SiteMaster, Inc.

AUGUSTA, GA, COMPANY SPECIALIZES IN COMMERCIAL SITE WORK “DONE RIGHT AND DONE FAST”

May 17, 2010

Komatsu durable equipment and responsive dealer

When Kenny Durden and Steve Cole started SiteMaster, Inc. in 2003, they wanted to develop a reputation as the company to turn to in Augusta, Ga., when you need site work done right and done fast. They’ve accomplished that by bringing an urgency to their work, which consists of full-service site development, specializing in small commercial properties.

“Our calling cards are speed and quality,” said Durden. “That’s what we hang our hat on. When you’re having work done, whether it’s a church, an office building or a store, you want it done as soon as possible. When it’s a retail business, time is literally money — the sooner you open, the sooner you can start making money. That’s where we shine. At SiteMaster, we’ll help you get your doors open sooner than anybody else.”

How fast are they? “We had a fast food restaurant that served its last hamburger at 10 p.m., and we started tearing the building down at 7 o’clock the next morning,” recalled Cole. “In 75 days, they were selling hamburgers out of a brand-new building on a totally rebuilt site with new parking, new storm drain, new everything. We’ve done that several times with several different businesses. Our reputation is that we’re a ‘can-do’ company. When a job has to be done right and done fast, our customers know they can count on SiteMaster.”

Because of that ability to meet and beat tight schedules, SiteMaster has grown rapidly since opening its doors just seven years ago. From what Cole calls “humble beginnings,” SiteMaster has grown into a company that does millions of dollars worth of work each year and employs about three dozen people. “We started out with just Kenny and me. We had one or two guys helping us out when we needed a crew, but we were a pretty bare-bones operation. Kenny warned me that we would probably grow faster than I could imagine — and he was right.”

Retirement didn’t work

If Durden had any hobbies, there probably wouldn’t be a SiteMaster, Inc. today. He retired in 2002 after having sold a highly successful company that he started and ran.

“I was only 43 years old and after about a year of retirement, I was bored stiff,” Durden remembered. “Working was what I had always done and was what I enjoyed doing. When Steve and I started talking about this, I got excited about the possibilities. It sounded like a lot of work, but that sounded like fun, and despite the challenges posed by the economy, it has been.”

The history and individual reputations of both Durden and Cole contributed largely to the rapid early growth of SiteMaster.

“Kenny and I both had long histories in the Augusta construction community,” explained Cole. “Together, we knew many people in the industry and, more important, they knew us. They knew what we had done in the past and were willing to give us a chance to prove that we could do the same thing with SiteMaster.”

“With our backgrounds, I suspected we would be in demand once people knew we were in business,” added Durden. “Both Steve and I have always had the attitude that if you treat customers right — give them what they want at a fair price and do the job quickly — they’ll appreciate it and give you good referrals and repeat work. That’s exactly what has happened.”

In-house expertise

One reason SiteMaster is able to produce the way it does is because it handles all aspects of a job in-house with its own personnel so it can better control job schedules. The company does its own earthwork, including clearing and grading; demolition; pipe work; curb and gutter concrete; and asphalt paving.

In addition to co-owners Durden and Cole (Durden oversees field operations and Cole does most of the estimating and contracts), key people at SiteMaster include Engineer Butch Wilkie and Office Manager Shannon Sherman.

“We also count on outstanding field help,” acknowledged Durden. “We have many crews, each with a superintendent, most of whom have been with us for quite some time. Our guys are all multifaceted. We require them to operate multiple machines, from an excavator to a paver. Since we do all aspects of a job, we want everybody to be able to do everything. That sets us apart from many of our competitors and allows us to be more productive.”

“Another big plus for us is our staff engineer, Butch Wilkie,” added Cole. “Many of our competitors don’t have in-house engineering capabilities. With Butch on board, we’re able to hit the ground running on our jobs and we don’t miss a beat if a change has to be made. He follows each job from beginning to end, which really improves our quality control.”

Going green

In addition to the fast-track retail and office properties SiteMaster is known for, the company also recently did its first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project. LEED is a certification program and nationally accepted benchmark for “green” construction. SiteMaster’s LEED job involved renovating an old textile mill property on the Augusta Canal to convert it into condos, offices and retail space.

“In doing the project, we learned a lot about LEED construction, which we believe will be very beneficial to our clients in the years to come,” said Cole. “In the future, we expect almost every project will have some type of environmental aspect to it. Because of our work at the Augusta Canal textile mill, we’re going to be able to help developers and owners meet LEED certification on their projects.”

Durable equipment/ responsive dealer

To help it complete the fast-track site work it’s known for, SiteMaster turns primarily to Tractor & Equipment Company for paving equipment and Komatsu earthmoving machinery.

“We have three Komatsu excavators (two PC200s and a PC120), two Komatsu WA250 wheel loaders and two Komatsu D39 dozers,” said Durden. “We love the reliability and durability of Komatsu equipment. We treat our equipment as an asset because we want to get something out of it when we’re ready to sell a piece or trade it in. Komatsu quality allows us to get good trade-in and resale value.

“The other reason we own Komatsu machines is because of Tractor & Equipment Company,” he added. “Our TEC salesman John McMahon is excellent. Anything that comes up, he handles it right away. If we’re ever at an impasse over anything, TEC works hard to resolve it to everybody’s satisfaction. We also really like their parts and service departments in Augusta. The parts department can find parts for any machine at great values. The service department responds quickly, does excellent work and charges a fair price.”

“John and TEC treat us the way we try to treat our customers,” observed Cole. “We want to provide value for them and be responsive to their needs so they keep coming back to us. It’s like a partnership and that’s TEC’s philosophy too. We believe they’re looking out for our best interest as well as theirs, and I can’t say that about all their competitors.”

Pay-it-forward

Although SiteMaster has remained relatively busy, like all construction companies, it has felt the impact of the recession. Its backlog of jobs is about half of what it was a year or two ago. Because of that, it’s looking to begin bidding public work in addition to the private site work it has always done. “We’re certainly not growing right now,” reported Cole. “Our goal is to just maintain until we see an upturn. I’m optimistic that we’ll begin to see some improvement in the spring.”

In the meantime, SiteMaster will try to influence the future by helping others.

“We do a lot of community work for free — we always have,” said Durden. “We also donate money to a number of charities. We do it in good times and bad. In good times, it’s because we’re thankful for what we have. In tough times, we’re trying to change the karma.”

“We believe that what goes around, comes around, so we try to live our lives and run our company in a ‘pay-it-forward’ mode,” added Cole. “We strive to be good corporate citizens so we’re always able to hold our heads high in the community.”

“As long as we’re able to do that, and as long as we continue to do the job for our customers so they keep calling on us when they have work to do, I think both Steve and I will consider SiteMaster to be a huge success,” said Durden.