“Our operators really like the responsiveness of the hydraulics and the speed of the Komatsu excavators’’”
In 2010, Hein Manh Tran (HT), Alan Guy and Richard Leider teamed up to found Anvil Builders Inc. Instead of an office, they rented a hotel room to work from and began knocking on doors and bidding governmental projects to find work.
“We were determined,” said Guy, President of Anvil. “It was just three of us for several months. We didn’t have equipment, so we subbed out a lot of work. Our first job was a hard-bid, public-works project that involved energy-efficiency upgrades for low-income housing. Other companies saw our drive, how we went about our business and they talked to us about working with them.”
That propelled Anvil Builders toward a diverse mix of governmental and private undertakings. Today, 60 to 70 percent of the San Francisco-based contractor’s work is in the public sector. Tran is the company’s Chairman Emeritus, and Leider is the Director of Business Development. Anvil covers the entire Bay Area as well as a 100-mile radius of it. The company generally has about 15 jobs going at any one time. It completed several site cleanups following the 2017 wildfires in Northern California.
“We consider ourselves a general engineering firm with a specialty in utility work,” explained Guy. “During the past few years there have been quite a number of water and sewage-treatment plant projects, including new construction and rehabilitation. On those, we install all types of mechanical piping and associated items such as setting pumps and clarifiers. In addition, we do a lot of large municipal underground storm, water, sewer and electrical jobs. We self-perform nearly 90 percent of everything, including concrete and asphalt paving, structure building and installation as well as any necessary demolition.”
Focus on hiring veterans
During the past eight years, Anvil Builders has grown to a staff of more than 200 people. It runs multiple concrete, utility and emergency crews. Many of its employees are former military members, fulfilling the founders’ goal for hiring veterans.
Ten years ago, Tran suffered life-threatening injuries from an improvised explosive device while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. He spent 15 months recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and during that time, he decided that helping veterans find good jobs after their service would be his mission.
“HT was a member of Anvil Company in the Army, and that’s where our name comes from,” said Guy. “We embrace military values. From our perspective, that means we always complete our mission. Anvil goes into all jobs with a mindset that we will finish them on time and on budget. We won’t leave until they are right and meet our customers’ expectations.”
Productive Komatsu excavators
Approximately five years ago, Anvil Builders began buying new or low-hour, used Komatsu excavators from Road Machinery LLC. The company currently owns tight-tail-swing models from PC88s to PC238s. It also runs a PC360LC-10.
“With no large counterweight, the tight-tail-swings are great for working in urban environments where space is limited,” said General Superintendent Cody Gunning. “For their size, they are very productive. Our operators really like the responsiveness of the hydraulics and the speed of the Komatsu excavators. Those are big factors in why we buy, rent and continue to use Komatsu.”
Another is Road Machinery’s service. Its technicians perform complimentary scheduled maintenance on Tier 4 machines under the Komatsu CARE program for the first three years or 2,000 hours. “That’s a real added value,” stated Guy. “They contact us and come out at our convenience in order to limit downtime. It fits right in with the great service that Road Machinery has always provided. Any time we need something, they respond quickly, from equipment sales or rentals to parts and service. We have built a very solid relationship.”
Anvil Builders is working in one of the country’s busiest construction markets, according to Guy. While he and the firm’s other leaders have considered additional avenues to pursue, they are cautious about expansion.
“We’re open, but selective,” Guy emphasized. “Growth for growth’s sake is not for us. We want to control it, so that we can maintain the high level of service we are known for.”