“Komatsu quality, reliability, durability”
Sometimes a good opportunity falls into your lap, and it certainly helps if you have laid the groundwork first. Take John Kolb, for example. His dedication to quality work and customer satisfaction earned him a solid reputation and the chance to start his own business.
After college, Kolb moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and began putting pipe in the ground. Through the course of several years, he worked with some large, specialty underground-utility contractors. Customers got to know him well and liked the quality of service he provided.
“In 2013, a general contractor aquantaince presented me with an offer,” explained Kolb. “His company was having issues with the civil side of its business, and he wanted someone to take it over from him. We discussed options, and by the end of the day, I was filing for a company and hiring employees. That was the founding of Wildstone Construction, and we’ve been growing ever since.”
The timing, it turns out, was good. “Work was picking back up after the recession, so we got off to a good start,” Kolb recalled. “In fact, our first job was a nearly $1 million installation of water, sewer and fire line for a detention system at a Fort Worth school. Our range of work today runs from $20,000 to $5 million, but those million-dollar jobs like that first one tend to be our sweet spot.”
Wildstone Construction has also found its forte with the services it provides, specializing in underground utility installation. The Fort Worth company offers complete projects, including digging trenches and putting down bedding material, as well as installing various sizes and types of pipe and backfilling. Additionally, it provides testing and chlorination to ensure the lines are ready for service.
“We’re considered a specialty contractor,” said Kolb. “Our niche is putting water, sewer and storm-drain pipe in the ground. Everything we do is open-cut. If the project calls for cast-in-place structures, we build those ourselves, along with head walls and inlets. We also will do miscellaneous pavement repair. Nearly 90 percent of our work is new construction, but we do jobs that involve removing and replacing old lines as well.”
Wildstone Construction works across several sectors, including governmental, industrial and commercial sites. It has completed several major sewer-main contracts, like a recent rehab project for Haltom City, Texas. There, Wildstone replaced an old sewer line that was at capacity with a larger one. The company has accomplished projects on multiple retail sites, restaurants and warehouses.
“All municipal work is hard-bid, and we do those projects as a general contractor,” said Kolb. “We hard-bid some commercial and school jobs, but we have done quite a number of sites through negotiations with customers with whom we have developed strong relationships. We also sub our work out to general contractors. We generally have 40-50 projects in various stages of development at any time.”
As Wildstone Construction’s project list grew, so did its employee roster. In three years, it expanded from a handful of employees to 115, including key individuals such as General Superintendent Joe Alvarado. Wildstone runs one concrete, one cleanup and 11 pipe-laying crews and mainly works within a two-hour radius of Fort Worth.
“The economy has played a big role in our growth,” explained Kolb. “The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has gone gangbusters with new construction. Another factor is the relationships we have built with general contractors. They know we will meet their schedules and budgets. When we say we will show up on a certain day, they trust that we will be there, ready to go. That’s led to a lot of repeat business.
“I give credit to Joe and our entire staff,” he added. “Sometimes, companies that grow as fast as we did will take on almost anyone to fill a vacancy. We concentrate on hiring quality individuals – many of whom I worked with in the past – who share the same values of hard work and dedication that we do. Wildstone wouldn’t be where it is today without them.”
Komatsu reliability, durability
Wildstone Construction began using Komatsu PC200LC and PC360LC excavators as well as WA270 and WA320 wheel loaders almost from the start. Kolb cited quality, reliability and durability as factors in his decision to purchase Komatsu.
“I ran Komatsu machines quite a bit for the companies I was with before I started this business, and I was always impressed,” said Kolb. “We’re confident every day that our Komatsu equipment will run consistently. The PC360s are our mainline digging machines. Some of our projects call for deep digs, and with the excavators’ breakout power, those jobs are no problem. We equip the PC200s with quick couplers for fast changes from buckets to compaction wheels. All of our Komatsu excavators have fast cycle times and are good on fuel.”
Wildstone Construction puts quick couplers on its Komatsu loaders, too. “They give us great versatility,” said Kolb. “Forks for carrying pipe, buckets for putting bedding material in a trench or loading trucks – they do it all efficiently.”
Kolb tracks the machines for location, hours and other critical information with KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s remote machine-monitoring system. So does Kirby-Smith Machinery, which takes care of scheduled service for the first 2,000 hours or three years under the Komatsu CARE program.
“Kirby-Smith ensures that services are done on schedule at a convenient time and place with little or no downtime; and as busy as we are, that’s a great value,” said Kolb. “It’s also helpful because our mechanics learn how to do the services before they take over the maintenance. Kirby-Smith has been great about working with us on that, as well as responding quickly to any other needs we have. It’s especially been a pleasure working with our Territory Manager, Kris Phillips. He and Kirby-Smith are big reasons why we chose Komatsu and have stayed with it.”
In addition to quality work, Kolb said honesty has helped create strong relationships between Wildstone Construction and its customers.
“If customers call and we can’t get to their jobs for some time, I tell them that,” Kolb said. “I’ve turned down work, which I hate to do, but I’d rather be upfront and honest. I won’t make a promise I can’t keep. Customers appreciate that, so we stay on good terms. That’s the way I want to keep it.”
He didn’t plan to grow as big or as fast as he did, but Kolb said circumstances allowed it and will dictate what happens going forward.
“I had a business plan mapped out to maybe double each year, but we threw that out the window right away,” he said. “I’d like to maintain where we are now, but if the market allows us to grow more, we’ll consider it.
“A few things will stay the same,” he added. “We won’t sacrifice quality and customer service. The other is our focus. We could branch out and offer other types of work, but right now I would rather focus on doing one thing and doing it well.”