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Camara Excavating’s New Digs Represent Big Changes

Thu November 13, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

With nearly two decades of success under its belt, Camara Excavating is moving its operations to a new location in Tiverton, R.I. The move takes the small, general excavating company’s operations out of Joel and Lisa Camara’s home and into an office and shop that’s big enough to handle maintenance and repair of an increasingly large fleet of equipment.

Since Joel founded Camara Excavating in 1990, the size and scope of the business have slowly evolved. In the beginning, he worked alone with just one piece of equipment, a backhoe. He focused on small residential projects, such as installing septic systems and water lines.

Since its inception, Joel has added some services. While it still does septic and waterline work for private homeowners, Camara Excavating also does site work, land clearing, material deliveries, foundations, driveways and parking lots for residential and commercial developers. It also does snow removal and sanding in the winter.

He’s built the business slowly, adding only three full-time employees during the past 18 years: operators/laborers Chris Duponte and Lyford Warren, and Lisa, who is the company’s office manager. She joined when the couple married in 1998.

Camara Excavating works throughout Rhode Island and southeast Massachusetts, with a split of about 75 percent residential and 25 percent commercial work.

“We’ve found that those numbers, both in terms of employees and the split between residential and commercial have been in our best interest,” said Joel, a third-generation earthmover. “Being smaller allows us to focus on the job at hand with an eye toward quality. Camara Excavating could be bigger, but I’ve always believed that a concentrated effort on doing one job and doing it well is best for our customers.”

Word-of-Mouth Advertising

Throughout its 10-year history, the Camaras have let the quality of work speak for itself, and the response has been overwhelming. Nearly every job the company does is for a repeat customer or someone who heard about Camara Excavating from a friend.

“It’s said that word-of-mouth advertising is the best, and that’s been the case for us,” said Lisa. “I believe it goes back to Joel being such a hands-on owner. He sees a project through from start to finish. He works with the customer to come up with a price, runs the machinery and oversees the project until it’s complete. He’s on the job at all times, so if the customer needs him, they know where to find him.

“And he takes each job seriously,” she added. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a two-hour driveway dig or a site-work package for a developer, he puts the same importance on it. Our customers appreciate that, as well as his honesty in dealing with them.”

Joel added that having good employees also has paid big dividends. “We can’t give enough credit to Chris and Lyford. They know what needs to be done, and they work as hard to satisfy the customer as we do. They’re our most valuable asset.”

Recommended Komatsu Equipment

Just as their own business relies on word-of-mouth referrals, the Camaras turned to a friend’s recommendation when they began buying Komatsu equipment. Camara Excavating bought its first piece of Komatsu equipment, a PC160LC-7 excavator, about three years ago from C.N. Wood’s Woburn, Mass., branch.

“I needed an upgrade, and a local contractor who uses Komatsu equipment told me I should check out their excavators,” recalled Joel. “I called up our C.N. Wood Sales Representative, Dan Ibbitson, and told him I wanted to try one. He brought out the PC160 on rent, and it didn’t take long before I was sold on it. It’s smooth and comfortable, so we produce more during a longer period of time because fatigue isn’t a big factor.”

Camara Excavating added a Komatsu WA320-5 wheel loader last year to speed up loading trucks. Joel found the wheel loader gave the business additional versatility.

“We use it for stripping lots, digging out leach fields, and in the right materials, we can use it for deep cuts,” said Joel. “We also bought it with long-range plans as we work to expand on our business.”

Camara Excavating handles general maintenance and service on its Komatsu equipment with support from C.N. Wood as needed. The company also rents equipment from C.N. Wood on occasion.

“Every relationship in our business is important, including the ones we build with our equipment distributors,” said Lisa. “C.N. Wood has become a very good partner to us as we continue to update our fleet. Dan has done an outstanding job of working with us and knowing our business so we buy the right equipment to match our needs. And if we need a rental, we call Dan up and he gets us one right away.”

New Material-Handling Yard

Another factor in the Camaras purchase of the WA320-5 was their long-range plans to open a material yard at their new location. They’ve already taken the initial steps to begin selling material from a second company, Eagleville Materials. It will handle landscape products such as mulch and pavers, as well as sand and screened loam.

“That’s the next step in our progression,” Joel pointed out. “We’ve been hauling materials for quite some time, but not from our own yard. This is a way to add an extra service to our customers, which is something we’re always looking to do.”

This story was reprinted from Wood Works magazine, 2008 No. 2, with permission from C.N. Wood Co. Inc.

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