residual value in his lease terms], I can buy it. I could even buy it, then sell it and capture that difference. If the construction market tanks and the excavator is worthless [than the residual value], I can walk away.”
A Second Chance
Before working at the automotive dealership, Mike had a construction company that he closed during the
Great Recession. When that happened, he sold some pieces of equipment he owned, while those he leased went back to the dealership. He’s learned from that experience.
“I think I was 23 when I started that other company,” Mike says. “I wanted to be ‘the big show.’ I wanted my name all over dump trucks and pickup trucks and excavators. I’m a hundred times better off financially now than I was then. I just want to keep my business small, manageable and enjoyable.”
He started finding jobs for Green State Excavating by advertising his service on a website called Front Porch Forum. Those past clients now recommend him on the website to other posters seeking excavating contractors. It’s proof that his attention to customer service is paying off.
“It’s rewarding to get on there and see two or three former clients chime right in and say, ‘You need to call Green State Excavating,’” Mike says.
The angle blade saves a ton of repositioning.