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Customer-First Attitude Spurs Growth for West Texas Contractor

Tue April 24, 2018 - West Edition #9
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Terry Suarez (R), president, T&T Earth Movers, reviews gravel paving plans for the Taylor County Expo Center with operator Paulino Hernandez.
Terry Suarez (R), president, T&T Earth Movers, reviews gravel paving plans for the Taylor County Expo Center with operator Paulino Hernandez.
Terry Suarez (R), president, T&T Earth Movers, reviews gravel paving plans for the Taylor County Expo Center with operator Paulino Hernandez. Caterpillar dozers, like this D6K equipped with SITECH grade control, were used on the job. The new livestock building at the Taylor County Expo Center during construction at the Abilene site. A Caterpillar D6 is used for grading the 190 RV stalls that will line the perimeter of the livestock building, which will house the rodeo arena. Atlas Copco (now Dynapac) compaction equipment is put to use on the RV stalls.

A West Texas contractor has experienced meteoric growth over the past decade: The formula? A customer-first attitude and a little help from its hometown equipment dealer.

Terry Suarez saw an opportunity during the down economy of 2008-09 to buy land cheap and begin what would become T&T Earth Movers in the small town of Seminole, Texas, midway between Lubbock and Midland.

Suarez did what most “newbies” would do under the circumstances: He walked into “the big guys'” showroom and told them he wanted to buy some equipment to start a contracting business.

“I was 25 years old,” Suarez said. “They didn't even take me seriously. Basically, they didn't want to give me the time of day.”

Frustrated, Suarez called a dealership he would frequently drive by … Bee Equipment in Lubbock.

“Wow, what a difference,” he remembered of his initial call. “The receptionist put me on with Everett, whom I later found out was the owner. After talking to me for a few minutes, he turned me over to Mike Kuehn, and we were on our way to being in business.”

The difference, Suarez added, was all about a positive attitude, and a program that Bee calls RPO (rental/purchase option).

“They were very welcoming and very professional,” he said. “In a short period of time, I had bought a dozer and loader on their RPO program. I couldn't believe they let me haul them away with just the first month's payment down.”

Just two years later, Suarez' young company was creating 60 drill pads, on average, per month in the oilfields just south of Lubbock, in the oil rich Permian Basin.

While oilfield work remains approximately 50 percent of T&T's business today, Suarez quickly moved into commercial work. Steady, and without the ups and downs of the oilfields, commercial construction spurred even faster growth for the young company.

Nine years after being shunned by that “big guy” equipment dealer, Suarez' company is on a pace to do nearly $15 million in work this year.

While T&T's contracts have increased, so has its fleet; the company now has more than 75 machines, including 17 dozers, nine graders, eight wheel loaders, eight compactors and 25 dump trucks, almost all of which were purchased from Bee Equipment and almost all through the RPO program.

Suarez is now beginning to build T&T's paving capabilities, and is turning to Bee for that, as well. All three of his LeeBoy pavers have been purchased from the Lubbock-based dealer.

Currently, Suarez owns more than 90 percent of the equipment in his fleet.

Change Is Good

A lot has changed for T&T Earth Movers since its founding — all for the good. Bee Equipment's Mike Kuehn remembers the first time he went to the T&T yard.

“When I first called on them, there was one trailer in the yard … that was it,” he said. “Terry's sister was behind the desk. Now they utilize two equipment yards, two large buildings and a concrete plant.”

The buildings include a 14-bay service facility that T&T now operates.

“The first piece we sold them was a D6R and the second was a Cat 950G loader,” Kuehn said. “They still have both and they both look great.” (Both were initially on Bee's RPO program, but Suarez eventually purchased both machines.)

Kuehn said T&T seldom brings back a machine once it is taken out on the RPO program.

“That's unusual for the rental industry,” he said. “When Terry [Suarez] says he needs something, we do what it takes to get it to him. We really do view ourselves as his partners. Terry takes pride in everything he does. He does things right. Not kind of right … absolutely right. He is the kind of person that it is easy to be partners with.”

Suarez' desire to expand into paving exemplified this synergistic relationship.

“Terry decided they wanted to be in the asphalt business, so they wanted to talk about distributor trucks and a paver,” Kuehn said. “We set them up with a LeeBoy 8616, but it kept overheating and they'd have to finish with a LeeBoy 1000, which is a much smaller machine. This went on for a couple of weeks, and we just couldn't figure it out. But there was no panic. We just kept working on the problem, and we eventually brought LeeBoy personnel in to help. We found out he was running the electric screed all day, which was not the way it was designed to be run. Before long, and with LeeBoy's help, everything was good.

“We appreciate the faith they have put it us,” Kuehn added.

Suarez admitted that, in part, how his company succeeds may sound corny, but it is all about the way he and his employees treat customers.

“We treat them the way we want to be treated,” he said. “The one thing we strive for is to have our customers come back, and so far, we have done that. A high percentage of our business consists of repeat customers.”

About T&T Earth Movers Inc.

T&T Earth Movers Inc. specializes in earthmoving and paving. The company builds pads for both oilfields and commercial sites and also does site utility work and demolition.

The company recognizes that in the dirt business, it is their responsibility to lay the foundation for every operation that is to follow and believes that its greatest responsibility is working with clients to ensure that when it completes a project, every detail is precise.

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