Customers in Action

Excel Excavating


June 23, 2015

“Bulletproof” Komatsu excavators

Excel Excavating

Charlie and William Galligan are brothers. They both worked for their dad, Tom Galligan, who owned a construction company – Irish Park – until becoming mayor of Jeffersonville, Ind., in 1997. That’s when Charlie and William started their own company, Jeffersonville-based Excel Excavating. They’re co-owners of Excel where Charlie serves as President and William is Vice President. Despite similar backgrounds, Charlie and William are total opposites.

“Personality-wise, we’re night and day,” said Charlie. “I like to take chances and try something new and different in hopes it will make us better. William is much more cautious and conservative and wants to know everything there is to know before making a decision. I like to buy equipment. He hates to buy equipment. In the field, my philosophy is, ‘Let’s hurry up and get it done,’ while he’s more of a perfectionist.”

“We’re different, but we make it work, and in fact, our differences may be a strength,” said William. “Sometimes, he makes me step outside of my comfort zone to try something new. Sometimes, I rein him in and keep us on a steady track. Bottom line, it works for us, and we rarely have a serious argument.”

When Charlie and William started Excel Excavating, it was literally just the two of them with a backhoe and a dump truck putting in sewer and water lines. Today, with about 25 employees, the company specializes in underground utility work and roadbuilding, much of it for municipal/governmental projects.

“I think our strength as a company is that we’re very hands-on in our approach to the business,” said William. “There’s no layer between us and our guys and no layer between us and the owners who hire us. We run jobs. We check jobs. We schedule people. We both operate equipment as needed. If an owner wants to talk, we’re always available and often on the job ourselves.”

“Service is our calling card,” said Charlie. “Anytime of the day or night, when somebody calls, we take care of it. We’re on call with a number of utilities, and when there’s an emergency – a water main break, a sewer collapse – we respond immediately. We take that same ‘service-first attitude’ to our non-emergency work as well.”

Big jobs, key employee

Excel Excavating

Excel Excavating works almost exclusively in southern Indiana and Louisville, Ky., which is just across the Ohio River from Jeffersonville. The company is typically the general contractor on a job and will sub out aspects of the job it doesn’t do itself. “Our preference is to do as much as possible with our own crews, and we’re fairly self-sufficient,” said Charlie. “We do our own clearing and grading, as well as utilities and roads. We also do some concrete work. We sub out curb and gutter and asphalt paving.”

Excel’s first big job was completing infrastructure work at the Quartermaster Depot, a Civil War-era military warehouse, which today encompasses many city blocks in Jeffersonville. It is home to numerous offices, retail establishments and the Jeffersonville City Hall. The company has also had a significant presence at River Ridge Development – a large, multi-jurisdictional business park in Clark County, built on the site of an old Army Ammunition Plant.

“On the private side, we also work closely with Jeffboat, the manufacturing arm of American Commercial Lines,” said Charlie. “Jeffboat builds barges and is the world’s largest inland shipbuilder. We do their piping and earthwork – whatever they want, and whatever they need.”

The brothers rely on a key group of core employees to keep Excel running smoothly. That group includes Estimator/Project Manager Mike Flynn; Estimator Greg Dennis; Foreman Mark Rogers; Mechanic Tim Voelker; and Bookkeeper/ Secretary Annette Guepe, who is Charlie and William’s sister.

“Bulletproof” Komatsu excavators and a D51i

The first hydraulic excavator Excel Excavating owned was a Komatsu PC200LC-6 that the brothers bought used in 1999. It was five years old when they bought it. It’s 21 years old today and still in service.

“Why do we like Komatsu?” asked William. “That machine is why we like Komatsu. It sold us on the brand, and it’s why we’ve stayed with Komatsu excavators through the years.“

Today, Excel has nine Komatsu excavators ranging from a PC78 to a PC400. The company also has two Komatsu dozers, a D39 and a D51PXi-22 intelligent Machine Control (iMC) model. Charlie and his dad, Tom, first saw the Komatsu iMC dozer at CONEXPO a year ago.

“I always like to go to CONEXPO to see what’s new,” said Charlie. “Dad and I saw our Brandeis Sales Rep Barry Bubnar at the Komatsu display, and we talked to him about the Komatsu dozers with the integrated GPS technology. I told him when Brandeis got one in Louisville, we wanted to demo it.

“Frankly, we’re not the most tech-savvy guys,” he added. “I like new things, but I also like machines that are simple and straightforward – something we can work on ourselves – so this was going to be a big step. When Barry brought out a D61i for us to demo, William picked it up fast. I’m not a dozer guy by any stretch, but even I was able to work it and do it faster and better than with a traditional dozer. After a few hours with it, we could see that there could be big advantages for us.”

Those advantages boiled down to being able to do the work faster and with fewer people.

“We ended up getting a D51i rather than the D61i because it’s a size that better fits our jobs,” said William. “We haven’t had it long, but I’d say it’s cut in half the amount of time it takes and the number of people it requires for us to do a road job. In this business where time is money, I think we’re going to find that it more than pays for itself in a fairly short amount of time.”

Key to Excel’s acceptance of the D51i is the support it receives from Brandeis Machinery & Supply.

“Support is always crucial, but it’s especially so for us with the new D51i,” said Charlie. “From the beginning and through the entire process, we’ve needed a lot of help because it’s a very technologically advanced machine. Barry has bent over backwards to get the right people here to set us up and explain what we need to know. Dwight Dunn is like a roving answer man for Brandeis, and he’s been great to work with. It’s obvious Brandeis wants us to get the most out of this dozer, and they’ve been willing to take the necessary steps to ensure we get the help we need.”

“Brandeis’ service has always been top-notch, but honestly, we haven’t had to call them very much,” said William. “We rarely have any problems with our Komatsu machines. Most of our experience is with their excavators, and those are virtually bulletproof. Timmy, our mechanic, may call once in a while, and Brandeis is usually able to help him over the phone.”

A good partnership

Excel Excavating

While Charlie and William are different, they’re both pleased with the growth they’ve experienced with Excel Excavating, and they both hope to continue to grow.

“The economy seems to be picking up,” said William. “It was better last than the year before, and so far, there seems to be more work this year than last.”

“I think we’d like to get a little bigger, maybe expand our service offerings a bit,” said Charlie. “For example, we already do concrete work – sidewalks – so maybe add curb and gutter. The more things we can do ourselves with our own guys is a plus. It gives us more control of the final project – the quality of the work and how quickly we’re able to complete it – so we’ll look at those types of opportunities.”

William says the company today is a far cry from what it was when they started. “In the beginning, we didn’t really have a lot of long term plans or goals as to what we wanted Excel to become. Honestly, we were just happy to get paid. We had a few contacts from when we worked for Dad, but we were day-to-day and job-to-job. Eventually, we began to build a name for ourselves and got established enough that we were able to hire some guys to work with us.”

“We don’t have big egos that need constant stroking,” added Charlie. “We started just the two of us working out of my house. We’re still those same guys. We’re used to working hard and doing whatever we need to do to get the job done for the customer. As long as we continue to maintain that philosophy, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape going forward.”

As for their personality differences, both agree, it’s probably for the best.

“We bounce ideas off each other, but it’s often reluctantly because we know what the other one’s going to say,” said William. “He’s going to say yes, and I’m going to say no, or vice versa.”