Customers in Action

Double P Grading

A GOOD REPUTATION PAVED THE WAY FOR THIS WILLIAMSON, GEORGIA, SITE DEVELOPMENT CONTRACTOR

November 18, 2015

“Komatsu excavators set the industry standard”

Double P Grading

People earn their reputations. Businesses do too. Having a good one, and maintaining it, requires you to do the right thing, even when doing the right thing is going to cost you. It’s not easy, and sometimes the consequences are hard to take. Occasionally, however, you’re rewarded.

For Williamson, Georgia,-based Double P Grading, brothers Brandon and Michael Pierce freely acknowledge it was their dad’s reputation, achieved during a difficult period, that paved the way for their success today.

“Our dad, Steve Pierce, and his brother Eddie started a small grading and pipe company and built it into a nice utility contracting business,” recalled Brandon Pierce, President of Double P. “In 1998, they got cheated out of a lot of money on a job. Rather than declare bankruptcy and leave other people holding the bag, they liquidated the business by selling their office and their equipment in order to pay their bills.”

“The way they handled that was a large factor in how Double P was able to get started,” added Brandon’s brother, Double P Vice President Michael Pierce. “Everybody knew they were owed a lot of money, and it would have been easy for them to file for bankruptcy protection. Instead, they showed some business ethics. It gave Pierce a good name and earned us a lot of respect within the industry.”

As a result, when Brandon and Steve started Double P in 2000 (Michael was still in high school at the time), they were welcomed back into the construction community.

“We started doing small jobs – mostly water lines because we weren’t big enough to do full sites,” said Brandon. “Due to my dad’s reputation, the door was open for us with customers, vendors, business associates and even competitors. We were able to buy manholes, pipes and equipment to get going again. Eventually we got back into subdivisions and commercial jobs, doing entire site packages, just like before.”

Double P has grown considerably since its start. Today, the company employs 40 people and works throughout the Atlanta metro area and beyond. Brandon and Michael, who joined the company full time in 2003, oversee day-to-day management duties. Steve serves as CEO and continues to work every day, mostly operating equipment.

“I’m near retirement age, but I don’t like sitting around,” said Steve. “I love operating and being on the job, but the business side – I’ll leave that to the boys now.”

Quality work by veteran employees

Double P Grading

Most of Double P’s work is private residential and commercial site development. Services include demolition, clearing, grading, grinding, water, sewer, storm drain and some concrete work. The ideal project size is a 30- to 40-acre site in the $1 million to $3 million range.

“That’s a good niche for us, and a lot of subdivisions fall within that range,” said Brandon. “Subdivision work has come back, and we’ve built excellent relationships with some large home builders, such as Ryland Homes and Ashton Woods. Based on our previous experience, we try to only work with reputable firms that we know will pay their bills. We’re proud to be associated with those two outstanding companies.”

“Of course, we have to bid all those jobs, but the nice thing is, there’s a lot of trust on both sides,” said Michael. “We know they are going to do what they say, and they know we’re going to deliver a quality, on-time project, and that we will treat them fairly and honestly.”

Both Brandon and Michael believe if a customer hires Double P one time, they have a good chance of keeping that customer for life.

“Quality work done quickly – that’s what we’re all about,” said Brandon. “We do basically everything on a job except asphalt, which we sub out. We have what we think is the best group of employees in the business. We’ve known most of them for years, and in many cases, grew up with them. They care about our projects almost as much as we do. They’re a large factor in how we’ve been able to get back to where we are now.”

“In addition to having top employees, Brandon and I are hands-on owners,” Michael noted. “We have to be in the office two or three days each week, but the other two or three days, we’re out in the field. We’ll get on a tractor when needed, but mostly we make sure everything is moving forward and the guys have what they need to get the job done. A side benefit is that we’re often on the job when a customer checks out a site. They like to see us there. It’s a chance to assess the job and discuss any potential issues or changes.”

A switch to Komatsu pays off

Double P Grading

Today, Double P’s equipment fleet is primarily Komatsu, but that wasn’t always the case.

“We started out using another leading brand,” said Michael. “One day I was demo’ing a competitive dozer on a job when our TEC Sales Rep, Mack Brice, showed up and said, ‘Let me bring you out a Komatsu dozer to try.’ He brought out a Komatsu D51, and the rest is history. It was better in every way – visibility, responsiveness, balance, and it was quiet. For finish grading, there was no comparison. From that point on, we’ve been almost all Komatsu.”

Today, Double P has six Komatsu excavators (two PC390s, a PC360, a PC228 and two PC45s); two dozers (a D61i and a D51); two WA270 wheel loaders; and two HM400 articulated haul trucks.

“Komatsu excavators set the industry standard in our opinion,” said Brandon. “I love the PC390 because it sits on a PC400 frame but is as fast as a PC330. It will sit there and sling dirt. We use our PC390s to lay sewer and storm drain. We lay water lines with the PC228, which is the fastest excavator I’ve ever been on. It doesn’t have a tail, but it digs like it has one. It has excellent stability and really fast cycle times.”

“We’ve become a company that does a lot of GPS grading because it’s faster and more efficient,” said Michael. “We have traditional Topcon GPS systems on two dozers and our PC360 excavator, and we have the Komatsu D61i intelligent Machine Control (iMC) dozer with integrated GPS. We love the D61i because everything is built in – we don’t have to worry about snagging and breaking any cables or masts. It also discourages thieves. We’ve had GPS equipment stolen from our D51, but with the D61i, thieves don’t even know GPS is there.”

In addition to the equipment itself, Brandon and Michael say the support they get from Tractor & Equipment is far better that what they experienced from other dealers.

“Service-wise, TEC does a great job,” said Brandon. “We even take our competitive machines to them. That’s how good they are. The Komatsu CARE package, where TEC takes care of all the maintenance for three years or 2,000 hours, is a big deal. And they’ve helped us learn to use KOMTRAX as a way to reduce idle time, which saves us a lot of money.”

“I think we’ve bought 10 new Komatsus in the past year, and Komatsu Financial has been great to work with,” added Michael. “The combination of Komatsu and TEC has really benefitted Double P Grading. I also have to give Mack Brice a lot of credit – anything that comes up, we give Mack a call, and we know he’s going to take care of it.”

Growth is possible

In the past few months, Double P Grading has added about a dozen people and could add more if they so choose.

“We’re at 40 employees right now, and we probably have enough work for another pipe crew and another grading crew – about 10 more employees,” said Brandon. “But we only want quality guys who will be productive and will help us make money. If they’re not the right guys, getting bigger would be more trouble than it’s worth.”

“The key for us is to continue to do high-quality work and give customers a great job with great service,” said Michael. “As an example, at one of our first subdivision jobs north of Atlanta, the guy who was hired to do the curb came onto the site and said, ‘Double P Grading – never heard of you guys.’ When he left, he said, ‘I’d never heard of you when I got here, but now I’m going to tell everybody about Double P because, thanks to the site you prepped, that’s the best curb I ever poured.’ Comments like that make us feel good. It’s also the way we get a lot of work – through word of mouth and referral. As long as we keep that high level of customer satisfaction, I think our future will be bright, and we’ll be able to maintain our good name and the good reputation our dad established.”