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Family Values Help Siteworks Weather the Storm

Siteworks LLC in Charlotte, N.C., is a family-owned company that started from very modest beginnings.

Wed August 06, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

Siteworks LLC in Charlotte, N.C., is a family-owned company that started from very modest beginnings. Melissa and Scott Bovit make sure the humble roots remain. Melissa is the company president, and Scott is the general manager. Siteworks is licensed as a general contractor in both North and South Carolina.

"It’s how we both were raised, to work hard," Melissa said. "Over the years, we’ve done whatever had to be done — spending long hours and putting all of our energy into it. Raising our two daughters and growing the business has been an ongoing commitment. It’s based on determination and wanting to be successful."

Siteworks LLC was formed in 2002 when Melissa was a teacher and Scott left his job at Crowder Construction to start his own business.

"We decided that I would help him after school let out that first summer, getting the books and office files set up," Melissa said. "Siteworks LLC has kept evolving from there. I never went back to teaching because we were busy with the company. We started out with four people and little by little have grown."

She explained that the company presently employs roughly 100 people. Presently, specialties are new construction work consisting of erosion control, mass excavation/grading, domestic water and fire lines, backflow installation and inspections, sanitary sewer, storm drainage, water quality and detention systems, site concrete (curbs and gutter, sidewalks and heavy duty concrete paving), stone base installation and asphalt paving. They also perform repairs to existing sites, including asphalt and concrete repairs and storm drainage work.

"We’ve always been a conservative family, she and I, so we always kept putting any profit back into the company," Scott said. "While growing the company, our business plan was not to build it through buying a bunch of expensive equipment and becoming debt heavy in doing so. We purchased the necessary equipment as we grew. When things slowed down through the deep recession, our conservative philosophy helped us to weather the storm."

Melissa further explained that equipment decisions were made based on the volume they were renting. If they were renting a piece of equipment for a long period of time, they bought it.

"That’s what helped us make some of our equipment decisions," Melissa said.

Equipment purchases also are based on what works well for their field employees.

"Our guys help us choose what they like to operate," Scott said. "They’re running it, so we look to our field operators for their advice. When we need equipment, if we feel like it’s in the company’s best interest and it comes in at the right price, we’re going to get what makes their job easier. When we were starting out, I would get two or three different brands of equipment brought to one job site. Whether it was a bulldozer, a backhoe, a skid steer, or a track hoe, I would send it to the field guys. Sometimes we decided to purchase new and sometimes we purchased used equipment. The guys would operate them and they would tell us, ’Well, if you’re going to give us a choice, this is what we’d rather have — this one fine grades better, this one digs quicker, this one pushes more dirt…etc.,’ and it seemed like the majority of these superlative aspects of the equipment always fell back to Caterpillar. "

In many cases, Scott feels that’s where Caterpillar comes out on top.

"Their equipment is powered correctly for the size of the machine," Scott said. "We are happy with the equipment and know that if the piece needs to be repaired or serviced it will be done promptly."

Siteworks has been pleased with the relationship it has with Carolina CAT.

"Because of their shop size, they house more parts on the shelf than most of the other equipment suppliers in town," Scott said. "They’ve got more service trucks on the road to come to your aid when something does happen to go wrong. We do have a full time mechanic and grease man, but they can’t maintain everything. It’s not that Cat equipment breaks down often, but when it does, it’s nice to know that you’ve got a good partner that has good backup to support our equipment fleet."

In 2013, Siteworks LLC purchased about 15 pieces of Cat equipment from Carolina CAT, including four trackhoes, several size bulldozers and skid steers, and numerous vibratory rollers and trench rollers.

"It really gets back to me being conservative in our original business model," Scott said.

"We realized that we were growing quickly and that we were renting a tremendous amount of equipment. So I went to our Carolina Tractor equipment salesman, Tony Pennington, and I told him that we had to reduce our monthly equipment costs. I knew we had a nice backlog of work, so I asked him how we could lower those costs and build Siteworks through equipment assets. So we long-term leased some of the equipment with fixed residuals. This allows us to look at the value of the equipment at the end of the lease and make a business decision of whether to purchase or turn it back in for new equipment. We also made sure to purchase new equipment. This provided us peace of mind in knowing we had the latest GPS technology and fuel consumption."

The Bovits noted that they are very focused on their employees’ safety.

"Daily inspections on our equipment are part of that safe planning," Melissa said. "In addition to those inspections, numerous types of safety training courses are conducted. All of our field and office personnel take first aid classes, defensive driving courses, and have onsite safety meeting specific to that project. In the utility division, trench and rigging safety is paramount. Our grading and utility crews are required to attend more in depth classes that focus on confined spaces and trenching and shoring. Everybody at Siteworks LLC has the same work ethic."

Another major reason for Siteworks LLC’s success is Brian Callahan. He serves as Siteworks’ field operations general superintendent.

"Brian and I have been working together since 1993, and have been at Siteworks since day one," Scott said. "He has been in the field for a long time and is very well known and respected in the site construction industry. I don’t have to worry about being in the field every day, because I trust him. We communicate all of the time regarding field and office issues. It’s been a very good partnership for both of us.

"Another important part of our success is that Brian has gone out of his way to find, hire, retain and promote good young talent. Over the past year, he has turned over the leadership of our grading operations to Walt Hubbard. He started working with Siteworks in 2005 as a grading foreman. Since that time, he has been able to successfully construct and complete some of our largest, most difficult projects. Walt is a young, motivated leader of men. Callahan and I knew that he could guide and facilitate our grading crews while still meeting our demanding production schedules."

Scott noted that their utility division has grown tremendously.

"We were fortunate enough to hire Chuck Middleton early on, who serves as our utility superintendent," he said. "With his tutelage, we’ve been able to grow from the initial utility crew to six utility crews. He’s very safety conscious, and always makes sure that each crew has the proper trench and manhole boxes and each excavation is properly performed. We have promoted Kary Combs to utility superintendent. He helps to also provide guidance to the utility crews. He has worked with Brian and me for a long time as a utility foreman. Both Chuck and Kary have built a lot of projects that have underground utilities including underground detention/water quality systems, domestic water/fire lines, sanitary sewer systems, and rain gardens."

For Siteworks, smaller is sometimes better.

"We want to provide superior customer service in the site construction industry," Scott said. "Part of why I think we have maintained continued success is the fact that we have remained conservative and our field and office people do what they say they will do."

Melissa noted that they go after projects that specialize in what they’re good at.

"Primarily, Siteworks’ niche is the 10-acre and down turn-key site package," she said. They are smaller in scope than larger companies would like to deal with. We want to do turn-key site packages — taking a job from a raw piece of land and turning it into a finished project with a paved parking lot and a vertical structure on it. Nine out of ten of our projects are that scope of work. But with having the pipe crews, we’re able to go out and bid utility-only projects while still filtering in other concrete and asphalt repair jobs into our schedule."

As Scott puts it, Siteworks is "either one of the smallest of the big guys or the biggest of the small guys."

The Bovits noted that they have a weekly scheduling meeting every Tuesday at lunch time. They provide lunch for their project managers, estimators and superintendents. They have dry erase boards that they use to schedule every project they have for the next four weeks. This allows estimating to know when the company needs work, and for the PM and superintendent to further discuss their clients schedule and any potential field or crew conflicts.

Melissa said she handles the internal operations of the company, such as bonding, insurance and the day-to-day office operation. She also organizes safety classes, and pre-qualifications.

"I’m kind of a jack of all trades," Melissa said. "If anything needs to be done, I make sure the correct person has the correct tools to do complete the task. I never could do all of this without the help of all the staff members. I try to look at all the aspects of the company. Day-to-day operations in the office keep me pretty busy, but I do enjoy getting out to our jobsites. Scott and I think it is important to have a personal connection with everyone who works with us. They are what make Siteworks a success and when they know they’re appreciated it all falls together.

"Going through the recession, we’ve been blessed with our business relationships. Our commercial bank and our bonding company have believed in us through the years. Whenever we’ve asked for a bond or financing, we’ve been able to procure it. Bonding and financial support has become very important in today’s construction climate."

One of the company’s first projects was a parking lot expansion for Estes Express.

"They’ve always been one of my best customers." Scott said. "They’re still a very good client of ours. We do repair work for them in North Carolina and South Carolina."

This year, Siteworks LLC purchased new estimating and field management software to help streamline the process.

"We are excited about how HCSS will help us gather better information from the field that should also make us even more competitive with estimating," Scott said.

One of the most memorable jobs that Siteworks has done is a $5.5 million road extension at Dixie River Road for the City of Charlotte.

"We built it in the economic downturn," Scott said. "It’s the largest, most complex project job we’ve completed to date. There were box culverts, water line relocation, unsuitable soils, new rain gardens, over 100,000 cubic yards of dirt to relocate on site, various types of concrete work and full depth asphalt paving. It was both our largest new road and road relocation all in one CDOT project. There were a lot of people working very hard and a lot of coordinating between two DOT’s and public utility companies. The guys did a great job of building this project. Walt Hubbard was our superintendent on this project."

Another noteworthy project was for the Charlotte School of Law.

"It was our first time dealing with various soil contaminations," Scott said. "We dealt with some soils that we literally had to wear white safety suits and respirators, and some of it had to be packaged up and sent to special landfills, and others had to be buried in deep fills and capped off under concrete or asphalt paving."

Scott reported that 70 to 75 percent of his business is from repeat customers.

"We owe everything we have accomplished to date to our customers," Scott said. "Without their continued business, we probably would not have made it through the recession and still be here to service Charlotte today."

According to Scott, the company motto is to provide superior customer service in the site construction industry.

"Brian’s goal is for his field personnel to do the job correctly," Scott said. "Our phones are on 24/7 and all our customers know it. When you own and are building a company, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Through a lot of really good people working very hard, a little bit of luck thrown in, some decent business decisions along the way, and a supporting cast like Carolina Tractor, our Cat dealer, we’ve grown to be one of Charlotte’s better site work general contractors."

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