When was the last time someone offered to move mountains for you? You probably rolled your eyes in response. But when you’re dealing with Mike Soule, owner of Mike's Earthworks, this isn’t an empty sales pitch: this is everyday business.
Mike's Earthworks is a private company that provides a variety of services that will alter your landscapes, including excavation and grading, carving out driveways for new properties, brush cutting, and field mowing. The Earthworks staff also provides lawn maintenance, snow removal and sanding.
For Soule, who had been in construction since graduating high school, Mike's Earthworks was the logical progression. He started in the business working in his father’s company before becoming a partner in Catskill Mountain Construction with Richard Fodrowski. In 2001, he decided to start his own company and Mike's Earthworks was born.
Admittedly, things got off to a—er, rocky start.
“Yes, it was very difficult in the beginning,” Soule recalled. He had a modest amount of start-up capital for this new venture. In fact, he hoped that new clients would not notice that he was using old equipment that he had refurbished to economize. The prevailing concern was whether he could generate enough clients for this fledgling business to keep ahead of massive operational expenses.
Soule assured new customers that Mike's Earthworks, although new to the scene, was a business that was dependable.
“I promised clients that we would be there from the start to the finish of every job and we would guarantee that the customer was fully satisfied.”
The business grew, but not without fits and starts. Soule had to monitor the bottom line before deciding whether the company was solvent enough to begin buying new equipment, which was extremely expensive. On the other hand, better equipment meant that they could bid on bigger jobs that brought in more money.
While maintaining revenues was an ongoing challenge, Soule dedicated himself to the best customer service possible. He focused on developing good relationships with the customers and addressing their needs and occasional complaints with good cheer. Just offering a personal touch set Mike’s Earthworks apart from the rest.
“I knew Mike's Earthworks was on the right road when I started receiving more and more thank you notes and letters of appreciation,” he said.
A typical day at Mike’s Earthworks starts early and ends late. Soule holds a meeting in the Stone Ridge shop with his crew to discuss the agenda for that day’s job: where it is, what they hope to accomplish that day, and which equipment is needed. After the equipment is loaded and driven to the site, these multi-tonnage machines have to be unloaded again to start the work.
One day the job could be grading a new lawn. Another day it is clearing the property for a new driveway or building retaining walls. Another day, the Mike’s Earthworks crew is excavating for a pond or seeding a new lawn.
“Or sometimes the job is all of these in the same day.”
Soule’s son, Michael, has joined the company and is running a large part of the business.
While maintaining the bottom line is not a chronic worry, Mike Soule still needs to stay competitive in a challenging business. He keeps up on the latest equipment and supplies available, as well as learning about new techniques.
Yet his greatest emphasis is on upholding the standard of customer service.
“I have learned from my colleagues and competitors that you have to be honest and do good work. If you charge a fair price, you will stay busy. If you're not, then you won't.”
143 Schoonmaker Lane, Stone Ridge, NY 12484