Komatsu equipment - superior to the other brands
Joe Horner got his start in construction as a truck driver in 2000. Roughly a year later, he became an equipment operator. “I didn’t have any experience, but at the time, operators were in demand,” he recalled. “I was definitely willing to learn and work hard, and I could see a lot of opportunity for advancement.”
For Horner and his wife, Melissa, advancement meant starting their own company, H&H Earthworks, in their hometown of Belgrade, Montana, a couple of years later in 2003. Today, H&H is a full-service, commercial site-development contracting firm that does a wide range of projects including schools, shopping centers, hospitals and residential subdivisions.
“Our specialty is turnkey site packages,” said Horner. “We self-perform earthwork, underground utilities and material hauling. We use top subs for the asphalt and concrete work. We also often work as a sub ourselves. When we do that, we have one primary goal: make the people who hired us – the general contractor, architect or engineer – look good. We give them a site that is neat and professional throughout the job, as well as a quality, finished project completed on time and on budget.
“To do that takes buy-in from our people,” he added. “I have more than 30 employees today, and some of them have been here for almost a decade, back to when I first started hiring. They’re experienced, talented, and they share my work ethic and customer-first attitude. We get along with the people who hire us and give them what they want. This type of attitude promotes a positive work environment and helps us retain employees and customers.”
In addition to Melissa, who handles the financial side of the business, key personnel at H&H include Belgrade/Bozeman Superintendent Kevin Amberson, Helena Superintendent Jack Parrish, Big Sky Superintendent Clark Holton, Utility Superintendent David Geddes and Project Manager, Estimator Rob Smith.
“We work in approximately a 100-mile radius from Belgrade,” Horner explained. “Our superintendents all have a home base, but they and their crews will travel to wherever we need them. Our motto is ‘whatever it takes,’ and we don’t have anybody who says, ‘I don’t do that.’ At H&H, we all play for the same team.”
Equipment fleet upgrade
H&H recently acquired four new Komatsu machines from Modern Machinery and Sales Rep Ryan Rich that Horner hopes will transform the company.
“My equipment philosophy has always been, get the best value. In the past, that meant buying used machines and supplementing those with rentals, but I wanted to upgrade the fleet. Ryan introduced me to a Komatsu lease program that would allow us to have the latest and greatest equipment and technology at a price we could afford. I got quotes from competitors, but in the end, it was an easy choice. Komatsu equipment, in our opinion, is equal or superior to the other brands, and the service and pricing from Modern is much better.
“To sign on the line for four new pieces of equipment was a big deal to me,” he added. “It normally would make my stomach churn, but I didn’t feel that way. I felt confident that I was doing the right thing. I’ve never enjoyed spending so much money on anything.”
“The excavators are fast, and we put a bucket and coupler system on them that we’re very excited about,” Horner shared. “We’re confident they will give us the digging capability we need. The D61EXi is the quietest, most comfortable dozer we’ve ever had. My superintendent said he’d be happy to give up his position if I would just let him run the dozer all the time.
“Getting a dozer with integrated GPS is a huge step for us,” he continued. “It’s our first GPS machine, and what I really like is that it’s two machines in one. It’s a dozer that can also do fine grading, which allows it to basically take the place of a motor grader on a job.”
Horner purchased a full warranty and service package with the new machines.
“Other than running and greasing the units, I don’t have to touch them. Modern takes care of all the services and any repairs. Instead of purchasing old equipment that I have to maintain myself, I’ve got brand new, fully maintained equipment for the same price. That’s a slam dunk of a deal.”
“We’re very pleased that Joe gave us a chance to work with him,” said Modern Machinery President Brian Sheridan. “We intend to do everything we can to make sure it’s a long-term relationship.”
Horner says he doesn’t have any specific plans for growing H&H Earthworks.
“When I started H&H, I didn’t have a business plan, nor did I spend any time daydreaming about what kind of company we would become. I just went to work every day trying to please my customers and then added people and equipment as needed. Our growth occurred naturally. Going forward, I expect we’ll continue to grow, but what I really want to do is increase profitability. We believe these new Komatsu machines will be a big step in that direction. We think they will allow us to do more for less, and that should contribute directly and positively to our bottom line.”