Customers in Action

L&M Enterprises

THIS BERTHOUD, COLORADO, COMPANY OFFERS A WIDE RANGE OF SITE SERVICES, INCLUDING FLOOD CONTROL WORK

September 03, 2015

Komatsu equipment top-of-the-line

“Have to” can be a powerful motivational tool. It was for Larry Bebo. After a stint in the military in the late 1960s, he returned to Colorado and met a young woman who would become his wife. They had two children, then started adopting, which would eventually lead to them having a total of 30 children. There’s a lot of “have to” involved with 30 children.

“The main driver for me was that I had no choice – I had to go out and make money to provide for a rapidly growing family,” Bebo recalled. “I started mowing lawns in the fall of 1974 and founded L&M Enterprises in 1975. I started it with my brother, and I bought him out within six months. I had a strong work ethic and was willing to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty, so that wasn’t ever going to be a problem. I just wasn’t sure I could make enough money mowing lawns.”

He discovered early on that he was actually a pretty good businessman. His lawn-mowing business was growing and he was making money. He also had some good employees that he wanted to be able to keep, and he knew he would have to find year-round work for them. So he added snow removal to L&M’s list of services, then started doing flood control/ drainage work shortly after.

“Today, we’re a very diverse company,” said one of Larry’s sons, Justus Bebo, who serves as President of L&M Enterprises. “We can do almost anything. I’d call us a site development contractor that focuses on public works. We build and restore parks, trail systems and pedestrian bridges. We do wetland mitigation. We still do mowing/landscaping and a lot of snow removal, but flood control is probably what we’re best known for. That’s especially true after the widespread flooding that occurred in Colorado two years ago.”

“It helps to be a little goofy if you’re going to do flood control work,” added Larry, who remains CEO of L&M, but has phased himself out of most day-to-day operations. “When you bid flood jobs, there’s no way to be sure what you’re getting into, which means there’s a lot of risk – but that sort of fits our personality. We like being challenged and enjoy figuring out how to overcome difficult problems. So maybe we are goofy, but we’re also passionate about what we do, so this work suits us pretty well.”

Today, Berthoud, Colorado,-based L&M employs about 40 people and works across the Front Range, primarily from Castle Rock to Fort Collins. Regular clients include the Regional Transportation District (RTD), which runs the busses and light rail throughout the greater Denver metro area; municipalities throughout the region; and many large, private firms.

Big jobs and valued employees

As examples of the type of flood projects L&M takes on, Larry and Justus point to two jobs.

“In September of 2013, Boulder Creek flooded and caused significant damage to the city of Boulder,” Justus noted. “Boulder is a very environmentally aware city, and officials wanted the creek returned to its natural look without removing any trees. We did bank protection, replaced all the drop structures, and fixed the bike paths and trails. Basically, we put everything back to the way it was before the flood. We’re proud of that project because access was difficult, and because the city has such high standards.”

“Another recent, difficult job was in Longmont,” Larry explained. “An 80-foot shipping container and hundreds of trees had washed down the St. Vrain River during the flood and were wedged under a busy bridge. On top of that, the debris was sitting on a sewer line. We had to remove everything so the river would flow properly again. Even by my standards, it was a sketchy job, but that’s what we’re good at. Justus was confident we could do it, which we did, and the city was thrilled with the work.”

Being able to successfully complete challenging jobs requires a can-do attitude and a can-do team. Key personnel at L&M include Larry’s daughter and Secretary/Treasurer Marissa Bebo; Estimators/Project Managers Dylan Stracker and Larry’s son Jesse Bebo; and top field hands Derek Helme and Ili Melendez.

“On the administrative side, we keep up with technology, and our customer service is the best in the business,” said Justus. “In the field, our employees are efficient; they communicate well with our office, our customers and the general public. Our field crews are also very intelligent about jobs. I call them a bunch of MacGyvers because they just figure out a way to get things done.”

“Most of our employees have been here for more than a decade, several for 25 years or longer,” said Larry. “That experience is important because they know what we do, how we do it and share our work ethic. Titles don’t mean much. Everybody pitches in and does what needs to be done. Everybody’s an operator and everybody’s a laborer. There are no prima donnas here, and that includes Justus and me.”

Having a top-notch team, as L&M does, results in quality projects – done safely and done quickly. “That’s why we have a lot of repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals. In the last couple of years, every single job we’ve done, we’ve received a letter of recommendation from the customer that hired us,” said Justus.

Komatsu and Power Motive: “We trust them”

For its heavy construction and flood control work, L&M has a fleet of Komatsu machines from Power Motive and Sales Rep John Custer. The company has three Komatsu hydraulic excavators (two PC228s and one PC360); four Komatsu wheel loaders (a WA400, two WA320s and a WA250); and a Komatsu D65 dozer.

“The PC228s are great,” said Justus. “With the tight-tail-swing design, we don’t bash in the back end. They’re also very powerful for their size. We do a lot of boulder drops, 4- or 5-ton boulders that we place in the water to regulate stream flow. The PC228s handle those with ease. I love all of our Komatsu pieces. They’re reliable, productive and easy to run.”

Larry agrees that Komatsu equipment is top-of-the-line. He says that, and the service he gets from Power Motive, are what keep him a loyal customer.

“We’ve had an excellent relationship with Power Motive spanning many years. I’ve always been impressed with Power Motive’s service techs. They are sharp, knowledgeable and do a great job for us. I’ve never felt as though we needed to set up a camera to monitor what they’re doing when they come out. They’re well-trained, professional and efficient.

“As for the sales reps and the rest of the Power Motive team, I think the biggest factor is that we trust them,” he added. “The first machine I ever bought was from Gary Klipp, who’s now the Power Motive Sales Manager. I think it cost $30,000, which, at the time, was more than my house was worth. Gary and John have taken good care of us ever since. We’ve been able to work through any issues in a fair and equitable manner, and that’s all I ask for.”

Future growth likely

One reason for L&M Enterprises’ success is that Larry has always been conservative when it comes to spending money. He calls himself “a good squirrel,” meaning his preference is to save first and buy later by paying cash. It’s a lesson Marissa learned well.

“Except for very favorable loans from manufacturers, we don’t owe anything,” said Marissa, who handles finances today. “As a result, we’re a very solid company with a great reputation. I think we’re all very proud of that.”

From being a small lawn-mowing business to a multi-million dollar enterprise, Larry says L&M has far exceeded his original expectations.

“My goal was to put food on the table for my wife and kids; and maybe, if I was lucky, be able to buy a new car every 10 years or so. That would have been a success in my book. To go well beyond that, as we have, was not in my wildest dreams.

“At one time in the 1980s, we were much larger than we are even today, but I didn’t care for that,” he noted. “With as many as 200 people, things got a little crazy. Too much chaos and too much having to feed the beast. In 1992, I decided to scale back. We would do the same stuff, just less of it. A lot of people in business say, ‘You can’t stay the same, you’re either growing or dying,’ but we’ve been able to maintain a steady dollar volume in the $5 million to $8 million range for the last 20 years or so. It’s worked for us.”

While Larry is happy with the current level of business, he’s willing to let the next generation plan the future, and Justus says his goal is to grow the company.

“I would like to see us double our workload and dollar volume over the next 5-10 years. With our reputation, I think that’s very doable. I don’t think there’s anybody we’ve worked for that doesn’t want us back. We always try to go above and beyond to give the client great ‘bang for the buck.’ Most of what we do is considered ‘low bid’ work, but customers have some leeway. As they do more evaluation of what they’re actually getting from a bid, I believe they will often choose to go with us. As long as we maintain our quality, I’m very optimistic about our future.”