While working as an operator, Bobby Sykes realized that GCs in the Columbus area were having a hard time finding good support contractors for the excavating tasks that seemed to be overlooked or were too small for most excavating contractors. That inspired him to start his own company, with every intention of being a one-man operation.
“I saw a niche I could fill, and wanted to put my experience to good use,” said Sykes, who already had experience in commercial concrete, sitework, utilities and excavation. He purchased two pieces of equipment from Columbus Equipment Company (more on that later) and started his company, Bedrock Earthworks, in early 2015.
He quickly learned that he had correctly identified a need in the local market. In fact, “I discovered there was a lot more work out there than there were contractors to do it,” and he expanded his business to meet demand.
“As the quality of our work became known, we continued to grow and I added more pieces of equipment to suit the demand I was seeing. I started looking for top-notch operators. As a small company doing specialty excavation, I needed the best operators I could find,” Sykes said. “I focused on creating an environment people would want to be in, one with a team-minded atmosphere, where they were part of something, not just an employee.”
While he continued to take time-and-materials jobs, he also realized that bidding on some contract projects would ensure his employees always had work. “We want to remember our roots as a support company, but we don’t want to rely on waiting for a phone call, so we maintain contract work to keep things running smoothly.”
Bedrock was recently awarded its largest project yet, doing sitework for a new AEP service center in Columbus. The company will demo the 40-acre site and handle grading, water, storm and sanitary sewers, utilities and road widening.
His time-and-materials crews have been working at the Facebook data center in Columbus. “We’ve been fortunate to work with some really good contractors here in town who have seen the value of having us help them perform projects,” Sykes said.
While Bedrock has grown to 50 employees in just four years, when Sykes went out on his own, “my plans depended on me being able to get an excavator,” he recalled. He had worked for a Cat-heavy contractor, so he first contacted a Cat dealer. “They wouldn’t give me the time of day,” he said.
An acquaintance suggested contacting Rich Durst at Columbus Equipment Company. “Rich’s encouragement and the deal Columbus Equipment gave me, including a towing trailer, sealed the deal for me,” Sykes said. Since then, he has purchased a wide range of Komatsu equipment from Columbus Equipment Company.
Bedrock now has Komatsu excavators ranging from a PC88 to a PC360, and is now in the process of acquiring a PC490—as well as a D65WX crawler dozer. “I like the speed of the Komatsus, the swing speed and the hydraulics. And the cab space is very good. I’m 6-foot-2 and there’s a huge difference being in the cab of a PC228 versus a Cat of the same class.”
The fleet also includes a D39 and a D61, both with a Topcon 2D Laser System 5, and a new D51i, purchased for finish grading on the AEP project. He plans to upgrade the older dozers to a 3D system. “It will enable us to achieve the quality and productivity we want to reach, and it’s becoming necessary to complete. It has almost become an industry standard,” Sykes said.
“As far as the iMC equipment goes, when a customer sees you have invested in good equipment and good technology, they see you are there to get the job done, and do it right. When I demoed the D51i, I could see the value it could bring to less experienced operators and in fuel savings. iMC can help a novice operator become a better operator and a good operator can become an excellent operator.”
Komatsu dozers are well balanced and offer better visibility than any competing machines, Sykes added. Bedrock also owns a WA250 and two HM300s.
“Our Komatsu equipment has been rock solid. Some of our fleet is new, some is used, but we’ve had tremendous success with very few issues,” he noted.
Bedrock also owns three sizes of Takeuchi track loaders, which are used for many applications. The largest, the TL12, is used for finish-grading for multi-family developers. “The TL12 can get into areas that might be too tight for a dozer but achieve a similar result. We also use the TL12 with an oversized bucket for some pipe operations that don’t warrant a wheel loader,” Sykes said.
Until now, Bedrock has relied on Columbus Equipment Company to service its equipment. Sykes recently added a full-time mechanic, but he’ll continue to use Columbus Equipment for many services. “Columbus Equipment has been exceptional to us. All the guys at the Columbus branch are phenomenal to work with. They are an extension of our business,” Sykes said.
“We’ve had an exceptional experience all the way down. They give the same treatment to a guy with one machine and to a guy who has bought one-hundred. There’s a family feel, where we are on a first-name basis. I call and it gets taken care of. Rich Durst has been like a second dad and encouraged me along the way.”
Sykes has a degree in construction management, but he admits he’d rather be in the operator’s seat doing the work. He’s amazed at how quickly Bedrock has grown, and he credits his team.
“While we believe that providing the best equipment and technology is a key component to success, we believe the key to success both now and in the future is in our team members. We pride ourselves in having some of the best team members in Columbus. Our model is to prioritize our team members and their well-being, which we believe will lead them to prioritize our customers and quality of work, leading to success.”
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