Equipment World

December 2017

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Page 62 of 75 | December 2017 63 A few days later, he calls the dealer and schedules a demo. If he's satis- fied, the machine will typically go on a rental purchase option. "Then it's in the fleet," he says. Major pieces in the McKinnley Excavating fleet include smaller dozers, compact track loaders, excavators and compact excavators. The majority of it is Tier 4 compli- ant. Even though most clients in Tennessee don't have specific Tier 4 fleet requirements, Palmer believes his Tier 4 fleet – and the fact he runs his fleet on biofuel – gives him an edge. It's a factor he believes helped him get work at the local Volkswagen plant. On salary The McKinnley Excavating office is managed by Sarah Simpson, Palmer's fiancé. "Our goal is to be that company that still has that personal relation- ship with its clients and goes above and beyond the scope of work to make sure it's done properly," Simpson says. Palmer takes an unusual approach with his team, paying each member a salary instead of an hourly wage. "I've found that putting them on salary helps me lower my turnover," he says. "People know that they may be offered $1 more next door, but they're not going to get it for 50 hours a week. I pay them rain or shine. My mechanic, my office staff, everyone is on salary." "Giving them a place to go has been my biggest thing," Palmer continues. "If I can move the guys I have up, I can fill the gaps below them instead of hiring people over their heads." Palmer says the Great Reces- sion was a blessing. Still small at the time, it was easier to ride the downward spiral. "A lot of larger companies were performing in an environment where there was a lot of work and profit, and when the recession hit, they couldn't keep traction. Because we were growing and watching every single dollar, that helped us put a high level of service in front of the client." It didn't hurt either that while larger companies were putting more hours on their equipment, Palmer was able to buy some new machines. "Our equipment was never down," he says, "and that helped keep our quality in place. Once you start that circle, it definitely feeds itself." Steady growth "We've grown a lot this past year, but it's steady growth," Palmer says. "I don't believe in booming because your needs are always ahead of your cash." Still, it's hard to turn down work, especially with an existing cli- ent, so there's always a balance. Palmer's focus on customer ser- vice is guided by his philosophy of managing expectations. "I teach that to my employees so there's buy-in to the process throughout the com- pany," he says. Says client David Bushman of Len- nar Homes: "Palmer's a young guy and I'm an old bird, and I learn from him all the time. I regularly tell him how much I learn from him, espe- cially when I see him managing his people and his company." Adds Candace Esparza with Du- rango Enterprises: "I would happily go to work for him. He gives his employees the opportunity to suc- ceed and rewards them." McKinnley Excavating works in several markets, including excavation, demolition and installing retaining walls.

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