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Wed May 21, 2014 - Northeast Edition
Jerry Talbot is a challenging interview. He isn’t anti-social or unpleasant. On the contrary, he’ll help anyone, whether you hired him or not. But he is not real big on being the center of attention, said one of his clients. And he’s very busy. Talbot, the owner of Excavation Plus Inc. of Monson, Mass., works seven days a week past sundown, if necessary, and is committed to finishing every job right, honestly and ahead of schedule.
Talbot prefers to let his work do the talking. He doesn’t advertise. His reputation precedes him. People in these parts know that if they hire him, the work will speak for itself.
25 Years In Business
Talbot started his company 25 years ago. He’s too busy for anniversary talk, though.
"The company started with myself and my father-in-law when the company I was working for closed," said Talbot. "My father-in-law retired approximately 14 years ago. We started with one two-wheel drive Case 580 backhoe."
Talbot is completely honest about the mistakes he has made.
"I learned the trade by making a lot of mistakes, from reading prints to septic installations," Talbot said. "Being new to the industry, no one wants to help you. The industry is very competitive in this area."
Headquartered in Monson, Mass., Excavation Plus Inc. specializes in septic system installations, house site excavation, sewer and water installations, demolition, drainage work, small road extensions and snow plowing and sanding.
"We have installed and serviced quite a few sewage pumps in the last few years. The winter typically is snow plowing with the occasional digging job," said Talbot. "We operate with five full-time and two part-time employees. We have been in operation for approximately 25 years."
Growing With Sons
Talbot’s company had grown to as many as 10 to 12 employees, then back down to five, after the 2008 recession.
"My oldest son, age 20, has worked for the company for the last couple of years," said Talbot. "My youngest son, just eight years old, is showing a lot of interest."
Because he has trouble putting in a good word about himself, word of mouth is his most important advertising tool.
"Ninety percent of our work comes from that," said Talbot.
To learn more about the quality of Talbot’s work, you have to speak to others. Testimonials abound on his Facebook page. People post reviews like "awesome" "best crew ever!" A woman named Angela writes about how a tornado destroyed seven acres of her property and Excavation Plus restored her yard better than it was originally.
Brenda Scungio and her husband who hired Excavation Plus to dig the site for their home reveal how Talbot gets business.
"I met Jerry when he was doing the excavation for a house next to the land we had just purchased in Wilbraham, Mass.," said Scungio. "My husband and I had no idea what to do and how to start the excavation of the property. My husband walked over to Jerry and asked him a couple of questions and, within about 10 minutes, we knew Jerry was going to be doing the job. That was in 2004.
"We have never had any water problems and our property is beautiful. Jerry is the most trustworthy individual. When building our house, [we did the contracting ourselves] he was reasonable and honest at all times," said Scungio. "While Jerry was doing the site work on that property, our house that we were listing to sell, failed its Title 5 inspection and Jerry went right over and took care of that as well. So, Jerry has done two septic systems and the site work for our house."
Scungio began working for him in October.
"When I tell people where I work, most people around here know him or of him, and it is always a positive response.
"Anyone that does work with Jerry likes him. I have known him for a long time and I just came on board here. I can tell you he is the best person to work for as well. I love my job," said Scungio. "He has earned this. I don’t know many people that work as hard as he does. Jerry works all day, seven days a week. If he is on a job, when not actually running the machinery, he is fixing machines or prepping them or doing paperwork or scheduling the next job."
Like a Dream
"The most fun thing about this work is getting to run all the different types of equipment every day," Talbot said. "It’s like a dream when you are a kid."
And, like the child still very much within him, even though he imparts training to two vested sons on or near the job, he rates certain jobs on the fun quotient.
"The most unusual project we ever had was building a corrugated bridge over wetlands so that a road could extend for a subdivision extension," said Talbot. "We had never done anything like it before. It was a lot of fun."
But don’t let the boyish joy describing corrugated bridges fool you. Talbot takes his job very seriously.
"Safety is very important to this industry. Most is common sense," Talbot said. "Deep trenches are the most dangerous thing, but if done right, they are safe as well."
Staying Alive With Adjustments
"The jobs aren’t getting harder," Talbot said, "but the industry is. If someone wanted to get into the industry, I would let them know how hard it is now. Expenses continue to rise — fuel, insurance, manpower — and you’re competing with people that aren’t getting what the work is worth just to keep going. It is a tough time now."
He has survived by adapting to the recessions, downsizing, price shopping materials — which he didn’t have to do before 2008. Extra materials are now being saved for future jobs, where before, the company would discard them. In addition, machines and heavy iron are being fixed, rather than being replaced.
"The usual stuff," said Talbot, a mere three-word assessment of the state of the small guy’s business burden in 2014.
Yet, once again, Talbot does not give himself the credit he deserves for serving the center of his state with decent, fair, hard work.
"I think we have lasted this long because we always try to give the customer what they have paid for and a little more," Talbot said. "Honesty is key, not always profitable, but key."
For more information on Excavation Plus Inc. call 413/566-3293 or email [email protected]
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