Mike Jost has always had a fascination with heavy equipment. As a child, he was often found playing with Tonka toys and laying imaginary pipe. Today, he’s living out his childhood dreams as owner and president of Mike Jost Excavating, one of northern New Jersey’s premier private excavating companies.
“I’ve always liked the business,” said Jost, whose company is based in Franklin Lakes, NJ. “I started out digging holes with spoons when I was really little, but I remember being fascinated by equipment. When I graduated from high school, I started working for a local company but quickly decided I wanted to be out on my own. That was 1979 when I was 19 years old, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Today, Mike Jost Excavating’s 26-year-old business is extremely versatile and can accomplish a variety of jobs from excavating with a “teaspoon” compact excavator to performing demolition or excavating with a 75,000-lb. excavator. His business performs excavating, grading, pipeline and septic system installation, demolition of structures, and rock excavating with hydraulic hammers for foundation excavation in blasting-sensitive communities. He has a reputation of quality workmanship with many area engineering firms and general contractors, which results in many referrals.
Jost’s company is a family business, with his wife Kathy serving as vice president; his brother-in-law Keith Callahan is chief estimator; his brother Tom is a job-site foreman;and Kristen DeHart, Callahan’s fiancee, serves as a secretary. Son Michael is following in his father’s footsteps, but instead of digging with spoons he learned to operate the Komatsu PC27R compact excavator.
Jost began business with a used dump truck, hauling whatever he could for whoever needed it hauled. After about a year in business, he purchased a used backhoe and a used track loader and began moving dirt. Today, Mike Jost Excavating is a far cry from his humble beginnings. The company has more than 25 pieces of equipment and 30 employees.
Since the beginning, Mike Jost Excavating has experienced steady growth while performing a variety of jobs. Northern New Jersey is densely populated and, for the most part, is all rock.
“Blasting is not an option, so to excavate the rock foundations we have set up all our excavators with JRB quick couplers and plumbing to run our Stanley hammers, all supplied by Binder Machinery Company,” Jost commented.
“There has been lots of rock work to perform for our customers and, even though it is difficult and hard on the equipment, we welcome the challenges. As customer demand for our services increased, we continued to buy the equipment needed to satisfy their requirements.”
Two big reasons for the company’s growth are Mike Jost Excavating’s reputation for doing quality work and Jost’s willingness to take on most any project. It is why his customers, many of whom are the elite builders in northern New Jersey, continue to call on him.
“We will do whatever it takes to please the customer,” Callahan said. “Mike’s always willing to take on a job if it will facilitate a customer’s needs. There are times when we have as many as 40 active projects in various stages of work. We’ve always been able to start and finish them on time and do a quality job. Our customers continue to call us because they know what they’re going to get, and that’s a job that’s done right.
“Mike is a perfectionist,” Callahan continued. “He wants everything to be just right before the job is considered done. When our projects are done, you won’t see trash or big rocks on the finished product. That’s just one reason our customers continue to call us.”
Up to the Challenge
Another reason is because Jost enjoys a challenge.
“He’s always been willing to take on things that others don’t want any part of,” Callahan continued. “If it’s reasonable that we can get it done, he’ll try it. There have been times when he’s taken on a project and the rest of us thought he was out of his mind, but we’ve always managed to get them done.”
One job the company recently completed involved using Komatsu compact excavators to hammer out a bridge deck for the Sony Corporation in Park Ridge. “It was a challenging job because we couldn’t use anything big on the bridge deck, so it all had to be done with the compact excavators.”
Mike Jost Excavating also did the site work for an addition to the Colonial Road School in Franklin Lakes. The company excavated for the new addition, did site grading and put in the drainage systems. Mike Jost crews also completed the site grading and drainage systems for another area school that was putting new turf on its football field.
“I think one of the things everyone likes is that the work isn’t dull,” Jost said. “All our jobs are unique, so my guys don’t get bored the doing the same thing over and over again. We did a job not too long ago where we had to dig on the side of a rather large hill. It was a challenge at first, but once we got going and the guys figured out the best way to do it, it went smoothly.”
In order to keep things running smoothly, Jost turns to a dedicated group of employees, many of whom have been with the company several years. He credits them with the company’s continued success.
“We have a great group of people working here,” Jost emphasized. “They are willing to do whatever is necessary to make a project go smoothly. They are what we call ’cross-trained’ and they are very versatile. For example, I don’t have just operators. Everyone who runs equipment also knows how to lay pipe, shoot grade, or whatever needs to be done on a job. Many of our laborers are learning to run machinery as well. That kind of diversity on the job helps us stay productive.”
Jost credits Callahan for keeping things running like clockwork. “He been a phenomenal help to us,” Jost acknowledged. “He has a degree in engineering, so he brings a different perspective in the field. He’s very good at keeping things straight and scheduled so we’re always the most productive.
“One of the things I strive for is hiring the best people,” Jost added. “I weed through a lot of people to make sure I find the one I think fits best with our company, then we do everything we can to make sure they stay with us and constantly have work. They appreciate that, and it’s been a big benefit for us.”
Reliable, Productive Equipment
To maintain productivity, Jost turns to a considerable fleet of equipment, including numerous pieces of Komatsu equipment purchased from Binder Machinery. Mike Jost Excavating recently purchased a new D39PX-21A Komstat II dozer and a PC200LC-7 excavator.
The company also owns two Komatsu compact excavators, a PC27 and a PC58; several larger excavators, ranging from a PC128UU to a PC300; two wheel loaders, a WA180 and a WA250; and three other dozers, ranging from D37 to D65. Jost also has purchased several other pieces of equipment from Binder Machinery, including Stanley hammers and compactors.
“From 1985, when I purchased the first Komatsu PC150-1 excavators ever sold in New Jersey, Walt Binder told me he would stand behind the machine and I have been impressed with the product and the support. It was my first piece of Komatsu equipment and I recently sold it, but after using it for 20 years, that says a lot about Komatsu equipment.
“Our operators prefer Komatsu equipment and especially the new D39PX-21A dozer. When I heard about the new Komstat Series, I decided to try one. Our operator felt it was smooth and had good power, too. I replaced a competitive machine with this dozer because it was the machine of choice.
“We had the same experience with the PC200LC-7. I have owned and operated Dash-1, Dash-3, Dash-5, Dash-6 and now Dash-7 excavators. The PC200LC-7 is the right size to handle our 5,000-ft./lb. Stanley hammers and has the speed and production needed for excavating. It is doing a good job for us.”
Jost has worked closely with Binder Machinery Company for more than 20 years.
“One of the reasons we have Komatsu equipment is because of the relationship we’ve built over the years with Binder Machinery,” Jost explained.
“They’ve always assured me that they would back their equipment and they always have. I remember buying a new piece of machinery and worrying about whether there would be parts available for it. Walter Binder promised me they would have it or he would take the part off a machine in their yard. That’s the kind of service you want from your dealer.
“Our mechanics do most of the minor repairs and oil changes, but I use Binder mechanics for the technical repairs and PM tune-ups because they have great experience,” Jost said.
“Binder has been very good about making sure we have maximum productivity,” Jost noted. “We can call their shop anytime to talk to the service department about concerns as well. Many times they will walk us through things on the phone. We’ve also taken advantage of the parts exchange program. Binder’s been very good to us. It’s a nice feeling to have them behind you.”
Currently, Roy Corriveau, Jost’s product support representative, has been there to provide after-the-sale parts and service support. Corriveau’s goal is to reduce Jost’s owning and operating cost, and advise him on the most economical repair options to keep the equipment up to Jost’s standards.
Those standards include offering his customers a high level of service. It’s what he built his business on and he doesn’t plan on deviating from it. It’s given Mike Jost Excavating a solid reputation with area builders, who continue to call to get a job done.
“The most important thing is to make sure the customer is happy with the job in the end,” Jost said. “We strive for theat every time we take on a job. We’re fair and honest with our customers and they appreciate that. We didn’t start out to be as big as we are, but we got to this point by not skimping on quality or being afraid to work hard.
“Now, we have to make sure we control our growth,” he concluded. “We’ve always had the personal touch and we don’t want to lose it.”
(This article appears courtesy of “Building With Binder” magazine.)