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Ep. 130: Getting Ahead of the Trends in Construction with Luke Payne and Luke Eggebraaten

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11/14/2022

Getting ahead of construction trends podcast Taylor welcomes Luke Eggebraaten and Luke Payne, both successful business owners within the construction industry. Luke E is the Founder & Managing Partner of Phaser Marketing, which is a digital marketing agency for construction companies. Luke P, on the other hand, is the owner of the construction businesses: Black Iron Dirt & Demolition & Western Excavation LLC. They both share a passion for the “dirt world,” and they work and grow together with every mutual project.

Tune into this episode to hear all about this perfectly complementary partnership. What started out as a close friendship grew to become a strong partnership. And as both Luke E and Luke P say, the goal has always been to grow together, bring people together, and play off each other’s weaknesses. With so many successful years in the field, they’re now committed to sharing their wealth of knowledge with the construction world. In this episode, they share a lot of golden tips for construction companies looking to expand their online presence and build a bulletproof business so if you’re one of them, make sure you join Luke E, Luke P, and Taylor for this enlightening conversation.

Topics:

  • The beginning of a beautiful partnership
  • Niching down and becoming an industry expert
  • Deciding when to purchase new equipment
  • Improving cash flow
  • Careers in construction
  • The importance of a digital presence
  • Building a sustainable and strong business

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Episode transcript: 

Luke Payne: You have your boots on the ground, your job is to make the next person's job easier. So, it all kind of plays into, you know, working hard, having fun, and then just creating something.

Taylor White: We are back, and I am back. Yes, it is I, Taylor White, host of the greatest construction podcast, that is available conveniently on all platforms and stream, as well as the visual experience on YouTube. So, in order to watch that, go to the CONEXPO YouTube channel to see what we actually look like. No promises, though.

Although my guest today might disagree about this being the best construction podcast out there, welcome back to the one and only CONEXPO-CON/AGG podcast.

Today, I have the Dirtbags of the Dirt World; the double Luke edition - Luke E, and Luke P. This is going to be a high-value podcast for the listeners, so get ready. But before we start, I need to add that I did, in fact, have the first ever black 315 before Luke Payne.

Boys, welcome out.

Luke Payne: Keep it coming. Keep it coming. Welcome. Thanks for having us, Taylor.

Luke Eggebraaten: Dude, what's going on?

Taylor White: How much is going on? And to give people a bit of a background, we've done some podcasts together, but I've only ever been the guest. I've never actually got to sit down and talk to my boys from down in the States, and you guys both have businesses in the industry, but both different things. Like, you guys both are in construction, but both different things, which is why I think you guys make great guests. As well as, I know that Luke Eggebraaten-

Luke Eggebraaten: Nailed it.

Taylor White: -yep. Perfect. You're actually going to be on a panel at CONEXPO.

Luke Eggebraaten: Yes, sir. Yep. ‘The Importance of Your Online Visibility for Small to Medium-sized Contractors’. So, excited to speak and yeah, just meet up with everyone that we've been talking to.

Taylor White: I want to dive into that more, but first, let's give people a bit of a background on what you guys do. Because Luke P, we can talk more together about the industry, and machinery, and construction, because you own two separate construction businesses. So, maybe explain a little bit about what you do, and then, Luke E as well.

Luke Payne: Yeah. So, I own Black Iron Dirt here in Fargo, North Dakota, and then I own a company called Western Excavation. It's about two and a half hours to the West of us. It's just an excavating company, and they both have different realms to where they specialize in - our Western side is going to be more heavy industrial, and then our Black Iron side, we kind of focus more into like the residential side of things.

Taylor White: Awesome. And then Luke E, what are you kind of into? What's your thing?

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah, so all digital marketing. And about a couple of years ago, we started niching down into the construction space, and Luke and I have been working together since I started my agency, and I love business, so I've got a few businesses kind of in the dirt world; I've got Phaser Marketing, Dirt Work Marketing, and then Luke and I together started Dirtbags Media, which owns the Dirtbags podcast. And then I also own a grass drag racing company called, Turf Wars Racing. So, love to get out, get dirty, but like everything is connected. Like, people that come to the races also own a construction company that need some digital marketing help, so it's kind of just that big ecosystem we've created.

Taylor White: So, you're pretty smart. It kind of builds off the other one. I didn't know that about you. So, what is a grass drags?

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. Basically, 300-foot track. You get your side-by-side, your quad, your lawn mower, whatever you got, pit bike maybe, and we've got classes, got some badass trophies, and then $1,000 cash for the open mod champ. Basically, right now we're traveling around Minnesota, kind of taking over the Demo Derbys and ripping out there. So, it's been a blast, but I'm a fourth partner in there, and so we kind of call that our guilty pleasure business where Phaser Marketing is my main business, but we love racing.

Taylor White: This is what I like. So, I mean these are guys that in the background to the listeners or people watching, I generally actually really enjoy and love talking to these guys. As much as-- I mean in our relationship is just busting each other's balls really. But that's what I like. Whenever I first went on with you guys, I knew, I'm like, "Okay, these guys are cool dudes." How did you guys link up?

Luke Payne: This is good. This is great. Luke and I actually have a really kind of a long history together. Like, we grew up in the same small town, it was Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. We went to grade school together. Luke's a grade above me in the education scale, but then, you know, went to the same high school, we were on the same football team, we were on the same wrestling team. Come college, we kind of parted ways, and then, Luke, you were done at college at that point, right?

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah.

Luke Payne: That's when we kind of came back together and Luke's like, "Oh, I'm going to start my digital marketing agency." And I was like, "Oh, cool. I just started an excavation company." And then that's where we kind of linked up and were like, "Hey, Luke, will you work with me on this?" Yeah, absolutely. "Luke, you're going to be my first client." And then just kind of went from there-

Taylor White: -how long ago was that? Sorry.

Luke Payne: It's 2018, I think.

Luke Eggebraaten: No, it was supposed to be 2019-

Taylor White: -I just wanted to know the timeline because I'm like, "How?" You guys gel together so well.

Luke Payne: It's the Luke Syndrome is what we call it.

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. Get this, Taylor. So, 2019 Luke reaches out to me, He's like, “I'm starting, you know, I have Black Iron. I want to start doing some marketing.” Line him up is my first client. I'm just juiced. I'm like, “Okay, this is a side hustle.” Things are taking off. He calls me like two weeks later. He is like, “Luke, I'm going to be a dad. I don't think I can do this right now.” And so, he had just found out, I was like the third person to know that, that they were pregnant. And so, I was like, "Damn, that sucks. There goes my first client." But-

Luke Payne: I think you said that on the phone call too. You were like, "Damn it, Luke, Jesus." And I was like, "Dude, I'm sorry, man."

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. But Sure enough, he came around and it was April of 2020. We started on the Black Iron's first website. And then since then we haven't taken a day off with Black Iron. And like you said, Taylor, Luke, and I gel so well together, and it's one of those business partnerships where we kind of just set the money aside, and we say, "Okay, let's get to work." Like, everything is like we're growing together. And he's helped my agency grow so much, and then vice versa. Like, we've helped take some things off of his shoulders. And even with the Dirtbags now too, it's like, "Let's just do as much as we can together, and just try and dominate this whole world of business, but also do it with people that we really enjoy." And that's been the fun part, is just bringing people together.

Taylor White: Yeah. I think that's really a good point, and I feel like that's a really good takeaway for the listeners. And when you're saying that, I mean, it's so true. Your team, and being able to gel together so well- like I always talk about it with us in the office, you know, like, we can talk to each other like how we all talk to each other as well. And having a team that works so well together and is integrated together is just key to growth and success.

Luke Payne: No, definitely. And I think just playing off each other's weaknesses too is really big. Luke and I are so different that it's almost the perfect partnership in a lot of the ways because he complements areas where I have no expertise, no knowledge in, and vice versa. Granted, Luke is a very smart dude, so he probably knows more of what I try to help him with too. He just probably makes me feel good.

Luke Eggebraaten: No, not at all. You guys give me way too much credit. You guys are way too nice.

Taylor White: Yeah. I mean, you definitely strike me as a smarter one in this relationship.

Luke Payne: Yeah, yeah, definitely. For sure. Thanks, Taylor. Appreciate it. I think I'm going to start commenting on those TikToks and be like, "Who is this guy?"

Taylor White: We'll go back and forth. Yeah. For the people that are listening, we go back and forth on TikTok quite a bit, me and Luke Payne, and we had a little bit of beef on there, but it's all resolved. But it could fire back up real quick here.

Luke Payne: Good. Watch out. We had the race to the 315s, and I think Taylor did win, but-

Taylor White: -By like a week. Dude, that's how I actually knew about you. You know, you posted on TikTok and I was like, "Okay, this guy has another 315 painted black." Like, that's incredible. And then people were in the comments, and then you comment, and it was like, "Who's Taylor? Never heard of her."

Luke Payne: I still love that. That's great.

Taylor White: That was funny. That was hilarious. I wanted to ask you, Luke P, how do you manage? Because when Dylan was in here, Dylan from D2 Contracting, he's from Michigan and he was up here visiting me in Canada. He was telling me about how--like, he was at a job site in a different location, and for me, I always found that I have the opportunity to maybe move operations to another location as well because I have some good contacts in the Toronto area, and I always struggle with, "How am I able to do that? How can I do that - have something set up in a different location?” So, I kind of know my answer, but I'm interested to hear from you, how do you manage doing that? Because that's an art.

Luke Payne: Yeah, it's been a huge-- we're learning a lot still. Like on the Western side, I have a partner with it. His name is Cole, and Cole is actually from the Bismark area, but what we're finding in that realm is, you know, in order to be successful, we have to travel. We’ve got to travel to these smaller areas, and then honestly, that's where our guys come into play, and Dylan, Shay, Cole, are probably like our three main guys out there right now. And I wish I could say I taught them how to manage these jobs, but it's them kind of taking the initiative and just rolling with it.

If they need something, I think there's a common trust to where they're like, "Hey, we need this and we need this now," and then it falls back on Cole and I to make it happen. And then, you know, back on that, as soon as they get the piece, then they're like, "Okay, now it's our turn." So, I think it's just kind of a common understanding between both parties. That's been our biggest success, I would say. And again, I wish I could say I taught those guys how to do it, but I think they're actually teaching Cole and I how to kind of manage that side, which is really cool.

Taylor White: Yeah, I guess it kind of comes down to, like you're saying, having the right people, right?

Luke Payne: Oh, 100%. And you know, finding those people is few and far between, because I feel like the people that tend to do that on a job site, will probably go and do it for themselves.

Taylor White: Yeah. Well, I tried to hire Dylan when he was here and he's one of those guys. And it's funny because I always say the same thing, that A-type people are the hardest to hire because they don't need you. They're already working. Like, they don't need me. So, when Dylan was here, I'm like, "Dude, I'll pay you this and truck and-”

Luke Payne: -Schmooze him a little bit.

Taylor White: -yeah, yeah, yeah. And he is like, "Dude, honestly, sure great. But I know I can do better just living and doing my own thing." And I was like, It's so true. It was a perfect example of, you know, "This guy doesn't need me because he is already an A-type personality.

But Luke E, because you're in the same thing, right? You have things going on in different places, but your business can be done a lot remotely versus guys in machinery actually doing the work. And again, Dylan, he was telling me like, you have stuff set up all over the place, and even the guys that built my website, you work in conjunction with them as well, and they are in Canada. So, explain your side of it. How do you manage that? Because you have people I feel like are all over the world.

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. So, we have like a very scalable business model, I guess because I think what a lot of marketing agencies do is they go very broad and they say, "We'll work with anyone." And then it's like, "How do you learn a brand-new industry every single time you take on a client?" So, what we said is, we're going to go super narrow, super niche, and just go, honestly, like only seven and eight-figure excavation companies. Like, that's our bread and butter. But even further, we don't do any onsite photography, any videography, any of that.

We're completely remote. Our team-- we have nine contractors in the States, and then one in Serbia, and then a few up in Canada. And so, that kind of gives us different-

Taylor White: -you said Serbia?

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. Belgrade, I think is the city, but he's on I think like a 12-hour time difference. So, that helps us run like 24 hours a day where I can send him stuff at 7:00 PM, and then I wake up and it's done. So, kind of working with the time zones too.

But yeah, man, to answer your question, so, my wife and I live in Arizona. We don't have an Arizona client yet. We can be widespread, we can be all over, but it just helps to have our systems and processes in place where if somebody from Ottawa contacts me tonight, realistically, we can start working with them, receive payment tonight and get going tomorrow. And it's a totally different business than construction, but also like we're helping construction companies like that's what we do. So, it's just super simplified, super niche down, and just trying to do everything we can for the industry.

Taylor White: It's so cool because, like, Luke Payne, you can kind of relate to this. But with what me and Luke do, the overhead and the capital is so insane. You buy this $500,000 machine, and, at least in Canada, you rent it out for $200 an hour, you got to find somebody to run it, you got to maintain it, it's just so much. And then Luke E, I look at what you do, and I'm like-- first of all, I can't do what you do. That's why you're so good at what you're doing, that's why your business is booming. When I look at you, and I'm just like, "Man, it's so crazy that you're in the same industry as us." Like, why are you able to do what you're doing in 2023 in construction? What issue are you solving?

Luke Eggebraaten: So, the issue we're solving, and really it comes down to-- so, obviously, the big players BuildWitt, Eagle Eye Productions like some of these big outfits. We work with everyone. We work with all these guys, so-

Taylor White: -not just the big guys.

Luke Eggebraaten: -yeah, like we're directly tied in with everyone where we're like, "Hey, we do websites, SEO, and paid ads for excavation companies that are typically doing 1-50 million. So, now it's kind of broadened a little bit, but-- and it's like, if we have somebody that does half a billion, we're not going to take them on, we're going to send them to BuildWitt.

And so, there's kind of the one mission of like, make the Dirt World a better place, and not that we're an employee or anything a BuildWitt but it's like, Where can we kind of fit in and add value? And so, what we're seeing, you know, to go back to the question is, anyone that's doing, 1 million, 3 million, 5 million, they can't afford to hire an in-person digital marketing department, it's just not feasible, and it's not smart. But what they can do is they outsource it to a team that does that every single day. Like right now, it's like $2,500 a month, and we have a team of 12 that has a program for our clients. So, just to give some of those numbers because it's half of one full-time person, and we plug ourselves in for the next 10 years with our clients. And so, that's the goal, and that's how we can kind of help solve those problems and grow with our clients.

Taylor White: So, I guess Luke Payne, you're utilizing Phaser Marketing. So, like what issues is he solving for you? Like, what does he help you do?

Luke Payne: I was going to cut into that, Luke because I think you hit the nail on the head. But like the issues that I see as a contractor is, I don't know how to establish dominance on the website side, right? Because your website is like your gatekeeper. If someone wants to know more about you, they're going to Google you. And the more powerful you are on that side, I feel like it establishes more of the trust, and that's where Luke has really helped you know, get us in front of almost the right eyes, and then making sure our platforms are solid to where these people are like, "Okay, they have a very impressive structure to their internet self," that, "Hey, let's maybe trust them that way."

So, that, I feel like Luke is the issue that you've definitely solved for me and a lot and many others. But then also just maintaining that too is super huge. Keeping up with different trends of the internet, different trends of what's popular, what's not popular, things like that. That's where you and your team have created such, I'll call it a monopoly, just because you guys are so good at what you do. And I'm not trying to plug you here, but I'm sure you know, you could take other people up against you and just from what you've created has, again, helped me immensely, and helped Western immensely.

Luke Eggebraaten: I mean, I appreciate that. And I think the biggest thing is the consistency.

So, we don't do like, "Hey, we're going to do a magic trick for three months, and your business is going to explode." It's like before we get into business with a contractor, we want to be in business with you for the next five to 10 years. Like, if they don't already have that mentality of like, let's grow together, then we probably don't want to work with them.

So, we're very picky in who we want to work with, even if it's a company that just doesn't want a website, or doesn't want to have that online presence, of course, they need to have that before we work with them. And another thing too is, we don't want to beg anyone to work with us. It's like we want to work with contractors like Luke, who are like, "Hey, I want to be out there. I want my business to be out there. I want to be able to survive like the ups and downs of the economy, not just like the next six months, but hey, let's make this a big thing. While other people are cutting back, let's put our foot on the gas and that's what we can help with.

Taylor White: Yeah, I think what you're doing is definitely needed, because I think that it's one of the issues is, a lot of guys even like myself, or Luke Payne that have construction businesses that need an online presence or want an online presence, sometimes, those aren't specifically your stereotypical guys that know how to like build websites and do paid ads or SEO. Right? Because like they're good at what they do, so then they have you to kind of piggyback off of, which kind of leads me into my next question was; I wanted to know from both of you because this is what I like getting into because it affects me on my day-to-day. But like, what issues do you see in the construction industry right now because I find that there's a lot of people online that are trying to highlight the issues and be this, you know, superhero figures of like, "This is what we need to do for construction," and this is-- but like, what are those issues that you guys see? Luke Payne, what do you see out there when owning a business? What do you see? Like, what are the problems?

Luke Payne: I mean, there's a lot of problems and it's pretty black and white to where I would say 80% of the problems can be resolved by people not trying to do everything if that makes sense. Like a contractor is in business and they say, "I'm going to do all of this so nobody else can." I think that's a really big issue to where-- and not saying that companies can't do everything, which they can. But I feel like it comes to kind of like an ego thing as to, "I don't need any help. I'm going to figure it out myself." Well, when that happens, you know, I'll take job costs for like kind of an example here. When that person does that, maybe they don't know a whole lot about that field; Say, we'll take trucking, for instance. Right? Taylor, I think trucking in your guys' area is what, $105 an hour, $95 an hour for trucks?

Taylor White: Yeah. 105 now, just got a raise. Woo-hoo.

Luke Payne: Right. So, at least it's going up. But I feel like that is kind of a market that's been really hit by these people coming in and saying, "Well, I'm going to do it way cheaper," not knowing their costs. That person, you know, then could probably go out of business, but that number still stays there. That is now the competitive number that you have to deal with. So, I feel like a big issue right now is just knowledge, you know, learn about your industry before jumping into it, I think is probably one of the biggest.

Taylor White: Yeah. That's super smart, I totally get that. Like, why are these people coming into construction you think? Why is there so many people coming into it? What makes them think? Do you think they see the black excavators and they go-- because generally, I think this the same result. Do you think they're seeing what you're putting online and going, "Oh my God, this guy is living it. Oh yeah, I got to do this too.”

Luke Payne: 100%. I feel like, and again, that's a social media issue, but people only show the good side to social media to where when people are watching it, they're like, "Hey, there's only sunshine and rainbows over here." Right? If we start a company in here, we'll be set within a year, maybe even two, to where, you know, maybe that could be another issue is, you know, being vulnerable. No one wants to be vulnerable because of the judgment that might come with it, but maybe some of the vulnerability of, you know, posting that on social media might be a good thing. But again, I'll say it takes a big set of balls to be vulnerable on social media.

Taylor White: Yeah, 100%. What are some of those things that you think people aren't showing? Because I know I maybe could list three different things that I don't get to show because I feel like it would run into privacy issues with my guys because we are so small. Like, we just had a shake-up this week, and we lost an excavator operator on Monday, and he ran our big 325, and obviously, I'd never talk about his name personally, but it's one of those things where like, I want to go into depth and talk about it, and talk about the reasonings, and my mind process on it. And obviously, I'm thankful because I find that whenever this situation happens, it creates opportunity for other guys to really step up. But what are some of those things on your end that you find are like, "People need to show more of this"?

Luke Payne: One, I know it's a huge topic that Luke, we've talked about this multiple times, but really opening up, I feel like about cash flow. A better understanding about cash flow, I think would be really huge. And again, you got to be vulnerable for that because no one-- I don't know a lot of people that would really want to open their books and say, "Hey, take a look at it. Here's where we're at." You know, and they'll say their net profit or whatever is only 10,000, and they're barely scraping by. I feel like people are afraid of the judgment that might come with it, but if they do-

Taylor White: -would you do that?

Luke Payne: -I would probably do that, yeah. Because me personally, I want to know as much as I can. So, if there's somebody that knows how I can improve my business, you know, I don't give a shit. I would love to dive more into that just so I can know what I'm doing wrong.

And Luke, it's weird. We had this conversation literally an hour ago, about you know, finding somebody that could do like an audit to, you know, trim the fat of the company. "Hey, you're spending too much here." You know, I think that's really big.

Taylor White: We're doing that with an outside source right now. A third-party accountant that's looking over everything. Like, we are paying a good amount of money and they are going top to bottom, seeing where we're spending, what are profit margins on certain different types in work that we do, whether it's topsoil stripping versus septic systems versus commercial site development. So, that's a really good point.

Luke Payne: Yeah. No, I like that. I think another issue is just obviously, you know, the grass isn't always greener on the other side type thing. But just being open, I feel like there's a lot of secrets held within the company to where if there was maybe more conversations about that, there would be more room for growth with the employees, to where, you know, if guys are always demanding raises or if like, "Hey, we need this, we need that." Well, let me show you where we're at, and let me show you why we can't make that happen. And then that can maybe lead into conversations, obviously internally, where can we limit mistakes that cost us so much money? So, I feel like that can maybe be another big instance of where improvement can be made.

Taylor White: Yeah, I totally relate to everything you're saying, and I wish-- you know, obviously opening up our books to an outside source was kind of like, "Okay, I don't know these people and I'm giving them my year-end financials from this year," because our year-end is September 31st to September 31st. So, just handed those over last month, and it was kind of like daunting. But in a way, it's nice to have an outside look of the eyes on your books.

But Luke E, do you see people coming to you? Like, are you hearing the same thing with the kind of, not industry because you're in the same industry, but with what you are doing, are people coming to you with these issues? Or are they coming to you with different types of issues, or are you hearing this from your clients?

Luke Eggebraaten: So, my main motto is like, "I want to be a resource first, and a marketing agency, second." So, I just want to be like a book of knowledge where people feel comfortable like, "Hey Luke, I want to start a marketing agency,” or Hey Luke, “What should I do? I just started an excavation company. How should I get started?" And, you know, I'm just trying to be a normal guy and like have that conversation. So, that's how I always started, and that's kind of how it was. But until the Dirtbags came along, now it's opened up to a lot more construction knowledge, and it's crazy because I never worked in construction, but it's crazy what you pick up on when you get to talk to construction owners from all over the world, every single day. And so, I think just realizing that I don't have all the answers, but maybe somebody is doing something that's working, and I can just provide that piece of advice or that tip-

Taylor White: -Pass that along.

Luke Eggebraaten: -yeah. And what's really helped, I was going to bring this up, Luke and I, is creating a sense of community and we've done that through the podcast, and then, especially Dirtbags University, like where we had that paid exclusive group of people like, "Okay, we're not recording this, this is an exclusive group. Like, what do you got?”

Taylor White: Thank God. Hey, Luke P.

Luke Payne: Thank God. Just do it, Jack. Just do it, Jack.

Luke Eggebraaten: Luke was a menace. Luke was a menace. Jack.

Taylor White: You have to be in the DirtBag University and sign up for the next one if you want to know what we're talking about.

Luke Payne: Yeah.

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. It's all about that. That's a great selling point, but you know, to that point of like, Luke and I had this conversation of, "Hey, what do people actually need and want?" And we talked about like cash flow, and then, can we open up somebody's books and you, know, we're kind of volunteering Luke, and just like, a closed off group, people that need help going through that, let's have them on the call, and then have somebody like audit his books maybe on a live meeting. Because, how much can you get out of that? That's what we're trying to do is figure out what people actually want to know, and what they can get value from.

And also, to be honest, I try and stay in my lane as much as possible because I don't pretend to know everything about video, you know, or things like that, Even construction too. So, just being kind of ignorant, asking the right questions, getting people to talk about their passions, and then realizing too that, you know, you have some value that you can add in any conversation, I think is huge.

Taylor White: Yeah, those are all really good points, and I think what you said at the end, that's really important because understanding that like, “Okay, I haven't necessarily owned a construction company” because I feel like you can come off sometimes as not you yourself, but like, let's say I was hiring you to look over some stuff for me, and all of a sudden you're telling me you know how to run my business. And it would maybe get a little bit of pushback, but what you're saying is like the opposite. You're like, "No, no, I don't pretend to act like I know everything. I'm still learning and absorbing all the time, and maybe I could pass on some helpful information from that. I hear from one person and pass it along to another. I'm not sure if it'll work or not, but hey, I'm just trying to connect the dots here." And that's what you guys are both doing, which is awesome.

But rather than just highlighting the negatives, I also really like talking about the positives of the dirt world - the construction industry, because there are a lot of positives. And Luke E, like what are some positives to the dirt world, and what would-- because ultimately, we want people to come in here and, and enjoy the construction industry because you can make a good living for your family and all that. But what are some positives that you see?

Luke Eggebraaten: Some of the positives I'm seeing personally is the involvement of people our age. You know, I'm 27, Luke is 26, Taylor, you're like 42, something like that-

Taylor White: -43.

Luke Eggebraaten: -43. But honestly, though, I feel like a couple of years ago, it just didn't feel the same. And so, what Luke and myself do, you know, we're doing more with construction management students, and we're doing more with colleges, and we're just seeing that more people are excited and interested. And another big thing is, you know, CONEXPO, I think is going to be a game changer. And this is my first year, so I can't compare it to other years, but what we want to do to bring people together and like meet people and shake hands, and they have 150+ speakers, educational sessions at CONEXPO.

Like, we want that to be the standard of like, let's go learn something while we're here. Not just touch the pretty paint, or go look at the new machines or anything like that. Yes, that's cool, but what can we learn? And what Luke and I have seen is that people are hungry to learn, especially when they're a business owner, and we saw that through the webinars. People paid, they showed up and an hour and a half in, every single person that paid and showed up was still on the webinar. And that just doesn't happen. It's optional, it's a Zoom call, they can get off anytime. People are hungry to learn. They're willing to pay for it, and we're seeing that firsthand.

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Taylor White: Luke Payne, what are some positives, or highlights of construction, or things that if I was someone looking to get into construction, or maybe I'm already in construction and I'm doubting being in the industry, what would you say to really wrap people in to be like, "Oh, this is it. This is awesome." Because there is a type of person that construction is for, and we've talked about that before, but I'd love to hear your input on that.

Luke Payne: Luke E had great points, but I think more of the positives of actually being like a construction company, I feel like there's a chip on people's shoulder right now to where, you know, they've been labeled as they don't want to work. If you want to work, construction is a great industry to go into because you have to work to make it happen. So, I feel like that's a really big positive. Like you said, Taylor, you can make a fantastic living for your family. You know, it's an industry that's so super scalable to where, you know, it could be a family-owned construction business. It could be a construction business that you build up and sell.

You know, there's so many different avenues that it could go, and especially with the Dirt World. I'll say my favorite is being in the excavation site. We're the first on site. It doesn't matter who you are, but any homeowner, general contractor, we're the first point of contact. We're the first to get paid. They're the most excited when we show up because that means the project is going. You know, I think that's a huge positive on my end. Obviously, one, because we're getting paid quick, but then also just to see people's excitement and just, you know, the infrastructure that basically we create for other people. You know, we're that foundation. We're the starting point. So, I think the positive that kind of ties into that is, just being out there creating something, and then, obviously, helping other contractors succeed too, by being that first point on the ground. You know, you have your boots on the ground, your job is to make the next person's job easier. So, it all kind of plays into, you know, working hard, having fun, and then just creating something. So, like you said, there's a lot of positives.

Taylor White: Yeah, and I think that there's a type of person as well, that's kind of what you're hinting at as well too, or maybe saying but not realizing it, that like there's a type of person that goes into construction, does construction, and you know, you don't necessarily have to fit this criteria, this criteria, this criteria.

And it's cool because I think someone listening that might also have different skill sets, hearing it from both Luke E and Luke P-- to the listeners right now, these are guys that are both in the construction industry but doing completely different things. One guy owns an actual construction business that's doing physical, tangible, dirt work, and the other is helping that tangible dirt work business grow online, and helping with the backend stuff. So, I think it's really cool that now we're entering this phase of construction where it doesn't matter if you're not a blue-collar person in school, or you're not good at wrenching, or you know, getting dirty all the time. That doesn't matter. There's still space for you in the industry. Is that fair to say?

Luke Payne: 100%. That was very well put.

Taylor White: And Luke E, I really liked your point about the CONEXPO, and also super pumped to see you boys there. But it's exciting because the draw is the machinery, and what's new, and all the shiny paint, and all this. But what is more interesting is the carry-on conversation of what we're having now, but with other massive and like industry leaders. Like, although we've talked so many times, and we think obviously, we're the best, but there's other people that have so much more to bring to the table as well. And I think that that's where you can really pull value from CONEXPO, where it's an extended conversation of stuff that you want to know. And they have so many different panels of what to listen to, which is going to be really exciting to hear. So, what panel, again, Luke, I know you touched on it earlier, but I wanted you to dive more into it, and kind of maybe explain the conversation that you're going to have at CONEXPO.

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. Basically, it's the importance of building your online presence. And obviously, we're targeting the small to medium size businesses. So, from zero to 10 million, that's kind of what we're targeting-

Taylor White: -which is a big market.

Luke Eggebraaten: It's big market. We kind of usually segment it from zero to a million, one to 10, and then eight figures. But this is for-- you're taking your construction company from offline; how do you go online? I'm trying to break it down into the most simplest form so that there's actually tangible, actionable steps they can take from the session at CONEXPO, the next day, they can put them into action. And I'll actually be launching my first book at CONEXPO, and so, super pumped for that.

Taylor White: You got a book, dude?

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. It's called, The Digital Dirt World’.

Taylor White: Should we call you David Goggins? Sorry, what's it called?

Luke Eggebraaten: The Digital Dirt World. And the book will help tie into the presentation of-- and same kind of thing, like I'm going to stay in my lane of like, this is what I do every day. This is what I know how to talk about, and I'm not just going to start talking about the mechanics of a skiddy, or something like that. I'm going to talk about what I know. If people like that, great. And what we're seeing is that people are interested. And so, I think with the book, what that'll do is, maybe not a lot of people are reading construction industry books because they're probably outdated. So, I want to give that fresh look of like, "Hey, I'm doing something different. I'm not the blue-collar guy, but I work with blue-collar guys and gals every single day, and so this is my perspective on it. We're going to have people from in the industry in the book as well, writing little excerpts. So, I think that'll be an electric session.

Taylor White: That's really exciting, dude. And I can't wait to actually see that at the show. And Luke Payne, you're heading there this year too, right?

Luke Payne: Oh yeah. We're going. I'm excited. Riley is coming with me, we're going. It's actually over her birthday weekend, so we're going to have some fun.

Taylor White: Oh well, we might have to catch up and maybe have some beers there as well.

Luke Payne: I'm in. Drinks, I'm in.

Taylor White: Is there anything in particular Luke Payne, interesting that you have seen from CONEXPO in the past that you're hoping to see again as well in the future in March, 2023?

Luke Payne: It's a lot about the technology, and it's a lot about what's new. Because again, with the construction industry, you have to adapt to survive. And I think that is kind of like the starting point on where these companies go to kind of learn what's going to be up and coming in the future, and how maybe they can place themselves ahead of competition, or other people with those, you know, items or whatever they may be. So, I feel like it's kind of a starting ground in order to, you know, revamp your business to make it more and more successful.

Taylor White: What are some of these new things that you see coming up that are getting you excited? Like, you just purchased a CAT-326. I want to know about that purchase, and I know people want to hear about it as well. Like, what made you buy that machine in particular versus-- because it's one ton heavier than a 325. Like me, or?

Luke Payne: We just wanted to be one above the Taylor White for the 325. So, we-

Taylor White: -but seriously, what's the reasoning behind the 326? What was the purchase like? Why did you choose CAT? Because there's other brands out there, and this isn't a plug for CAT, but I want to give people some dirt, and some value of like why did you choose that machine? Because it's a big deal to buy a piece of machinery, and it's so easy when people just highlight and show it online, and it's like, "Woo, new machine arrived." But there's so much that goes into making that purchase. So how did that happen?

Luke Payne: So, we bought the 326-- It wasn't on a whim, but it was kind of looking towards, basically, our economy right now. It kind of boiled down into how much are we going to save if we look ahead now. And I mean, it was close to $50,000 from if we would've purchased now till springtime, just because of the price increases.

And honestly, it's pricing a lot of people out of certain projects to where if we can get in it early enough and display ourselves as being able to perform these projects, you know, we will only be more profitable because we bought in at the right time. So, that's kind of our outlook on it.

Another thing of it was we have so much work right now that it just made sense to where if we bought the machine, we can be twice as productive with having, you know, two different crews, two different sets of machines, on each site to, you know, get these contractors’ projects going, so again, boiling down into the economy side to where they can be more profitable too, by hopefully saving some money on whatever it might be on their process. So, that was a big deciding factor.

Taylor White: The famous word that you see all on Twitter and the New York Times, or Wall Street Journal, and you know, the GDP rise last week, and inflation is down a bit, but recession, and this and that. What are you guys' thoughts on all this?

Luke Payne: I think you got to do your own research, right? Because it's so different for whatever realm you're in. You know, whether you're in the real estate realm, you're in the construction realm, you're in the tech stock realm, it's so different depending who you are. So, I feel like I just saw this the other day. My mom actually sent me a big link about the diesel shortage, and it kind of freaked me out a little bit to where I was like, "Do I need to get a bulk order of diesel in order to keep operating?" But I got online, and I was looking things up, and after I did my own research, I felt a lot more confident as to like, "Okay that's probably not going to happen." These things would have to happen in order for that to go that way. And I don't know, everybody has their different political views but, I think if you do your own research and you kind of look at multiple views, I think you'll be able to form a pretty good view yourself, if that makes sense.

Taylor White: That’s a great way to think. I mean, don't just look at everything from one side or the other, you know, get a combination of both. I always say that as well too, and then make up your own decision and own mind. But Luke E, what are you thinking?

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah Luke, I love what you brought that up about doing your own research because it's not apples to apples at all, and you know, you got to realize who's saying it, where it's coming from, and also what business are we even talking about? What industry? Because if you just say the construction industry, Like, what does that mean? So, the way I look at it, and I guess maybe this is just coming from my point of view, is like, how can I give them the best shot at their online exposure? So, yes, if say they're doing new home construction and that just tanks and goes away, how do they have a big enough brand where they can pivot?

And we've done that before, I'm not going to take the credit for it, but we worked with a company out in North Dakota where they're an Oil and Gas company. And I think it was back in 2020, things shut down for them, and they're like, "All right, heavy civil construction, like, here we go." And they're, you know putting up cell towers in Wyoming and like just pivoting and doing these other things, but credit to them, they had a solid brand, and then we got to come in and build a website, help them improve their brand. So, I try and look at the economic situation as like, “Okay, bad times do come, and bad times do happen. So, how can we try and set you up best to like pivot, or to make the most out of these situations?" I mean, I think we all know they're going to come every X amount of years, or whatever it is, but it's going to happen. So, how do we just build a sustainable business?

Luke Payne: I think you said this on another podcast to where, “Okay bad times do come, but what are you basing those bad times off of? Are you basing off of 2020? Are you basing off of 2021 when everything exploded? Or are you basing off of 2018 to where maybe we're close to the 2018 standpoint, but not the 2021 standpoint?” Again, doing your own research and in your own market, I feel like so.

Taylor White: I agree. We just went through two and a half years of the most insane construction boom ever. I mean, at least here in Canada, you threw a number at somebody, they're like, "Great. When can you start?" And it was like, "Holy shit. Okay." Like, it was wild. And I think that you're totally right. I mean, it's nice hearing that because it's refreshing, but like maybe things go back to the way it was in 2018 where like good work, and good quality people who provide good quality work, they're the ones that are still going to stay busy. And a lot of these guys that maybe you mentioned before to Luke P about, you know, guys that are coming in maybe driving the prices down, maybe those are the guys that are driving the prices down now because they're realizing, "Oh shit, I can't sustain myself because not everyone is saying yes to everything right now." So, I think, and Luke E what you're saying is, build yourself a strong enough and good enough brand, and actually act on that work, and you can kind of carry yourself through the slower times. Because to think that everything is a trajectory up is the most ignorant way to think, right? So, there are these slow times, and things are, you know, maybe quieting down a bit. I think construction and, you know, it's actually still insane up here as well, but it's preparing yourself and making sure that you're set up for these times as well as I think really important.

Luke Payne: It's developing those relationships too; I feel like is really important right now. You know, like you had mentioned, those people, the only reason they're in business is because they have cheap prices. I don't care who you are, but those contractors are not going to go back to you if things fall apart, will they? I don't know. But I feel like keeping a good relationship with contractors, subcontractors, whoever, knowing back in that 2018 timeframe, it was more about quality over quantity type of work to where that's how you got the work, is going to kind of probably come into play in these upcoming, could be months, could be years. Who knows? I'm not an expert on it. Again, I try to do my own research, but I feel like that's kind of how it's trending.

You know, you see the companies that are priced very low start to really slow down on work. And then the companies that have really good relationships still just booming. So, that's where I'm kind of like, "Okay, is it relationship over pricing, or pricing over relationship? And obviously, it's a give and take of both, but I think the relationships are more important in that aspect.

Taylor White: Yeah, I totally agree. It's important to build those right relationships and always just be real with yourself and make sure you know when things are kind of going up or down.

But I don't want to end on the note about the economy. I mean, I am optimistic about the economy. I mean, things are good and I think that they're going to be even better. You just think long term, right? 10 years from now, you're going to look back at this and be like, "Holy shit. Okay, great value property is still going to always go up, maybe short term, it goes lower.”

But to wrap things up, not really, but what are you guys looking forward to coming up? To each of you individually, not like together but individually, what do you guys have big that's coming that you're excited about in your own lives? Luke P.

Luke Payne: I'm excited, as far as like a work standpoint, for the spring-

Taylor White: -It could be personal too.

Luke Payne: Dude, I'll start with the work and then I'll get into personal. But as far as work goes, I'm so excited for springtime. I hate the winter because we have to do snow. Nobody likes snow, but we've gotten so many requests to work with these other contractors, and obviously, starting spring projects that they're massive projects for us. I can't wait for that challenge. I'm a big taking on adversity, you know, figuring out challenges type, and these ones that we have coming up, that we've already been awarded, I'm already–”Okay, how are we going to make this happen? How can we plan now to succeed?” So, that's what I'm really looking forward to.

As far as the personal side, I just quit my full-time job. I had a full-time job for four years while I was running my businesses. So, I'm anxious to actually kind of head on and help my guys more, and help that business grow to where I'm there, I'm more present, I'm more of the face, and just have a little bit more time.

Taylor White: It's a big step, man. I didn't know that about you. Congrats.

Luke Payne: Yeah. Thanks.

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah. And Taylor, I was going to plug Luke during this podcast too, because, so we are launching a podcast, it should be out at the time of this launching, but we literally talk about the entire thing of Luke Payne running a construction company at the full-time job. That's the title of the Dirtbags podcast. Luke, for this entire time, has had a full-time job that like nobody knew about, and I just think it's the most incredible thing how he built up Black Iron, Western Excavation, and even the Dirtbags too - the podcast while working a full-time job. And so, we dive into all that stuff and it's pretty awesome.

Taylor White: I can't wait to listen to that. What do you have, Luke E, that you're looking forward to coming up? What's big for you? What should we be on the lookout for?

Luke Eggebraaten: Yeah, man. The CONEXPO speaking opportunity has opened a lot of doors for me. I'm speaking at a lot of colleges like I mentioned with construction management students, different associations, different conferences around the country. I just love meeting new people. I think it's a blast getting to see a new city, having those people take you out, show you the restaurants, things like that. So, just really embracing that, and I enjoy speaking to people, and just kind of figuring it out, realizing that if I stutter over my words, it's not a big deal, but let's try and just have a good time while doing it.

So, that's been awesome. And then honestly, just traveling with my wife, Olivia, not my girlfriend, but my wife. We have some trips planned this next year and we're just excited. You know, we try and live every single day just with the most purpose that we can because every day is not guaranteed. So, even the days we're not traveling, it's just like, “How can we enjoy this sunset or this sunrise and just be thankful for everything we have?” So, I guess personal life. Yeah, just excited for some trips coming up, and coming to see you in Canada.

Taylor White: Nice. Yeah, you got to do that. You guys like got to come up or I'll come down if that's easier, but we do have to all meet up. But that was very deep and very important, Luke E, you know, like living every day. I really like that. Hopefully, people kind of really pick that up, and like every sunset and sunrise, and I want to end there because that was very, very good.

But these two guys here, Luke Payne and Luke Eggebraaten-- Anyways, you guys, we'll see you at CONEXPO, and we're going to continue this conversation there, and I can't wait to do that with you guys. And I really appreciate you guys cutting out the time. I know that you guys have an awesome guest coming up on your podcast as well too. People can find you guys, where's the best place to find you guys? Luke Payne, where can we find you?

Luke Payne: Black Iron Dirt on Instagram, Official Dirtbags on Instagram, Official Dirtbags podcast on Spotify, Western Excavation, or Luke Payne on Instagram. Bingo.

Taylor White: Luke E?

Luke Eggebraaten: Love it. Phaser Marketing on Instagram, Dirt Work Marketing on Instagram, and then our website - phasermarketing.com, and then of course, the DirtBags podcast. You can find us on all streaming platforms, and YouTube channel, follow along, shoot us a message anytime. We'd love to get to know you, or answer any questions and just like shoot us a message. And of course, Luke Payne and I are both on LinkedIn. We're on it every day, and we love you, man.

Taylor White: Thanks for coming on, boys.

Luke Payne: Thanks for having us, Taylor.

Taylor White: Cheers.

[Advertisement]

If you need to meet them, they're here at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG. You'll meet industry leaders and friends. You'll build new relationships in the community, you'll find the equipment, the services, and the people within your construction field. Registration is now open, so save 20% with the promo code: podcast20. Again, that is promo code: podcast20.

I am going, both the Lukes are going, and tons of people will be going. North America's largest construction trade show, and is March 14th to the 18th, 2023 in the beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. So, check out: conexpoconagg.com to register, and for more info.

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