Customers in Action

David G. Horsey & Sons, Inc.

FAMILY OVERCOMES TRAGEDY TO BECOME ONE OF DELAWARE’S LEADING SITE DEVELOPMENT CONTRACTORS

October 07, 2015

Komatsu prices and financing make the big difference

David G. Horsey & Sons, Inc.

David G. Horsey was a struggling farmer/ truck driver for much of his life. In the earlyto mid-1980s, it was especially tough to be a farmer. The combination of expensive equipment, a bad economy and high interest rates were devastating to farming operations across the country, including the Horseys’ farm near Laurel, Delaware, which David farmed with his four sons. In the summer of 1985, their situation was dire as foreclosure loomed. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse, they did. Much worse.

“On July 27, 1985, tragedy struck our family,” said Horsey. “My third son, Tim, just 19 years old, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Compounding the loss and the sadness, I knew we didn’t have enough money to bury him. I hoped insurance would cover it, but I wasn’t sure. It was the lowest a man could feel.”

In fact, there was enough insurance to pay for Tim’s burial, with $36,000 left over. It was that money that allowed Horsey to buy a used backhoe, two used dump trucks and a small dirt hauling business. Right from the beginning, the new venture was a success. Within a year and a half, Horsey was able to repay all the bank loans that were weighing so heavily on the farm, and started expanding the hauling business into other construction-related activities. Today, David G. Horsey & Sons, Inc. is one of the leading site development contracting firms in Delaware.

“You look back and there are lots of life lessons,” said Horsey. “Something I’m proud of from that time is we never ran away from our bills. There have been times when we’ve been late, but we always fought through it and worked it out. We did it with our farm debt. We also did it during the latest recession, when our work volume fell by more than 75 percent. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but we did what we had to do to pay our bills.”

Today, Horsey & Sons is one of several family businesses along with Horsey Trucking and Horsey Turf. The company employs about 150 people and has hundreds of millions of dollars of work on the books. Much of that work is for residential subdivisions, a specialty of Horsey & Sons because it can do the earthwork and grading (including roads); wet utilities (sewer, water and storm drain); and concrete (curb, gutter and sidewalks).

“I believe we’re in demand on these large subdivision jobs because we have the people and the resources to complete them on time and on budget,” said Horsey. “We do good work and we get it done quickly. Also, our longtime customers know we’re true to our word. They can count on us to do what we say we’re going to do.”

Family members and valued employees

David G. Horsey & Sons, Inc.

With three generations of Horseys working at the company, Horsey & Sons is a true family business. David remains President, but he admits, at age 77 and with some health issues, he’s mostly retired from day-to-day activities. However, he still does the hiring and purchases the equipment. His wife, Pat, is Secretary/Treasurer and she continues to work every day, handling office duties. Their sons Bobby and Wayne are Directors and they run the company. Wayne’s wife, Sandy, and son DW are both involved with the company. Bobby has two children – son RJ and daughter Kelly – who are already involved, with daughter Heather possibly joining in the near future. David’s son Michael left the business in 2012, but Michael’s daughter Ashley also works for the company.

In addition to family members, Horsey & Sons relies heavily on skilled and valued personnel throughout its workforce. Key individuals include Safety Director Dale Webb, Estimator Bob Cerklefski and longtime employee Mark Phillips.

“You can’t do what we do without top-level field personnel, and I believe we have many of the best construction professionals in the state,” said Horsey. “Our dirt crews, utility crews and concrete crews are all top-of-the-line.”

Komatsu machines from Midlantic

With a significant increase in workload this year, Horsey & Sons looked to boost its equipment fleet. It compared numerous top brands before purchasing 14 machines from Midlantic Machinery and Laurel branch Sales Rep Donnie Dyott. The additions included four Komatsu hydraulic excavators (three PC360LC-10s and a PC170LC-10), six Komatsu wheel loaders (five WA270s and a WA200) and a D61PX-23 dozer – all with Komatsu CARE – along with two Sakai 84-inch dirt rollers and a Gehl RT-250 track skid steer.

“We use our dozers for clearing and grading; our excavators for digging ponds and putting pipe in the ground; and our wheel loaders to feed stone to our pipe crews,” said Horsey. “My philosophy is to keep a relatively new fleet. I think it makes more sense to pay for new, productive, reliable equipment than to try to keep old equipment up and running. But because of the downturn, we had to keep some of our equipment longer than I prefer, which is why we needed so many pieces all at once.

“We’ve been very pleased with the performance we’ve gotten out of our new Komatsu machines,” he added. “Our operators are thrilled with them. My most experienced dozer operator says the D61 is the best machine he’s ever been on. I like the PC360 a lot because it does a lot of work. It’s a good-sized excavator and highly productive.”

Even though he had never owned Komatsu equipment, Horsey says he was confident in making the purchase.

“Komatsu is widely recognized as one of the top names in heavy equipment. When we did our comparisons head-to-head with the other leading brands, the Komatsu prices seemed slightly better, but the big difference was financing. Komatsu Financial was very aggressive and we got a tremendous deal! It means at the end of the term, when the machines are paid for, we’ll have saved more than a half-million dollars in financing costs. That’s real money.”

In addition to the equipment and the financing rates, Horsey says he looks forward to working with Midlantic Machinery.

“If you own equipment, you’re eventually going to need help from your dealer. Donnie and I hit it off right away. He’s a straightshooter who’s done everything he told me he was going to do. I’ve also known Midlantic Senior VP Pat Sherwood since he was a little kid and consider him to be salt-of-the-earth. I’m very confident that Midlantic will be there for us in the years to come.”

Helping people in need

David G. Horsey & Sons, Inc.

While being President of a successful business is gratifying, Horsey says his greatest enjoyment comes from helping people. “I’ve made a lot of money, and it feels really good to be able to use that money to help people in need.”

Horsey gives back in a number of ways. He’s partial owner of a 1,200-acre hunting farm in Dorchester County, Maryland, and invites wounded vets from the Walter Reed Army Hospital to hunt on it. “I feel as though we owe a lot to our wounded warriors, and you can’t believe how their faces light up when they get on the grounds.”

Probably in large part due to his own personal experience, Horsey has often helped individuals with funeral expenses. “I recently wrote a $2,200 check to a lady who had mortgaged her house to pay for a friend’s funeral, and was about to lose her home as a result,” said Horsey. “When I gave her the check, tears started flowing down her cheeks. Helping her meant more to me than if somebody gave me 10,000 acres of farmland.”

His largest philanthropic cause, however, is the Horsey Family Youth Foundation. “We started it on Dec. 31, 2003. So far, all the money we’ve raised has gone for sports-related programs such as Pop Warner Football, Little League Baseball, All Star Cheerleading and wrestling. Eventually, my intention is to start handing out academic scholarships. If it helps just one kid stay straight, my life’s complete.”

Bright future ahead

When he looks to the future, Horsey says he thinks the family businesses are in a good position to succeed for many years to come.

“We’re doing well right now. We have a lot of smart, young people in the company, and our family members all have a farming background and strong work ethic, which are important. I’ve always emphasized two things in business: Treat your customers right, because without them you’ve got nothing; and do what you said you’ll do, even if it costs you money. Presuming future generations continue to do those things, I’m optimistic that all of our companies will continue to be successful for the foreseeable future.”