On the second installment of me talking about my background and experiences in the Dirt World (you all enjoyed the first one more than I thought you would), I pick up back on the railroad.
I explain how Skanska nearly fired me for accidentally ripping out an important railroad signal line, how I got a job with Kiewit, how I got a tour of the largest tunneling project on earth, and why I began posting dirt photos on Instagram.
As I'm typing this out, there's more than I thought there was in the episode. Part three about my time working in Texas is coming soon. Enjoy!
Since I'm a terrible planner, I forgot to schedule someone interesting for this week's episode. Instead, and to your likely disappointment, I opened up the microphone and talked about how I started in construction.
I talk about the early years before construction entered my life, how I learned to work hard, how I got my first construction job with no experience, and a few other summer construction adventures leading up to my junior year of college.
Whether you're someone looking to learn more about me or looking for a shot in the construction industry, this podcast episode is for you.
*If you don't like swearing, then this ain't the episode for you!*
In this week's episode, I sit down with Taylor White, who runs the day to day at Ken White Construction in Ottowa, Canada.
I first saw Taylor's videos and photos on Instagram and Youtube. I was immediately curious since he does a damn good job bringing people along on the day to day of a growing family business.
Even though he didn't start the business, he's hell-bent on transforming his father's business before him built into a large construction company doing anything from trucking to site development to materials.
I love talking to him because he is who he is. While only 25, he has a damn good grip on who he is and how to tell his story.
We cover all sorts of topics, from transitioning the business to fitness and mental health.
Follow Taylor and Ken White Construction at @kwc2000 on Instagram or by searching "Ken White Construction" on YouTube!
Initially beginning his career as a site development contractor, Isaac Barlow started to see issues with how his business and other construction businesses tracked time and costs associated with each project. With little to no data, no one could accurately manage and estimate work.
Once he realized he could potentially create a solution for his company, but many other construction companies, he set out to research why construction companies fail. The number one reason? Not lack of skillset. It was entirely due to a lack of information.
What followed is what's now been over a decade long mission to develop a software to help contractors go into battle daily armed with the information to operate their businesses effectively.
Busybusy's story is such a cool one, and Isaac explains the whole process of how they developed the software, what the early problems with it were, and how they've rolled it out to thousands of contractors around the world on this podcast.
If you're a contractor looking for a better way to track time or to learn more about busybusy, check out https://busybusy.com/!
"Listen, we don't expect you to know all this stuff. Ask -- there are people with much more experience here who are here to support you. But the minute you say, 'I got this, and I know this,' you own that. And if you can't do that, then that's a problem. We want you to ask for help and give you whatever support we can, but if you try to be too confident and it doesn't work, then there's a different conversation that has to be had."
From a young age, Ford Berg and his siblings napped in the family camper as their parents tirelessly worked together to grow their logging business. Home-school, hard work, and family-time were blended day in and day out, forging a deep understanding in Ford about what it takes to get the job done right and on time.
While at Temple University, Ford followed in his parents' footsteps and launched his first business, performing environmental tests in residential developments between classes with his younger brother Luke. During the winters, when construction would slow, he began chasing snow removal jobs to keep a steady cash-flow.
As the business quickly grew, Ford ended up leaving college just three classes short of graduation to focus on building Berg into what it is today. Sixteen years later, Berg Construction handles heavy civil construction, municipal utility work, commercial and residential site development, road construction and asphalt paving, as well as landfill construction projects. And wouldn't you know, the entire family – including Ford's parents – all work for the company.
The Berg model is simple — find incredibly talented people with prior business ownership experience and let them run with their divisions. Berg Construction supports four different divisions, with talented leadership teams and a field of committed people.
Learn more about Ford and Berg Construction by visiting bergconst.com!
Dan and I break down BuildWitt and explain what our business does, why our mission is so important, and how we make decisions in this episode. Since we get so many questions as to what BuildWitt is, we thought we'd take a bit of time and break it all down the best we can.
To learn more about BuildWitt, check out buildwitt.com!
MILBURN Demolition began in early 2014 as a one-person show -- a guy who thought demolition didn't have to be unsafe, dirty, or old-school.
James Milburn stumbled into demolition while going to school at Purdue for Construction Management. After attending demolition conferences, he fell in love with the world of demolishing stuff and decided it was the career path for him. He quickly went to work for a few demolition companies after school and began to learn how the industry operated.
What he learned was that the world of demolition is an aging dinosaur. It's not always safe, there is no sense of service to customers or employees, and there is no urgency to try new ways of doing business. James had a choice -- either stay at existing companies with limited upward mobility and potential or pave his path by starting a modern demolition company. Despite the financial risk and his young family, he chose the latter largely thanks to his wife Jess's confidence and support in the vision.
Thanks to his retirement savings and a loan from his parents to make payroll, he began the business in 2014. He was a breath of fresh air for massive development companies looking for a better demolition solution, and MILBURN quickly began to win much more work than James could handle. The rest is history...
Check out MILBURN Demolition at milburn.com and follow James on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesmilburn/
In this episode, I interview Quinton Galbraith, the man behind @caterpillarwrenching on Instagram and a technician at Peterson Cat.
From the moment you meet this guy, it's obvious that he loves wrenching on big iron, and he has absolutely no fear of getting his hands dirty.
Unlike many technicians, Quinton didn't have any mechanical background before joining Peterson. While he was young, he worked odd jobs from moving to construction. He found the world of Caterpillar equipment through a relative and kept applying until he got a job at Peterson.
He started by sweeping floors, then helped in the tool room, and today he does anything from minor repairs to full rebuilds on all sorts of sweet equipment. Nothing is below him, and he's hugely passionate about inspiring others to pursue a career as a technician.
He's proof that you don't need experience to be successful as a technician. He's got there through hard work, an open mind, and a ridiculous hunger for learning.
Check him and other technicians out on Instagram @caterpillarwrenching or @heavywrenching and check out his new online store to buy stickers at https://caterpillarwrenching.store/!
At the bottom of the recession, Alan Guy, along with two other partners, Richard Leider and HT Tran, started a construction company called Anvil Builders. The three of them began to bidding work in a cramped hotel room in downtown San Francisco and took whatever they could to make a dollar.
Less than a decade later, Anvil was leading disaster cleanups after wildfires swept through Santa Rosa, Malibu, and Paradise.
"I'm employee number 35 at Anvil, which means that there were 34 people at this company that we hired before we even dreamt of getting a paycheck. That was three years before we ever paid ourselves a dime. It was a tough time, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Tom Squeri is the CEO of Graniterock, a 120-year old materials and construction business based out of Watsonville, California. Even with nearly 1,000 people among their ranks, they're still a humble, family-owned business with a caring and local feel.
In 2012, when Graniterock's then CEO Bruce Woolpert tragically passed away, Tom abruptly found himself in Graniterock's lead role from his position of general counsel. While Graniterock's board acknowledged that they had their business units led by talented individuals, they needed someone to continue molding and leading Graniterock's culture.
To me, the most shocking aspect of Graniterock is their incredible sense of humility despite over a century of success shaping the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. It's always a good day whenever I'm with Graniterock thanks to their culture, people, and of course, their D11's.
Tom and I talk all about training, recruiting, building culture, maintaining humility, and hopefully, everyone who listens can learn as much as I did.
Learn more about Graniterock on LinkedIn or @graniterock22 on Instagram!
Jason Miller is the President of Midwest Mole, an Indiana-based tunneling contractor.
Jason started with Midwest Mole in his teens since his dad was a foreman there at the time. After giving college a shot for a semester, he decided it wasn't for him, so he dove headfirst into tunneling as a career.
Starting as a laborer, he worked his way through the ranks to the top as an owner while maintaining an extreme sense of humility. He hasn't forgotten where he started, and he leads the company with that field-first mentality to this day.
We talk about the intricacies of tunneling, what his thoughts are on the next generation, and why their line of work is only for a specific type of person. Digging a cramped tunnel by hand deep underground isn't for everyone, which is why the Moles at Midwest Mole are so proud of what they do.
Learn more about Midwest Mole at midwestmole.com and follow Jason on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonmiller8/
Garrett Moss is the President of Moss Utilities, a utility contractor in the DFW area that he began three years ago in his early 30's. Even though he's the fifth generation, he's built his own business from the ground up after his father's business closed during the recession in 2008.
The growth of Moss Utilities has been wild over the past few years as they went from nothing to hundreds of employees seemingly overnight. While Moss's "success" looks fantastic from the outside, it's come with struggles that Garrett and the business have had overcome.
Garrett and I talk about what cash flow struggles he's faced, why it pays to treat his people exceptionally well, why customer service matters in the utility world, and how he's kept his mind straight during tough times.
You can follow along with Moss at @mossutilities on Instagram and connect with Garrett on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/garrettmoss/
BuildWitt VP Dan Briscoe and I talk about how we met, why he joined BuildWitt, and how it’s worked out so far.
Dan’s been with me since day one and has had an enormous impact on our business. That said, he’s typically behind the scenes, so everyone online thinks all this BuildWitt stuff is just me. If it was just me, it would be a disaster.
The nice thing about the podcast is that we have a new avenue to show everyone how we make the sausage at BuildWitt. Stay tuned for more episodes from Dan and me talking about how we’ve structured our company, how we do sales and marketing, and all the screw ups we’ve made so far.
To follow along with Dan, connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dfbriscoe/
The world's in a crazy place, and business owners are scrambling to ensure the future of their companies. With so much uncertainty, I thought I'd interview someone who's lead a successful business through many troubled times. While I don't know what to do, Herb Sargent, President of Sargent Corp, might have a better idea.
First, we briefly touch on his response to the crisis and what new policies Sargent Corp has enacted over the past few weeks to keep their people safe while continuing to work.
Next, rather than COVID itself, we focused a majority of our conversation on preparing a business for a downturn. There's no doubt that there are troubling economic times here and on the horizon, and I wanted to dig into what Herb's doing to prepare.
There's tons of incredible information in this interview for both business owners and anyone in society. It's an excellent glimpse behind the scenes of what leaders are facing, and I left the conversation feeling inspired. Hopefully, you do too!
While the podcast is titled Dirt Talk, we barely touched on dirt in this episode and instead discussed life, religion, marriage, painful lessons, and leadership.
Many people know Mikel Bowman as an extremely upbeat and inspirational mining industry leader, but it took a lot of pain and work to get to where he is today. We dive into his past only a few minutes in to talk about his mistakes early on, how he met his wife, and how he eventually found his way into Bible college.
From there, he went on to become a counselor, and after a number of difficulties both personally and professionally, he knew he needed a major change. That's when he found the mining industry, which is where he's been ever since. He started by doing anything and everything he could, worked his way up to a driller, and today he's Turner Mining Group's, Chief Culture Guru.
"Yes, there was the motivation of wanting to be home with my wife and kids. Two, the stress of what had previously happened over the past seven years had deteriorated our marriage, and I knew and felt in my heart that I was going to lose my wife. And she was literally my best friend. I think on my deathbed, that would've been my biggest, most glaring mistake. That if I lost her, I lost everything.
My drive is to want to do better and make me better. I don't get up in the morning and think, 'gee, my boss isn't looking at me this way, or I'll never progress because of my race or religion.' I think about, 'how do I punch yesterday's Mike Bowman in the gut and defeat him? How do I do better every day? How do I beat my own records?' Because I'm not competing against anyone but me."
Learn more about Mikel and follow along with him at @mikelbowman243 on Instagram and @Mikel Bowman on LinkedIn!
Odds are you've heard of Keaton Turner if you're on social media in the dirt world. He's made a whole lot of noise online when it comes to recruiting the next generation and has used it to his advantage to build a nationwide mining company.
While most everyone's heard Keaton's philosophy on hiring and seen Turner Mining's culture online, most don't understand what it takes to build such a large business in only a few short years.
Keaton and I dive into the struggles of starting a business, how he's financing his growth, why he rents most his iron, some of the mistakes he's made, and the growing pains involved. We cover a lot of ground, and Keaton responds to every question in a sincere manner.
Follow Keaton on Instagram @keatonsturner or LinkedIn!
Due to much good fortune, I had the chance to speak with Dave at this year's Conexpo on the differences between our generations. Since not everyone who'd like to hear our talk could be there, we made it a podcast!
Dave and I talk about our frustrations with our generations and each other's, how Dave is training and hiring, and we get into Dave's new show, Dave Turin's Lost Mine.
Despite Dave being over twice my age and me lacking a majority of his real-world experience, we're both on the same page when it comes to inspiring and recruiting the next generation of miners and blue-collar workers. It's time to put our egos and insecurities aside and begin to invest in the future before it's too late.
Since I spend high school and college watching Dave on TV, I'm pretty damn excited about this one. Hopefully, you enjoy it too!
Herb R. Sargent, President and CEO of Maine-based Sargent Corp, has an incredibly unique story because he's third-generation construction while also being a first-generation business owner.
In 1926, Herb Sargent's grandfather started a heavy construction business called H. E Sargent with a dump truck and steam shovel. The company expanded and changed over the decades as Herb's dad and Herb himself joined the family business to build airports, interstates, and dams.
In 1988, a large French company purchased H. E Sargent. After a few years of working for the changing business, Herb R. Sargent thought he could start his own business. So he did.
He not only started a new business, called Sargent and Sargent, but grew it so fast that in 2005, they purchased H. E Sargent back from the French when the company was over four times the size of his own. The best part about this was that his grandfather was alive to see the company back in the Sargent family.
The two companies merged to become what's now Sargent Corporation -- a heavy civil construction company with over 400 people and work in seven states across the Northeast.
Sargent represents the other group of companies BuildWitt's proud to serve, beyond younger companies with younger owners. Those who have decades of experience and decorated history but also understand that they need to do business differently if they are to succeed in the future.
Herb's experience, combined with his young mindset, makes him an extraordinary leader who's built an exceptional business. Sargent Corp is not only now employee-owned, but they have their academy in which they recruit, train, and pay kids fresh out of high school to give a career in construction a shot.
Find out more about Herb and Sargent Corp at https://sargent-corp.com/, or you can follow him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/herb-r-sargent-29a791152/.
Most everyone in the heavy equipment world has dealt with a Caterpillar dealer at one point or another, but most don't understand how much goes on behind the scenes to support every machine. There's an enormous effort that goes into selling, maintaining, renting, financing, and everything else machines require.
Craig Kahoun is the Executive Vice President of Carter Machinery, a world-class equipment dealer based out of Virginia with over 90 years of history. You'd think that many years of hitting home runs would create an air of arrogance, but it's the complete opposite with Carter.
Despite their dominance (they have over 750 technicians and recently acquired Alban Caterpillar), they're always on the lookout for better ways to serve their customers and their people. Instead of complaining about technology and the lack of trained people in the workforce, they're transforming and investing in their business to do things differently and create the future workforce they know they need.
Craig and I dive into technician training, how much they do for their customers, and how they're digitally transforming their entire business. It's awesome to hear about and is so much more than selling tractors!
You can connect with Craig at https://www.linkedin.com/in/craig-kahoun-b600aa5a/ and learn more about Carter at https://cartermachinery.com/.
This episode follows my first interview with Missy Scherber, where we discussed what she does daily and what it's like to be a woman in construction. While I thought the conversation went great at first, she was frustrated about having to defend herself for being a business owner. Initially, we thought it was best to delete it and start over.
I set aside my excitement for releasing the episode, and we dove into why she was bothered by the original interview. After talking through the unintentional biases and other frustrations, we decided to leave the episode as is and record a follow-up episode talking it all through in an incredibly authentic manner.
I'm even more excited about this interview than I was the first, and I think it's a conversation that everyone in construction needs to hear. We talk about what being a woman in construction is like, the judgment and biases that exist, and what men and women can do to create a better environment for everyone.