S1.E2: Count the Values Supporting 15 Years of a Single-Brand Earthworks Company’s Growth

When Jon Ballmann can fill a machine need with a Caterpillar he does, going to Fabick Cat where he balances sales price with support that softens his risk and helped the skid steer owner/operator to shift into sustained heavy-construction momentum.

Making the jump from a skid-steer-based landscaping/construction business into bigger construction work with sustainable momentum inevitably comes with some risk. Equipment alone can be a significant investment.

At 24 years old, hard-working owner/operator Jon Ballmann had decided a crawler loader was the tool to shift the Ballmann Earthworks company he’d founded into a higher gear. He’d done some shopping, run the numbers, surveyed the risk and discovered equipment buying is one business decision that could enlist valuable business partners.

He chose a new crawler loader and dump truck from Fabick Cat in Fenton, Mo. The number at the bottom right on that sale contract was steep–he hadn’t anticipated this kind of debt when he wrote down his construction-company dream for his fifth-grade career day. But as well-suited as the crawler loader was for the kind of work that would grow his company through the Great Recession, he counted on buying new equipment to deliver values even closer to his foundational business strategy.

A strong customer-first commitment propels Ballmann Earthworks forward. Jon was still pulling levers all day, and knew his limited time out of the cab was best spent face-to-face with customers. New-machine warranties assured him that Fabick would handle the bulk of the time and cost of keeping that 953C working productively. And the dealer made financing easy.

“Back then, I didn’t know much about banks and business loans, and Fabick’s credit application was all of about one 9 x 11 sheet of paper,” Ballmann says.

In some circumstances, credit can be too easy. Ballmann has been careful to build his business to always out-work those circumstances. Since this big investment, his focus has remained on: 1) exceeding customer expectations, and 2) on slow growth, largely because he’s careful to ensure that everybody who works for him will uphold his standards for strategy No. 1.

His experience with the crawler loader and tandem dump proved the value of Fabick’s support. Ballmann decided the best way to ensure the dealer’s equipment-support muscle is behind his customer-service efforts is to give them a lot of his business. His machine spread has grown to 48 units, nearly everything coming from Fabick.

There are those for whom such obvious brand loyalty is a liability in sale-day bargaining. Ballmann continues to weigh the price on the sales contract against the value he gets through the machines’ lifetimes.

S1 e2 Ballmann Cat Lineup (on Site Photo)Ballmann Earthworks LLC

The usual benefits–rebuildable machines with high resale value–are there, but he also ticks off a list of reasons why saving a couple of days of parts turn-around time to get a busy machine back to work is a significant benefit. And Ballmann recognizes the role his brand loyalty plays in getting fast action from Fabick service techs when his machines need repair.

Get the details in this video where he and his Fabick Cat rep talk about what keeps the Ballmann Earthworks equipment partnership sustainable and fair.

There’s much more to the Ballmann Earthworks story in several more Contractor’s Site Report videos. Jon shares his experience with how using automatic grade control accelerated his business growth, what he does to find and keep skilled employees, how a new automated grader attachment is making his skid steers more versatile and more.

Keep an eye out for more business-improvement insights straight from contractors in the continuing Contractor’s Site Report series.