Family Connection Creates Successful Partnership for Lone Star Fencing & Excavation and Doggett Heavy Machinery
An hour-and-a-half west of Houston, Texas, a rancher has struck silver. While oil may have been a more lucrative find, the aggregate below this cattle pasture proves to be a worthwhile alternative. Any visitor to Houston will immediately notice there is no shortage of highways, overpasses, and large buildings and gravel mines like this are where it all begins.
Providing a lay of the land is Michael Svinky of Doggett Heavy Machinery, who wears a lot of hats serving his customers. When it comes to Lone Star Fencing & Excavation, his role is best described as "fully committed." Michael's relationship with the founder and President of Lone Star is pretty unique - he's Matthew Svinky's brother.
"Taking care of my customers is the most important part of my job," explains Michael. "Every customer, every time - that's just how we operate at Doggett." As Matthew's older brother, it's easy to see how this philosophy takes on extra meaning but Michael isn't shy about telling us how he really feels.
"That said, Matt is by far my most difficult customer," says Michael. "One, he's my best friend. Second, he is family and, you know, we're very close, so I hear every little thing every single day - it's not just one call, it's usually five calls."
"I'm all about going big," says Matthew. "Go big or go home - that's our motto."
Michael claims that he is the more conservative of the two, so watching his younger brother rent, lease, and purchase big-ticket equipment can make him a little nervous. Matthew, on the other hand, clearly thrives on the challenge. At just 18 years old, he bought his first bulldozer and paid his way at Texas A&M cleaning up properties and installing fence lines. As his reputation and project size grew, the equipment he used had to follow suit. Now his company is contracted at various sand and gravel operations to mine and move materials.
"Big jobs require big equipment. What I like most about John Deere production-class equipment are the capabilities it has to produce and the reliability it has in doing
so," says Matthew. In addition to the three 410E articulated dump trucks (ADTs) on this jobsite, he also has two 470G LC excavators, two 850K dozers, and three 9560 scraper special tractors. Another Lone Star jobsite includes three 460E ADTs and two 470G LCs.
While he's plenty young, this isn't Matthew's first rodeo. "This is my second round of trucks. I had the original Interim Tier 4s for two to three years and traded them off to get the Final Tier 4s."
According to Matthew, they've benefited from running the latest models in two ways. "We saved about two gallons an hour with the FT4s. As for reliability, we have hardly any breakdowns - the uptime is great. They have the capability to haul large quantities, and since I get paid by the ton, the more I can fit in the truck, the more I can make."
Good Help is Hard to Find
Anyone in the industry can relate to the challenge of both finding and keeping skilled workers. Matthew takes a savvy approach: "Our jobsites travel around and it's hard to find guys willing to travel with them. What we've been doing is placing targeted help-wanted ads on Facebook in the areas where we work. You don't always get experienced workers, but that gives you the opportunity to train them how you want them, without bad habits. It's also nice to help provide jobs in these rural areas where there isn't always a lot of work to be found. It feels good to know I'm helping these guys feed their families."
Having started as the sole operator, Matthew keenly understands the importance of running user-friendly equipment, especially in the face of 10- to 14-hour days. "The operators love the ride of the ADTs. We've demoed competitors' machines, and the operators hated the rides - they begged for their John Deere ADTs back within six hours."
Operator Glenn Harold, who has over 30 years of industry experience, agrees with Matthew's claim. "No trouble so far with them," says Harold. "They ride smooth, they've got good suspensions"¦ it's basically it's like riding in a nice car. I sit here 12 hours and I don't even get tired."
Another feature Harold appreciates is how all machine controls are centrally located via the Total Machine Control console. "Start, stop, forward, backward - all your main buttons and controls are built into one unit. It makes it very simple to operate. And the computer shows all your tonnage, hours, time - it's all one deal."
Harold also mentions the most appreciated creature comforts of all: "The air conditioners are nice and they work well. That's the main thing: You've got to have good air conditioners and heaters. If you're comfortable, it makes your life and your job easier. And if the operator's confident in the machine and feels comfortable, he's going to appreciate it and stay with the job."
At the End of the Day
While mixing family and business doesn't work for everyone, the Svinkys seem to have it figured out.
"Working with my brother is kind of a love-hate relationship sometimes," says Matthew. "But you have to think of it as "˜it's all just business' while we're at work." Michael adds, "I think it's how we were raised - we know what's most important. Plus we ranch together on the weekends, so there's plenty of time to work out our differences."
All differences aside, the brothers are grateful their careers provide the opportunity to work together. "What John Deere means to me is pretty much my livelihood," says Matthew. "Everything I've made was with the help of John Deere production-class equipment."