Diversified Offerings Lead to Success for CL Trucking & Excavating, LLC
With Risk Comes Reward: CL Trucking & Excavating, LLC Finds Steady Growth with Multiple Industries and Great Employees
In the early 1990s, Chad Listerman had a solid career as a night-shift line mechanic, which allowed him to take on excavating jobs and raise cattle during the day. By 1993, one of those hobbies began to mold into a full-time job, and the graveyard shift became a distant memory.
“I got off work at 7 a.m., did side jobs until 4:00 p.m., headed home to try and get some sleep and then went back to work again around 10 p.m. – I was tired,” recalled Listerman. “I had to make a decision. I grew up on a farm, so earning a living outside was always my dream. I sold my 10 beef cows, bought a backhoe and quit my job. It was a risk, but I wanted to give it a shot.”
In the summer of 1993, Listerman began completing projects for customers around his Ionia, Michigan, home. When one of the coldest winters on record rolled into the area, the amount of available work slowed to a trickle. Fortunately, Listerman caught on with a contractor who was building a motel nearby and had more jobs lined up as well. While the assignment kept Listerman’s new business afloat, it also provided a boost for the future.
“We had to leave machines running all night and used an 84-inch wheel saw to cut through the frost to install pipe,” remembered Listerman. “It was nice to have work through the winter, especially that first year, but more importantly, the owner taught me how to read blueprints and gave me some instruction on the commercial side of the business. We would work all day, go eat, and then he’d coach me. It was a great experience.”
After that long winter, CL Trucking & Excavating, LLC (CLTE) never looked back. Today, the company has 65 employees and completes an array of projects including agricultural, commercial, and residential, as well as some Michigan Department of Transportation and industrial work. It operates two sand and gravel pits, with a third site in Ionia for spoil dirt. In addition, a trucking side serves the company’s excavation needs.
“We’re very diverse,” noted Listerman. “Through the years we have continued to add services, which enabled us to hire more people. Most days, we are going in about 10 different directions, but that’s fine. There was never a huge jump in growth; it has been very deliberate.”
That steady approach was possible due, in large part, to the solid foundation that Listerman built. Foremen Corey Ferguson and Aaron Hartman joined the company in 1995 and have been integral to the firm ever since.
“We’ve been in business for 26 years, and Corey and Aaron have been here for 24 of them,” shared Listerman. “They are a huge part of our success. You need good people in order to last in this business, and these two are an example of that.”
Family is highly valued to CLTE as well. Listerman’s wife, Laura, is Payroll Administrator and her brother, Project Manager/Estimator John Lepien, has 18 years with the company. Listerman’s father also worked for CLTE and recently retired at age 75.
“Having family involved has been crucial,” noted Listerman. “From the beginning, Laura has played a very important role in our success. The joke is that the ‘L’ in our name stands for Laura instead of Listerman. John’s been a huge factor as well. Everyone puts in long hours and helps us make good decisions.”
Listerman’s long-standing relationships extend beyond the firm’s employees. His connection with Continental Equipment Company (CEC) predates CLTE.
“When I sold my cows, (CEC Owner) Larry Behrenwald, who has a farm and is a family friend, bought them,” Listerman said. “I used that money as a down payment for the backhoe that I purchased from CEC. I’ve been with them ever since.”
In addition to Behrenwald, Area Manager Craig Williams has called on Listerman and CLTE for 25 years.
“Craig’s been the only CEC salesman I’ve ever had, which I guess makes him kind of old,” he joked. “I really value the consistency with CEC; it makes a huge difference.”
With a long history between CLTE and CEC, it’s natural that the relationship has resulted in a significant number of Komatsu products in Listerman’s fleet.
“We are huge fans of Komatsu equipment,” said Listerman. “I’ve run Komatsu machines for 25 years, and I’ve never had to put a hydraulic pump or engine in any of them. They are very solid machines.”
Komatsu excavators are the hands-down favorite at CLTE, which has 13 of them ranging in size from a PC27MR-2 utility model to a PC490LC-11. The newest addition is a PC360LC-11.
“We have 180 hours on it, and I’ve been in the seat for all of them,” shared Ferguson. “It’s fast and powerful, and the fuel consumption is really nice. I have great visibility from the cab, and the rearview camera adds even more to that factor. Space is very limited on a jobsite, so it’s helpful to be able to see what’s behind you.”
While the PC360LC is the newest, the MVP of the excavator fleet is the PC228USLC tight-tail-swing excavator. CLTE has four PC228s and deploys them often.
“The PC228 is second-to-none,” stated Listerman. “It’s the perfect size for us because it can perform on many types of projects. The zero-tail-swing is ideal for road work and water mains under 8 feet.”
In addition to excavators, the company has two dozers, a pair of wheel loaders and a GD555-3C motor grader in its fleet.
“Komatsu equipment has some of the quickest cycle times,” noted Hartman. “That allows us to work faster and be more productive, which benefits our bottom line.”
Just as the Komatsu machines have continuously proven themselves with Listerman, so has CEC.
“CEC provides unbeatable service,” said Listerman. “Having them behind the equipment gives me a lot of confidence. We trust them, and Craig is a bucket of knowledge and is helpful in every aspect. It’s an all-around great partnership.”
Although CLTE has 26 years to its credit, don’t expect Listerman and others at the firm to kick up their feet and ride off into the sunset just yet.
“I’m only 48, and most here are my age or younger, so we’ve got quite a few more years left in us,” said Listerman. “Hopefully, the economy remains strong. If that happens, I could see us continuing to grow and adding more people in the future.
“We are in good shape right now, and that’s a testament to the people who work here,” he stated. “Our word and our handshake mean something; that’s what has made us successful. Great people are the foundation. As long as we focus on people, relationships and technology, we’ll be fine.”
This article originally appeared in the Continental Equipment Company's On Track magazine, which is produced by Construction Publications, Inc.