Some contractors believe that diversifying their construction applications is the route to success because it enables them to compete for a broader range of work.
Keith Konkus, owner of Konkus Corporation of Chester, N.J., is not one of those contractors.
“In my opinion, you specialize in one thing and gear?all your personnel toward that. Every job that we do has a bridge in it or related to it. It’s what we specialize in, and I don’t go after anything else.That’s all of my business,” he said.
“There aren’t many contractors who do only what we do,” he added. “Everybody else does a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But we excel because we do the same thing over and over again.
“For example,” he said, “all of my projects involve concrete work. So all of the guys understand how concrete works, how grades work. My guys understand what we’re building. They can read the plans, and they can envision what they’re building. If you can’t envision the end result, it makes the construction so much harder.”
According to Konkus, “You can’t take a crew that does nothing but bridge work and concrete work, then send them out to install storm serers or sanitary sewers. You won’t get efficient production. But if you have people doing the same task over and over again, they excel at it. The more times you do it, the more efficient you get. We’re always looking for efficiency.
Konkus developed his belief in the “one application” approach while building his business from scratch. He remembers starting out in 2002 as a subcontractor with one backhoe. “Basically, I was the guy who came in to do the digging for the basement, the sewer lines and the water lines,” he said.
In 2004, he decided against being a subcontractor and took a shot at a bridge project that came up for public bid. He won the contract, performed well and carved his niche in the construction market. He’s been doing nothing but public bid work ever since.
Konkus Corp. routinely wins contracts from the state of New Jersey and the various counties in the state — more than 50 so far — with projects varying in size from $1 million to $15 million. Konkus divides his employees (60 during the peak season) into crews to tackle four to six jobs at any one time.
Early this winter, the work ranged from a $13 million bridge replacement on Route 7 in Kearny and a $10 mil- lion bridge replacement on Route 31 in Glen Gardener to a $1.5 million bridge project on Route 57.
The numbers are large, but those public-sector con- tracts are won with low bids, making efficiency a crucial factor in profitability. The company’s Web site points to the training of employees as critical to the success of Konkus Corp., and Konkus has been directly involved in developing efficient crews.
“I’m not really an office guy,” he said. “To this day, I spend every single day outside at one or two of our jobs. I’ve worked alongside everyone who works for me. All of my guys like what they do, and I trust them. My four job supervisors do the jobs the way I would do them.”
Uptime, All the Time
Konkus Corp. also boosts efficiency with high-quality equipment and cutting-edge technology chosen specifically for the company’s bridge-related projects. “We buy only equipment that fits the scope of what we do,” Konkus said.
The company uses Cat machines exclusively for its heavy construction equipment. The fleet includes two 305, two 314E and three 328 hydraulic excavators, three 938 wheel loaders, D4 and D5 dozers, a pair of 420 backhoe loaders and a 433 roller.
“There aren’t many companies that operate with all Cat machines, but I do. We’re happy with the products and never have any down time. I’m a Cat fan, and I’m go- ing to stick to that,” Konkus said, noting that he also relies on Cat technology to get the most from the machines.
“We have the Cat software that tells us where a machine is, how much fuel a machine burns and how productive it is. I have that on every one of my machines,” he said. “That’s helps with maintenance, it helps with planning, it helps with logistics, cost analysis and cost-cutting.”
Konkus keeps his Cat machines for a maximum of four years before selling them. “Cat equipment holds its value very well, so the resale price is high. We usually sell it ourselves with no problem,” he said. The sales help fund his purchase of new replacements.
“Everything we do has to be highly productive, and we count on our machines to work every day, so we depend on new,” he said.
Because even the best equipment needs routine upkeep, Konkus takes advantage of the preventive maintenance program offered by Foley Inc. to keep his machines in top condition.
“All those things put together help me keep my fleet running all the time. I’m never down,” he said. “That’s important, because if you have a machine that breaks down on a job where you’ve got 10 guys, everything and everybody comes to a standstill. Any down time costs big money.” Konkus supplements the company fleet through equipment rentals from Foley Rents “because you can’t own everything,” he said. “All the little stuff that we need to do the job — generators, light towers, pumps, man-lifts. The dealership is like a one-stop shop. It’s convenient, and it’s always there. That’s a big help.”
Service Builds Relationships
Armed with the right people and machines, Konkus can focus on the service and relationships — with both his customers and his vendors — that help keep his company operating smoothly year after year.
For example, Konkus noted, a county highway department is likely to have only two to five people who are responsible for maintaining the bridges within their county. “So after you do several jobs for a county, you develop relationships with those people and understand what they’re looking for from a contractor,” he said, making it easier to meet and exceed their expectations.
Likewise, Konkus values the extraordinary service provided by Foley Inc. He pointed out that the dealership performs a lot of his equipment maintenance after hours and on weekends to avoid down time during working hours, “and that’s a big help to us.”
Foley also offers after-hours pickup of rental equip- ment on nights and weekends. “They’ve done that a lot for me,” Konkus said. “That’s a huge help because a lot of times we have night work, and we need that equip- ment. Little things like that might not seem like a lot, but without that kind of help it’s harder to get where you want to go as a company.”
He added, “The people at Foley have always been great to me,” particularly his longtime Foley sales representative, Tom Alfano, who makes sure Konkus Corp. crews receive the equipment and service they need to keep working without interruption. “Anything I want, when I want it, seven days a week, it’s always there without any questions,” Konkus said.
Alfano admires Konkus’ achievements. “Keith has worked hard and it’s really paid off,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to be part of the growth of his business and to know that your input made an impact.”
Konkus has his team focused for long-term success.
This story was reprinted with permission from PayDirt Magazine, Spring 2015 issue.