Customers in Action

Sikes Brothers

FOR THIS SITE AND PAVING FIRM, A GOOD REPUTATION IS WORTH MORE THAN MONEY

February 08, 2016

“I still demo other brands, but Komatsu always wins.”

Sikes Brothers

“No matter how bad it hurts, always do what’s right.” For Sikes Brothers Inc., a Metter, Georgia, site and paving contractor, those are words to live by – and a key aspect of the company’s philosophy. It’s a quote from Ricky Sikes, one of the brothers in the company name, who passed away a few years ago.

“We believe in giving more than we take,” said David Sikes, Ricky’s son, who is now Co-owner and President of Sikes Brothers. “In our business, ‘always do what’s right’ means be fair, honest and always true to your word. If we don’t do something right the first time, we redo it. That hurts, and sometimes it costs us a lot of money. But we believe it pays off in the end with a spotless reputation, repeat customers and excellent referrals.”

As an example, David points to a recent call he got from the owners of a prospective hotel who were looking to build in Dublin, Georgia.

“I didn’t know them at all. They had seen us on a job, asked around about us and requested a meeting. They said, ‘You carry a great reputation, and we want to work with you.’ That means everything to us. Our name is more important to us than money. I think our philosophy is ingrained in us, but we also put it on the back of our business cards to serve as a constant reminder.”

Sikes Brothers was formed in 1993, when Ricky joined up with his brother, Larry Sikes, who had started a small, driveway paving company four years earlier.

“Ricky’s specialty was management,” Larry recalled. “He had worked in the nuclear power industry for years and oversaw many large projects and thousands of employees. When he first joined me, it was on a part-time basis while he continued with his other job. In 1999, he came onboard full time. He was the office guy, and I was the field guy.”

Larry has passed down his ownership shares to his son, Jeffery, and the two lead the field/ operations side of the business. David calls Larry, “The James Brown of the paving industry – the hardest working man in it.” Larry’s title is Senior Vice President. Jeffery, who started with the company in 2001, is Co-owner and Vice President. David joined after finishing college in 2003. He does more of the inside work – estimating and management – but says he enjoys getting his hands dirty when he gets the opportunity.

“Both David and I have worked here since we were probably 14 years old,” said Jeffery. “I have a brother, Michael, who also works here as a roller operator. Over the years, we have expanded from being a small driveway paving company into a well-rounded site contracting firm that does earthwork and grading, in addition to asphalt paving.”

“We primarily do commercial sites, such as apartment complexes and large retail stores, within about 100-mile radius of Metter, which includes Savannah and Macon,” said David. “We also do some DOT and municipal street work, like deceleration lanes and intersection upgrades. Most of our jobs are a combination of earthwork and paving, but if a customer just wants one or the other, we’ll do that too. We also have a pit, so we can supply our own aggregate material for most jobs.”

Employees are like family

Sikes Brothers

Sikes Brothers grew consistently from the time Ricky joined Larry, right up until the Great Recession.

“Like everybody, our workload dwindled, and gross revenue dropped by about 40 percent from 2007 to 2010. Fortunately we had enough paving work to keep us going,” said David. “We got down to about 25 people on the payroll, due to attrition, but we’re very proud of the fact that we didn’t layoff anybody. It would have been easy to do, but we care deeply about our employees, and that would have been an absolute last resort. Since 2011, we’ve grown steadily. We’re now back to 40 employees, and 2015 will be the largest gross-revenue year in our history.”

Larry, David and Jeffery all credit their employees for much of the success Sikes Brothers has experienced. They singled out Project Manager/Estimator John Wickstrom for his efforts.

“John came on with us straight out of high school and worked here in an internship-type capacity while attending Georgia Southern, where he earned a degree in construction management,” said Larry. “He’s like part of the family and is everything we look for in an employee.”

“We’re an extremely close-knit company,” said David. “We know all our employees by name. We also know their families. We care about them, and they care about us. It’s important to us that they also care about one another, and they do. Our current average employee has been here 10-plus years. When we hire somebody, we like to think we’re hiring them for life.”

“Since we are planning for our employees to stay with us, we’re very selective about who we hire,” added Jeffery. “There has been a time or two when we’ve hired somebody, and after a few weeks, other employees will come to us and say, ‘He doesn’t really fit in with what we are.’ We all want to be around people who share our values and our work ethic, and that’s the team we have.”

Wirtgen, Komatsu and TEC

Sikes Brothers considers Tractor & Equipment Company to be part of its team as well. The company owns numerous Komatsu and Wirtgen Group products from TEC. The Komatsu fleet includes two PC220 excavators, two PC210 excavators, a D51PX dozer and a WA270 wheel loader. Sikes’ Wirtgen Group machines are a Vögele 5102 (8-foot) paver, two Hamm rollers (HD 12 and HD 14 combination drum and wheels) and the most recent purchase, a Wirtgen W 120 mill.

“The mill was something my dad wanted us to get back in 2007,” David recalled. “When the recession hit, we backed off. Recently, we booked three projects with a milling aspect to them, so we decided it was time to do it. We’ve had it on some jobs already and have been very pleased with it.”

“We also love the Vögele paver and Hamm rollers,” added Jeffery. “With the paver, everything you need is on the computer screen and right at your fingertips. It’s great in tight spaces, and most importantly, it lays a beautiful mat. As for the Hamm rollers, they’re awesome. We can get the same compaction numbers with the HD 12 as we can with a competitive roller that’s twice the size.”

“We’re big fans of the Komatsu products, too,” said Larry. “The excavators have a well-deserved reputation for excellence, and we love our D51 dozer. It’s unbelievable how good the visibility is to the blade. We have an aftermarket Topcon GPS system on it, and we’re looking closely at acquiring one of the new Komatsu intelligent Machine Control dozers with integrated GPS. We believe it would be the same great dozer as our D51, but with newer GPS technology and no masts or cables.”

As much as they like the machines, David says Sikes Brothers’ relationship with Tractor & Equipment is the most important factor in the company’s equipment-buying decisions.

“We have great friends throughout the organization, from our Sales Rep and Savannah Branch Manager Frank Dabbs to President Dan Stracener. All across Georgia and Alabama, we know the people at TEC. We trust them and we enjoy their company. They care about us the same way we care about our customers. They want us to be successful, and they’ve proven that to us many times in many ways.

“Here’s how much we think of TEC,” he added. “We have our Sikes Brothers logo on our machines. Tractor & Equipment also has its logo on the units. Our plan is to put the words ‘partners with’ between the two logos so it would read: ‘Sikes Brothers partners with Tractor & Equipment Company.’ I want people to ask me, ‘What’s going on? Did they buy you out or something?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, they just treat us as though we’re partners.’ It’ll be an opportunity for me to share with others what a real dealership is like. TEC is a match-made-in-heaven for Sikes Brothers Inc.”

“Blessed and optimistic”

Looking to the future, David says the family will have a decision to make regarding expansion.

“I think there’s going to be an opportunity for us to grow. I’m confident the economy in this area is going to be very strong for at least the next three or four years. The question is, how much bigger do we want to be? We plan to maintain the personal touch. We know our customers like to see us face-to-face on our jobs, and that’s a special thing. At our present size, we can do that, and it’s something we don’t want to lose.”

“That said, there are things happening in Savannah, like the deepening of the port, that are going to be worth a lot of business,” said Jeffery. “We’ll have to talk it over, but I think we may have to grow to meet the needs of our customers.”

“It will be up to Jeffery and David to make that decision,” said Larry. “This company has far exceeded any expectations I had when I started it. I just wanted to be able to make a living. God has been very good to us and enabled us to do these things. We all feel as though we’ve been blessed and are optimistic about what the future holds for us.”