Ryan Mikula (L), Dennis Mikula Jr. (C) and Dennis Mikula Sr. are the family behind it all.
Contractors in northern New Jersey routinely visit Mikula Contracting Inc. in Clifton, N.J., when they need parts from Foley Inc. for their Caterpillar equipment. Mikula isn’t a distributor; the third-generation family business is an excavating contractor and long-time Foley customer with a drop box on site.
As Dennis Mikula Jr., the company’s vice president, tells the story, Foley Truck Power (Now called the On Highway Division) and Foley’s Machine Division are former tenants, having rented space more than 15 years ago for a satellite location. “Everyone is used to the location, so we kept the drop box.”
Located about 45 to 50 mi. from Foley Inc. headquarters, it’s a strategically located parts drop site that’s easy for customers to access, said Warren Gonzalez, Foley Inc. sales representative.
Foley Inc. still uses the location to get parts to northern New Jersey contractors, with daily deliveries. Mikula doesn’t mind. “It’s a service for other contractors. After all, we’re all in it together.”
The hospitable attitude is indicative of the Mikula family’s approach to business. Founded in 1946 by Nick Mikula, Sr., the company was originally called Nick Mikula Excavating and consisted of a single dump truck. Renamed and incorporated in 1968, Mikula Contracting Inc. continued to expand and evolve, with Dennis Mikula Sr. picking up the reins in the early 1980s.
These days, the company provides excavation, demolition, environmental, snow removal, trucking and soil materials services, performing mostly private sector work throughout the state of New Jersey. The size of the company’s staff also has grown to an average of 16 employees, many of whom are family members, including: Dennis Mikula Sr., Dennis Mikula Jr., Ryan Mikula, Andrew Mikula, Leonard Wieczerzak and LJ Wieczerzak.
The third generation continues to exemplify the work ethic and integrity established by the company’s founder. It’s that professional approach that has helped sustain the company through several decades. But hard work alone isn’t the only aspect of business that has made Mikula Contracting successful. “This has always been a customer service business,” Mikula recognizes. “We have a major advantage: we’ve been around 66 years. We have a good client base, with relationships that go back 2 to 3 generations.”
One of those long-lasting relationships is with Foley Inc. “We’re one of Foley’s oldest customers,” Mikula claims, adding as proof that they still have an invoice from before Foley incorporated. “We’ve been in business 66 years; they’ve been in business 55. The relationship started with my grandfather, Nick Mikula Sr., and Jamie and Ryan’s grandfather, Ed Foley.”
Gonzalez, who’s been working with Mikula as their representative for six years, said his relationship with the contractor is evolving. “They consult me about changing needs and other changes in the market place, from big jobs with big machines to smaller jobs with smaller equipment.”
“We talk with our Foley reps, ask for their input and viewpoint, bounce ideas off each other,” Mikula said, adding that their own tenure in the industry has provided a wealth of experience to use. “We’ve been through recessions; we know how to handle rough times. Opportunities are out there. Projects are picking up again; there’s site work and cleanups. It’s cyclical — it all flows.”
The company’s approach is diversification, which Mikula credits with keeping business steady. The contractor once known for excavating and land clearing now also specializes in demolition and site improvement: cleanup, tank removal and environmental. “Diversification allows us to continue, even in hard times.”
Gonzalez agreed. “They’re nimble and flexible enough to weather the recession.” But, as Mikula knows, being diversified requires a lot of different sizes of equipment.
Tools of the Trade
Just as the scope of their work has expanded, so has their inventory. “We have 15 to 16 pieces [of heavy construction equipment],” Mikula estimated. “Eighty-five percent of our heavy equipment fleet is Cat, due to its longevity, reliability and customer service. It’s not the cheapest product, but the majority of our equipment is Cat because it’s great and we know it’s going to last. Being a third-generation company, you look at longevity. We know the equipment will last; it’s quality equipment. We know we won’t have to replace it in a couple years, so we can buy other equipment to expand our fleet. It helps if you don’t have to constantly replace machines. That’s why we like Cat; the return on investment is great.”
In addition to a 315 excavator, 320 excavator, 416 backhoe, D5 dozer and 928 loader, recent acquisitions include a 308 excavator, 304 excavator and 289 skid steer loader.
“They are methodical about purchases,” Gonzalez said. “We work closely with them to familiarize them with our smaller machines. The busiest machines in their fleet are the 308, a 304 mini and the 289 compact track loader, their last three purchases.”
One advantage of adding the smaller machines to their inventory is that no matter the size of the job, Mikula Contracting has the right equipment to service a client’s needs. “We have flexibility due to the range of equipment in our fleet.”
But size of the job doesn’t always indicate size of the machine required. “The scope of a job changes sometimes,” Mikula explained. “We often have our largest and smallest equipment on the same job. You need big and compact equipment.”
The size and scope of jobs will change, Mikula continued. It’s a trend he foresees continuing in the construction industry. Maintaining a diversified inventory of Caterpillar equipment allows them the flexibly to handle all of their customers’ needs and continue to serve their changing needs through the market and economy.
Serving the needs of the industry is what has kept Mikula Contracting in business for so many years. “It’s the same with us as it is with Foley,” Mikula said. “We fix issues and make our clients happy.”
Sure, they could get parts delivered to their drop box from any number of dealers who are closer, but, as Mikula explained, “We have a history with Foley and a superb relationship with Warren. We get good service from Foley. They provide a personal touch; we just pick up the phone and get answers. They deliver across the board.”
This article was reprinted with permission from Paydirt Magazine Fall 2012 Issue.