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March 14-18, 2023

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Ep. 133: Building a Rock-Solid Business and Reputation with Ryan Goodfellow

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1/9/2023

CONEXPO-CON/AGG Ryan Goodfellow Podcast

In this episode of the CONEXPO-CON/AGG podcast, Ryan Goodfellow from Rock Structures joins Taylor to share his background in the heavy equipment industry, including his experience with the CONEXPO-CON/AGG show, starting his own business, and the challenges and lessons he has learned along the way. Throughout the episode, Goodfellow emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurship, hard work, and learning from mistakes in order to succeed in the business world.

Ryan goes on to discuss the evolution of his business, how he got into unique projects such as rock walls and Armstrong walls, as well as the importance of building a strong reputation and the role that reputation plays in attracting new business. He also shares his approach to leadership and team management, including the importance of setting high standards for his employees and maintaining a positive company culture. Goodfellow also discusses the role that technology and efficiency play in his business, including the different types of equipment he uses and how they help him and his team work more efficiently. In drawing the episode to a close, Taylor’s very special guest highlights the importance of being upbeat and maintaining good relationships with employees, and he shares some strategies for handling conflicts and maintaining good communication on the job site.

Topics:

  • The story of how he started and built his own business, Rock Structures
  • Mistakes made and lessons learned
  • The importance of taking risks and learning from mistakes
  • The evolution Ryan’s business
  • Building a good reputation
  • Responding to market conditions
  • The role that technology plays in his business
  • Managing his team and maintaining a positive company culture
  • The challenges of managing a team in the construction industry
  • Strategies for maintaining a positive company culture
  • The role that transparency and open communication play in his team management strategy
  • The roles that Ryan and his wife assume within their business

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Episode transcript:

Ryan Goodfellow: I always tell my guys, when you're done with that job, you leave that job cleaner than the way you found it. If you don't, then somebody else will or they'll go find somebody that will. It's called pride. Just take some pride in what you do every day.

Taylor White: Welcome back, everybody, to the ConExpo-Con/Agg podcast that is proudly brought to you by our good friends over at Komatsu, which have been a massive supporter of the podcast. And I can't wait to see them at the 2023 ConExpo show in March. Today I have with me the man who quite literally rocks, Mr. Ryan Goodfellow from Rock Structures. Ryan, thank you for coming on the podcast.

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah, you bet. How are you doing, Taylor?

Taylor White: I'm doing good, man. We were just chatting before this, and it's good. It's good to finally link up, for sure. I mean, let's just start kind of easy into it. Who's Ryan, what do you do? How did you start? Let's get the story started.

Ryan Goodfellow: My dad, he had a transportation business, and all he did when I was a little kid was transport heavy equipment. And so I've kind of been around equipment my whole life, but more trucks. And then back when I was, I don't know, probably like 14, which was like a long time ago, maybe like late 90s, actually, late 80s ConExpo came around and they went from Texas and they went to Vegas. And dad, being in the transportation business, he would go down to the port in LA like Long Beach, stuff like that, and he would bring machines from the port at Long Beach up to Vegas for ConExpo from all the importers from overseas. And so I actually had a chance when I was a little kid to go to the very first ConExpo that they had in Vegas.

Taylor White: No way.

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah. So I've been going to ConExpo for jeez, I'm old, so I've been going there for a long time.

Taylor White: Dude, that's really cool.

Ryan Goodfellow: It's kind of crazy to think that I went to the first ConExpo. And I want to say I was like 13, is my guess. 13, 14. So I was born in ‘75, I think, 80.

Taylor White: You keep saying you're old. You're not old, dude, you got lots left. 

Ryan Goodfellow: Oh, I got a lot of life left. 

Taylor White: Oh, yeah. 

Ryan Goodfellow: I'm like 13, so I'm good. Yeah, so more or less didn't want anything to do with my dad's business. My dad, my brother, my brother-in-law, they all ran it together. And I was the young, dumb, punk kid, and I was okay being that way because, you know, we're all young and dumb and punks at one point in life, right? 

Taylor White: Or still. 

Ryan Goodfellow: So I actually left California, went to Utah, and then, like, three years after I moved up here on my own, was working for a guy, and he took really good care of me, allowed me to learn a lot of stuff, taught me a lot of stuff. And I didn't think I was getting paid what I wanted to be. And I was getting all of our work, all the work I was doing, I was getting it for him. So I was doing the bidding, I was doing the scheduling. I was doing the work, I was doing the billing, and I was doing the collecting. 

So as far as I was concerned, I was like, “Man, why can't I do this on my own?” And so I talked to a couple of my clients that I had drummed up over the couple of years that I was with him, three years I was with him, and I just said, “Hey, what do you guys do? Would you guys use me?” And they said, “Of course, we'd use you.” So I went out on my own. 

So that was back in ‘97. So I was 21, almost 22 when I started. So I was pretty young, and, man, I had the world by its tail, you know, I was setting on fire. And we had a good run. We had a lot of good times, and I learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes. I paid for college several times over. I'm still paying for it. But now, it's one of those things where– Yeah, I started in ‘97, 21 years old, almost 22, and here we are 25 years later 47. March, actually will be going in my 26th year, so kind of cool. Thanks.

Taylor White: That's crazy. I mean, like, coming from having the background of– I feel like maybe instilled if your dad is in the transport business, kind of like that blue-collar, you know, wake up early and work hard, is that kind of something that you brought over? I mean, like, starting your own business at 21 and doing what you were doing, that's something not easy. So what was it in you that gave you that drive to be able to grow a business? Like, that's not easy starting yourself and doing that.

Ryan Goodfellow: I think it was more or less like parents whether they think so or not, from early on in their parenting life, as kids, we look up to them, right? Like, it's one of those things where you look up to me watching what they do, you kind of emulate what they do. And even though they may not be physically showing you what they're doing, just the example that they're setting for you by being at work and doing things or taking you to work and showing you how to do things, that's essentially setting you up for the rest of your life. 

And, like, I would go with my dad on Saturdays, go move stuff around. I'd go with my dad and my brother down to the yard. The company who he worked for when I was just a little kid, they had all kinds of equipment. They had dozers, scrapers, loaders, excavators, we go down to the yard, and my brother, he would clean all the machines, and so I would help him clean the machines. I don't know if I really did much, honestly, but, you know, I'd go down there and help him do that. 

And so I think just kind of that whole example that was set for me early on, I knew that I didn't want to do trucks because I just didn't want anything to do with them because it kind of been shoved down my throat, and so there was that little bit of rebellion. But as soon as I got into the excavating world after I moved up here from California, I actually really enjoyed it. And there was a lot of common sense. And luckily, I'm not real smart, but I do have some common sense. So as far as I was concerned, I could figure it out. If you put me on a task, I could figure it out. And as time went along, we just kind of figured out how to do things. 

And the guy who I worked for, I was there every day. When I was there in the morning before his guys were and I was greasing machines while they were warming up. If they weren't there by the time I was done greasing and warming them up, I'd take them out and I'd set them out. If we're doing pipe, I'd get the main machine put out there on the main line. I'd go get the gravel in the loader bucket, I'd start setting pipe out. It was one of those things where his guys were happy to have me. 

A lot of times nowadays, people don't want to think for themselves. I guess I shouldn't say think for those. They don't want to think ahead, right? Like, if you don't want to think ahead, then you're just stuck in what you're doing right now. But if you think ahead then it's one of those things that it'll shape your life in the long run. It'll be one of those things that you'll never be looking for something to do. If you're always thinking ahead because you're thinking about the next step, there is always something to do. It's just a matter of whether you want to do it or not, whether you want to figure that part of it out or not.

Taylor White: I think what's important, too, is also, like, in the moment, thinking ahead totally. Like on the job site, like you said, there's always something to do. And I always tell if I come to my shop and some guys are sitting around, and I'm always like, "Boys, pick up a broom. What are we doing tomorrow? We need to bring the packer out and load the skid steer. Okay, great. Let's get that going so we're not doing it tomorrow at 5:30 in the morning.” 

But honestly, a lot of stuff that what you're saying, too, is like, I always tell my guys, especially with the growing business, it's like, "Think ahead, think long term. Not even just in the moment, but for long term as well,” of like, “Okay. Where's this company going? Okay. Right now, sure. I'm running equipment.” And, “Oh, they tested me and I went out on a job by myself.” Well, maybe in five years from now, I can put myself in the position of being a working foreman and kind of thinking ahead at the future and not thinking for now. And I feel like a lot of people right now, they kind of think short term, they think a lot short term. Like, I want this now. I want to be that foreman now, rather than putting in that time and understanding that respect and trust is something that is earned, not given. And I feel like that's something that's lost. And what you're saying is how I think as well, too.

And when you talk about maybe not the smartest guy in the room, I think, first of all, you're being very humble. I think you are very smart, but you also like, “I have Work Harder tattooed on my arm for a reason because I'm the same way.” And we made hoodies that say work harder. Because I always say this over text, because hard work never goes unnoticed. And I think that that's something that you're talking about is working hard. And what's your drive for that? What's your drive for getting up and working hard? Is it your love for the industry? Is it your family? What is it?

Ryan Goodfellow: It's a little bit of everything, really. It's the love for the industry. It's my love for my family, to provide for my family. It's making sure that I have enough work to provide for my guys, and it's taking care of my customers. There's a couple of customers I have that– Man, I have one customer that's been with me for 25 years. It's one of those things where this doesn't happen every day. I got one of my employees that's been with me for 20 years. He's going on 21 years. It's one of those things that if you take care of people, people take care of you. It's not only about doing a good job, it's about having a relationship with your customer and cultivating that relationship as you go along. 

Most of my customers we have right now, we're going on 10 to 12 years with them. I got a couple of customers that are two and three years, but the majority of my customers are twelve to 18 years. That says a lot. So it's one of those things that you really have to put in the time and the effort to make sure that your people are taken care of. And that's what drives me every day, is taking care of my people and taking care of my customers, and then seeing my people, my team, take care of our customers. They're no longer just my customers. They become our team's customers. And they don't care who they get on the job. They just know that whoever they get, whatever crew they get, they're going to do them a good job and that's what matters to me.

Taylor White: Yeah, that's super important and very crucial for anybody listening that's also starting a business or just running a business is ensuring that you're taking care of your clients. What would you like– providing a quality of work, but I guess like comparing yourself to the next contractor, for us, what we always say is like, us versus the next contractor is the knowledge and carrying our customers through the process of a new home build, right? And where a lot of other contractors wouldn't answer questions or help them out with other trades or this or that. That's just something that we help out with. Because my grandfather started this business in 1968 on those fundamentals, right? Like, I don't care about charging them an extra $800 for this consulting fee or an extra this or that, right? We're all in a small town here. I mean, we're all going to help out each other. What are some things that you think that sets you apart with your clients and your business?

Ryan Goodfellow: Honestly, it's quality of work and having quality people doing a good job. And like you said, just going the extra mile. One thing that people love about us is when we are done with a job. Like, let's just say a backfill, right? We don't need a skid loader on site. We really don't. We don't need a loader on site. We don't even need a hoe, but we have a hoe and a loader on site almost all the time, or a skid loader. When we leave that site, it's almost like it's final graded. 

And I had one guy say to me one time, he was a competitor, he said, "Dude, why do you do like, a final grade with your houses?" And I'm like, "Think about it. When we come back to do a final grade, how much grade do we really have to do, right? We don't have to do a whole lot. So it's one of those things where let's just say we're $600 to $1200 to do a final grade. If we can come back and we can do a final grade in, say, two hours, well, that two hours right there, $600 in two hours. It's worth it, in the beginning, to have that extra piece of equipment there and make it look that nice when we're done. Because then when framers come, they're working off of a nice clean slate. Everything's sloped away from the house. It's all graded out. There's no pile of dirt left over. It's nice. It's ready. 

The customer, let's just say that the builder shows up with their client. Dude, they're like, "Holy cow, this is amazing." So it sets the tone from the very beginning on that build process for that client and our customer. So it just really makes everything look and work a whole lot better when you do things right and you do them nice. I always tell my guys, when you're done with that job, you leave that job cleaner than the way you found it. If you don't, then somebody else will or they'll go find somebody that will. It's called pride. Just take some pride in what you do every day.

Taylor White: Yeah, everything you're saying is 100% bang on with one-on-one how to run a successful business. And it's so much like when other people drive by that house and they see like, “Oh, Rock Structures did that place. Look at how clean they left that.” And then down the road maybe they're building or that builder or those other people and then they refer and it kind of just snowballs, right? Like, you do good work, work will come and that's really important and a lot of people just bang it out. This is what we got. Okay, get off the job. And I feel like that doesn't fly, especially in times where maybe that things are going to slow down or whatever in the economy. The good contractors will remain and stay busy because there's always going to be something for them to do. 

But when you first started your business, what did you start it by doing? Because for the listeners listening right now, you do some really unique things. Like your Instagram handle is @rockstructures. I mean, the rock walls and boulder walls and Armstrong walls that you do is like insane and that's when I first found you. And it was just like, obviously the tools that you invest in, the technology you invest in your business. What did you start out by doing and how did you get into these creative projects?

Ryan Goodfellow: So when I was working for this other company, I had an opportunity to learn how to do subdivisions. I learned how to do excavation, like residential excavation, basements, sewer water, storm drains, land drains, all that stuff, backfills rock walls. So when I learned, I was pretty well-versed in all these different things. And so when I started my business, I was pretty well known at my old company for building rock walls and doing basement digs. And so when I started the business I'm like, "You know what, it's called Rock Structures because that's kind of what we're going to do." 

So we did a lot of rock walls starting out and then we would do a lot of big custom home basement digs and those would normally have rock walls. So I would do the basement dig then I come back and I do the backfill. Then I would do all the rock work around the outside of the house and I go to the next dig. It was one of those things that for us, we got involved with the name Rock Structures because we're building a lot of rock walls. 

And then as time went on, we kind of evolved into having a subdivision part of our business. So we would do subdivisions. We do mainline sewer, water, storm drain. We do secondary water, which is like irrigation water. We do storm drains, concrete, we'd do all that stuff. And I kind of started getting out of our main scope, which was rock structures, right? Like rock walls and basement digs. And then we got kind of going to where the rock kind of slowed down a little bit and we were doing more basement digs. And so it's one of those things where our niche is pretty much basement digs, backfills, and then all the rock work that goes along with the house. And so that's kind of how the whole name came about was because of all the rock retaining walls we would do. 

And now, yeah, we don't do as many rock retaining walls as what we used to. Like, I used to have four crews doing nothing but rock walls and we had two crews doing nothing but digs and backfills. And then we had two crews doing nothing but subdivision site development. So we got pretty big and then the economy tanked and we slowed right down and we got rid of a lot of people and we went back to just being small and then we kind of built back up. 

And personally, anybody can go out and buy a piece of equipment. Like no matter what, right? You can go buy a piece of equipment no matter what you want to do. But keeping it busy and doing good work and finding good employees, you're only as good as your employees, right? And your employees, honestly are only as good as you if you don't take the time to teach them and to show them and to mentor them and show them how you want things done. There's lots of ways to move dirt, right? There's lots of ways to move dirt. There's a right way and there's lots of wrong ways. And I see a lot of guys out there that do it wrong. They're not being efficient. They're stepping over, like steps B, C, and D to go to Z. Then they come back. You know, it's like T and you're like, "Dude, listen, you got to take this in a process." 

And a lot of guys don't get that, I think. A lot of times– I kind of joke just because that machine is sitting there running doesn't make it mean it's making money. If that machine isn't making money, then what are you doing this for? Do you understand how to make money with that machine? And a lot of guys don't. And it's at no fault of theirs. It's really how they've been taught. If they haven't been taught correctly, then they develop bad habits. And it's our jobs as owners to help them to learn because that's the only way they're going to get better is if they learn and they're being taught the correct method of how to do better.

Taylor White: We are less than 100 days from the 2023 show. That's right. We are coming up on the largest construction family reunion in North America. ConExpo-Con/Agg is going to be here before we know it. If you have not registered yet, there's still time to secure your tickets. Visit conexpoconagg.com and use the promo code ‘Podcast20’ to get 20% off. That's right, 20% off with promo code ‘Podcast20’. If you already have your tickets to the show, join us in the countdowns of the show and comment below to let us know you're going to be there and what you're most excited to see.

Taylor White: What makes you a good leader and what are you doing for your guys and girls to ensure that they're doing things correctly?

Ryan Goodfellow: I don't know that I am a good leader, dude. Honestly. It's one of those things where I'll rip my guys a new one, but as soon as I'm done with ripping them a new one, I'm perfectly fine. I'm perfectly over it, you know, and a lot of guys will hold a grudge. I don't hold a grudge.

Taylor White: I pull a lot of value in what you just said there that I can relate to that 100%.

Ryan Goodfellow: But you expect them to do things one way and they do it another way. Like, I have to pull myself back in sometimes and say,” Okay. There's more than one way to skin a cat, right? So it's going to get done whether they do it their way or whether they do it my way. So let's put our heads together and let's figure out the best, most efficient way to do something.” And if I don't have the time to help them to learn how to do it right, or figure out what the best way is to do it, then that's on me. I just have to let them do their thing and they get it done. Great. 

But there's so many times out there that they're talking about doing all these tutorial videos and stuff like that. That's all fine and dandy, but it's one of those things that if you don't teach your people if you don't take the time to teach your people, they will never do it the way that you want it to be done. And that's not always bad. Like, sometimes they're doing it great, but if there ever is a time where you see something and they're not doing it correctly or they're not doing it efficiently, if you don't take that time to talk to them and to explain to them why you would do it a different way, then they'll never learn.

Like today, perfect teaching moment. Today we got this big concrete washout, it's like a big round tub, it's made out of plastic. The concrete trucks dump into it so it doesn't get everywhere. It's right up in the middle of the road up at the top of the job, we got to move it. So I said to my guy, “Hey, how are you going to move that concrete wash?” He said, “I was just thinking, I put the forks on the loader and take it up there and pick it up with the forks.” So then I said, “Okay.” Then I put my hands out like a cupping shape. And I said, “Okay. If you have got your forks–” Well, I guess I didn't put them in a cupping shape. I put them side by side. I said, “These are your forks.” I said, “That thing up there is probably 5ft around.” I said, “You got to bring your forks into where you're going to hold onto it.” I said, “Now, what's in the middle? What's going to hold it in the middle from falling in?” Also, I said, “You come down that driveway right there and it's all bumpy because it's rocky.” I said, “What's going to keep it from being on the forks?” I can see his brain thinking. And I said, “I'll tell you what.” I said, “If you take that rock and grading bucket over there and you put that thing on the loader, you go up there, you get the 210 to push that into the grading bucket.” I said, “Now, it has full support underneath it.” I said, “If you're coming down the road and it's moving back and forth.” I said, “You got the side of the grading bucket where it's going to hit that, and it's not going to bounce out, it's not going to fall off.” I said, “You can bring it down here. You can see it right out in front of you because you got really good visibility.” I said, “You can get that thing supported underneath, support on the sides.” I said, “No problem. You won't have any problems at all. If it was me,” I said, “that's how I would do it.” I said, “But you do it how you want to do it.” I said, “But I'm here to tell you right now that if it was me, I would do it like that.” 

And those are the things right there that really help your guys to understand. If you give it to them in a couple of different scenarios, and you let them tell you how they would do it, and then you agree with them and you add to it, and then you explain to them why you would do it a different way. Then it starts making sense to them because you can explain it to them why you would do it something different. 

I think it's just a way of doing things nowadays. You just really have to help your guys because they want to learn, right? Like, nobody wants to do your shitty job. Nobody, nobody at all out there. But they want to do it right. They want to make you happy. They want to feel like they've done it right and they're not there to screw up. And so that's where I think it's your job as a leader to show them, explain to them how you would do it if it was you doing it. And if that involves you getting up on the machine and helping them see then that's what you got to do.

Taylor White: There's a lot of value in everything that you just said, and I think you're totally right with the way that you're going about it and understanding that. It's just understanding that they're not there. They don't want to screw up. They don't want to do a bad job. Sometimes they just need to be shown or kind of explained as to why something is not going to work and maybe a better way of going about it. 

One thing that you mentioned at the beginning that I can relate to, one thing that I'm learning as well, I'm not young, I'm 27 years old. But when I first started getting into it, 22, 23 years old, into an owner role, managing the people, I was way more hot-headed. And that was one thing that I actually still struggle with because I was born and raised by my father, who, if you were holding a shovel wrong, he'd kick me in the ass and say, “What the F are you doing? Hold this shovel this way, you lazy. Blah, blah, blah.” No one wants to see a guy standing on the job site with not a shoveling, just blue-collar, right? And I respond well to that.

People always think you get hate online. Well, I'm my biggest hater. I'm really hard on myself. And like you said, I could get mad at Ryan Goodfellow, and we could scream at each other on the job site, and you could argue and spit in my face, and five minutes later, I'm over it and be like, “Okay, cool. So how are we going to get this job done?” I guess what I'm trying to ask is, even for myself, how did you get better at maybe dealing with situations where it's like, I could get really angry right now, but I don't know if that's going to help me. And, yeah, I struggle with that.

Ryan Goodfellow: You know, it's one of those things where I can be the coolest boss in the world, and then, like, two minutes later, I'm a redhead. So all of a sudden, bam, I switch, and I'm the biggest in the world.

Taylor White: That's what my employees would say. Exactly. 

Ryan Goodfellow: You’ll absolutely hate me, and I will make you cry. And then as soon as I realize that my redhead comes out, then it's like, “Okay, I got to chill.” You know? And then I'm like, “Okay, I'm over it. Sorry. This is how we need to go about it.” 

Like, here's another example today, I drove up to the job, and I'm coming up the driveway, and my guys are moving some trash out of one spot. My other guys are up filling around a foundation. And one of my guys, as I'm driving up the driveway, he's waiting for the loader to come back and he's sitting on his ass on a two-by-four, and he's looking at his phone and I can hear his music going, he's scrolling. And I rolled up, I rolled my window down and I said, "Hey.”

Taylor White: Scrolling through TikTok.

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah. I rolled my window down and like, "Hey, dude.” I said, “Dude, no sitting on your ass. We can't do that.” I'm like It's one of those things where, like, if you're on the clock, you're doing something. I said, "Come over here and help these guys. These guys over here, they're placing gravel around the footing drain, you need to be over here." It's like, "I don't want to see you sitting on your ass. Just come over and do something." 

Well, I went over, got out of my truck, went over, checked on the guys in the drain. He comes walking over and I walked over and I kind of met him halfway in the middle. I said, "Hey, listen. I know you're new here,” and I said, “You don't know what I expect,” I said, “but I'm here to tell you right now, I don't want to show up, and see you sitting around. As I understand that you're over here helping these guys get this stuff pulled out here at the loader.” I said, “But these guys are over here working that can sit there for a minute or if nothing else, you grab some of that rebar and take it down to the bottom of the driveway.” I said, "Something is better than nothing." And I just told him, I said, "Listen. I said, if you're sitting around and you're off the clock, I don't care what you do. If you're on the clock and you're sitting around, then I will be the first one that will tell you get off your ass and get something done. There's always something to do." 

And I don't know how he took it. He's new. And so if I butt hurt somebody, they cry and they want to go find their job. I mean, this is construction and it's one of those things like, you asked me, how do I combat it? Well, honestly, my guy has been here for 21 years with me. He has seen me go from hot-headed, get mad at you for not doing something to just being chill. And for the most part, I'm pretty chill. And it's those times where I get mad at you. Honestly, if I feel like you're doing something and you know better if you're doing something wrong and I feel like you know better, I'm going to rip you. But then since I'm done ripping you, I'm done. I'm over it. We're going to move fast. If you want to hold the grudge against me, that's on you, but I'm over it. 

Like you said, how do you combat that? How do you settle down? Honestly, I just think it's age. It's just one of those things. A lot of guys will get ornery as they get older. Yeah, I get really ornery, but for the most part, I'm pretty chill, I'm pretty upbeat. I think that in order to have a good company culture, you really need to be upbeat. You need to be happy, respectful and show the guys that you're having a good time and they're going to have a good time as well. They feed off of my energy, and I feed off of their energy and so when you get all that positive energy going, it's like a good time coming to work.

Taylor White: Agree heavily with that. And you're right, it goes both ways. They feed off your energy and you feed off theirs. And I feel like when you say positivity and it spreads and culture and stuff, and I find not every day is going to be awesome, that's blue-collar. Especially here, the weather here when we get into March and all the snow is melting, the leaves are off, the trees are dead, it's been gray for three weeks. We haven't seen the sun. That's when I find what makes a true leader comes out, who can keep the guys motivated to keep going, to be positive, it's really important to be a good leader in that moment as well, during those times. 

But what you were saying is the guy that has been with you for 21 years, and I'm learning now. I go and say that there's a new type of work employee coming into it where there's not so many left of guys like maybe you or I that can take a tongue lashing, and then two minutes later it's like, "Yeah, okay, that was F’ed up great. All right, let's keep working." So there's a certain way to kind of go about it, but you're right. I like your stance on it, where it's like, "Well, you know what? That's just the industry sometimes where it's like, “Hey, I'm sure you may not have liked the way I talked to you, but I got my point across. Nobody got hurt, and we're going to continue on from that.” And I really like the value of that. That's good.

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah. Like, one of my guys has been with me for quite a while. He's probably, I don't know, around five years. Man, one day I ripped him up and down and I thought he was going to walk away crying. He took it like a man, and the next day, we were just talking like, no big deal. And I'm like, "Hey, I respect you for not getting butt hurt and walking off and quitting." He's like, "Dude, I'll take and ask you in every day if I deserve it. And yesterday I deserved it, so I'm all good with it." And I said, "Dude, I said, if you ever think I deserve an ass-chewing you just go right ahead and rip me a new one. Because I'm no different than you. Just because I'm the owner doesn't mean anything different. Just because I'm your boss, it's okay. If you don't agree with what I'm doing, take me aside and rip me up and down. I might argue with you, I might yell back at you. But I will respect you 100% because you've earned that respect from me and I've earned that respect from you. And it's just a two-way street. I’m still good at you bitchin’ back at me. I’m okay with it. I’m a man, I can handle it.” Like, if you can’t handle it, you better go somewhere else or you better never screw up.

Taylor White: Yeah. If you give it, you got to be able to take it.

Ryan Goodfellow: That's right. And I'll take it all day long. Like, you can tell me how you feel about me, and I'll tell you how I feel about you, and I'll tell you two minutes later,  “Hey, I love you. I just want you to know that.” I don't agree with what you just did, but I want you to know that I agree with most everything else you do and that's why I love you. We're like family. We're like a big team, and we spend more time together, like, working every day than we do with our own families. So we have to have that bond, right? 

And a lot of people are like, "How do you do that?" Like, I had one person ask me one time, "Well, how do you say they're like a brother? How do you say they're like family? Like, how does that not cross the line?" How do you not say that? How do you not feel like they're your brother? How do you not feel like they're your family? Yeah, you can treat them like they’re family and you can also treat them like they’re family by getting mad at them, too. There's just that line that you have to draw on the stand and be like, "Hey, dude, you know what? This is where we're at. We're family and we're brothers, and we're going to treat each other like brothers. And if you do something wrong, I'm going to tell you. If I do something wrong, you tell me. I'm all good with it. All good with it."

Taylor White: I 100% agree with that. And I think that that's something that I value as well listening to because I hear that all the time. And the guys that have been with me since I took over a leadership role, it's funny because they always are like, "Man, remember when you used to blow up way more than you used to now and this and that?" But it's good because it made me a better leader. It made me a better person, who I am because I'm not blowing up every day at the guys, but I think that it's acceptable to them to know, "Okay, he's upset.” And that's good. And like you said, vice versa. Like, guys pull me back in when I stray too far as well, too, like, check me back. If you can't do that, then that just means that you think you're invincible, you're better than everybody else, and that won't work well, especially for culture-wise. 

But what I wanted to ask was, when you talk about you just hired a new guy and stuff, what's your role in your business and how many people do you have working for you and do you have people in an office and what do you have going on?

Ryan Goodfellow: I'm the general manager. My wife owns the business. So back when the economy turned and it went down, it was like, "You know what? Let's change things up a little bit, because if we need some government work where you have, like, a minority or women-owned business, then we can do that a little easier, right?" And so we went ahead and did that. So I'm just the general manager. It's pretty much my business. She says all the time, "Hey, I'm just the woman behind it." But she does all the paperwork. She does all the receivables payables, daily time tracking. She knows what's going on with all that stuff, so she's very much involved. 

But I'm involved in the outside stuff, so we've been doing that for a while. I used to run a hoe pretty much every day. I'm getting to where I don't like to run a hoe anymore because I'm pulled in so many different directions that I don't have time if I get into a machine, it's one of those things that I don't have time, and so it's not good for my customer. 

So we've got 13 guys right now. We're running four different crews, two to three guys on a crew. We've got a couple of trucks, a dump truck, and a pup, and then a semi that has a side dump behind it and also pulls a low bed.

Taylor White: I love that truck.

Ryan Goodfellow: Thanks. So we got five excavators, two loaders, two skid loaders. So we're pretty well outfitted. Everybody says get a dozer. I don't really need a dozer. I don't really want a dozer.

Taylor White: Excavator and skids here.

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah. And, like, us, loaders are huge for us because we move a lot of material with those loaders.

Taylor White: Yeah, that's interesting. We don't use much loaders. Like, I see on your Instagram, you guys have loaders on the job sites and stuff like that. That's something you don't see around here. You see loaders for water and sewer with the cone front buckets on or a side tilt bucket to dump into the bucket for the granulars. But the loaders, we don't see it on residential job sites that much.

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah. Well, for us, they’re key. Like, we could take a job that would take two days with an excavator to backfill, compact, to do the gravel and sides, stuff like that. We’ll throw a loader onto that same job and we will take one day to do that job. It’s crazy how much more efficient you can be. Essentially, we can put a compactor on whether it be a hoe pact or whether it be a compaction wheel and we can take and backfill around the house in like three hours because we’re just pushing dirt in with the loader and then we’re compacting it with the excavator. 

A loader and an excavator work from like point A, they just come right around 360 and they got that done. Let’s just say the majority of the dirt is in the backyard because you couldn’t pile in the front or on the side yard, well, that dirt needs to come from the backyard into the front to get put into garage. Well, do I want to move it at three and a half yards per bucket, or do I want to move it at three quarters of the yard or yard per bucket with a skid loader?

So in my opinion, I’m going to move it three and a half yards so I'm going to get it done three times as fast. And really the operating cost on loaders is really isn’t that bad. I mean I got one loader we’ve had since, I don’t know, I think it had $2200 on it and now it’s got like $9500 on it. We don’t have any issues with it at all. It’s been a great machine.

And so say we get done with the job, we got much dirt left over, we can leave that loader then on-site, we go to the next job and that loader, we put a truck driver in there and they can load themselves with the loader. So that excavator can be another job digging a basement or starting another backfill or whatever or doing rock work. And that loader that’s over at the other job cleaned up that last bit of dirt and we don’t really have to put an operator in there because the truck driver can load them.

So there’s a lot of times that the loader really comes into play for us really, really well. And, man, our efficiency goes through the roof.

Taylor White: What size of loader? Like three-and-a-half yard?

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah, three-and-a-half-yard loader. 

Taylor White: With wider tires? The only thing I think of is like if you get some sloppy material and stuff, tracks are going to float where the tires and the loader is just going to sink.

Ryan Goodfellow: You'd be surprised how well they work. And there's a buddy of mine in Michigan and he's around the lakes, they got some soft underfoot conditions. They put like, skitter tires on them.

Taylor White: Yeah, I was going to say nice wide ones.

Ryan Goodfellow: Nice big wide tires on them with the big gnarly treads on them. And dude, those loaders will go wherever you want to go because they got those big wide tires on. The flotation is great. Yeah, the tires stick out further than the bucket, but it doesn't really matter because they're floating on whatever they're doing, picking up a pile, whatever, moving it from A to B. 

Loaders for us were a big thing. I've got guys that come over work here, and they're like, “We've never had a loader on a backfill ever.” On the dig, they got to throw the dirt three and four times on a basement dig. And I'm like, “Dude, if you got to throw it three or four times, you got to have a loader there.” Like their three or four-day basement digs turn into a day and a half. They're like, “Holy crap, we can't believe how much faster it is as well.” 

The name of the game is efficiency. And see, it's one of those things where for us, a loader is huge, a dozer is great, but a dozer is just pushing the dirt away from you, right? It's not actually picking it up and moving it. And so that's where the load and carry of a loader really work out really well. And so for us to not have a loader on the job is pretty rare. A loader or a skid loader is on the job pretty much every single job we do.

Taylor White: Yeah, skid loader is on the job for us on everyone. But, I mean, that's even got me thinking. The only thing I can think of is, like, do you deal with a lot of– because you're in northern Utah, correct?

Ryan Goodfellow: Yup.

Taylor White: Do you have a lot of treed lots and wooded lots that you're working with tight access? That's the only thing I could think of that would restrict us if we did a lot of access lots this year were like, it was freaking tight, you know.

Ryan Goodfellow: So think about how much room you have, right? If you got room to get an excavator in and swing that thing around, you got room to get a loader in there. Most houses we do probably with you guys, too, you have 10 feet minimum around the house or more than that. So you can get a loader all the way around, no problem. You'd be surprised. Like, you can get a loader in pretty tight spots, and they're so much more efficient than a skid loader. But the skid loader is great because you can clean up your job site with them. But we found now to where we have that grading bucket on our loader, man, that crew hardly ever has a skid loader with them because having that grading on that loader, you can see it's just like a big skid loader. So it's really kind of nice to have that grading bucket. People make fun of me because I have that bucket and I have all this stuff. And I'm like, “Dude, don't knock it till you try it, because it's pretty amazing.”

Taylor White: Yeah, I think that's a cool thing. Apart about seeing other people in this day and age in construction, at least being able to see different ways and listening to different people and how they go about the same style projects, but in a completely different way. My second podcast I ever did was with the Digger Man, and he's talking about how they don't use loaders or skid steers over there that much, and it's mainly these little site dump trucks with tracks on them to move stuff around, and it's just cool the comparison. 

And I think that that's what's cool about ConExpo as well is that it's kind of like you get to talk to all these people and to listen to different ways of doing it. I'm sure since you've been to the first one, you have experience going. I'm sure that just the people that you get to talk to and the people that you see in the conversation that you have makes you think a different way. Like talking to you today. It's completely like I see I'm just saying this because of the podcast, but I'm seriously, like, a three-and-a-half yard loader might be kind of cool to try it on the next job site and call up the local dealer and be like, “Hey, let me demo one, and let's just see how it goes.”

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah, well, that's the beauty of what we do, right? Yeah, you can't really go out and test drive a car for 40 hours, right, or for 10 hours, right?

Taylor White: Run it through the mud.

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah, go drive the car around a little bit and then be done with it. It's one of those things where nowadays things are getting so advanced, right? Like Volvo and Caterpillar, they have onboard scales available in that loader that comes from the factory. Dude, to have that is amazing. And like Cat excavators, they have it right there in the machine. They'll tell you exactly what you're weighing out. That's huge. I was loading out trucks one day with a hoe, a 335 Cat, and these guys were getting mad at me. They're like, “You're loading it too heavy.” I said, “Come here.” And they're like, “What?” And I say, “Come here. I'm going to show you how much you weigh.” He's like, “Oh, you got a scale in there?” I said, “Yeah.” I said, “What's your weight? What are you good for? 31, 32 ton?” He's like, “Yeah, like 32, 32 and a half.” “I had, like, 32.8 in them.”

Taylor White: Nice.

Ryan Goodfellow: And I'm like, “There you go.” He's like, “Oh, okay. I'm not going to argue with you anymore.” And I don't think that these manufacturers really understand how important it is to have something like that in a machine with Loadrite Scales coming out and Trimble figuring that all out, all that stuff out. Putting that into the machine, it's a game changer. It's unreal.

Taylor White: Well, every brand is now. I saw a guy pushed an ad the other day by Komatsu and I know Cat and John Deere had their own kind of built-in on the screens, but Komatsu came out and they're having their own scale systems and grade systems built into their excavators as well, too. And I think that you're right. I don't know if they understand how just valuable it is because being able to track your quantities throughout the day and even preset and save each single truck, like, “Oh, truck four took this many tons today versus truck 18 took this many tons today.” That sounds really cool and useful to break down at the end of a project.

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah, it's unreal. It's one of those things where technology is coming so far along that, man, like the next-generation machines that don't have that type of stuff. It's like, man, how much longer before you get that, right? You got some of these other guys out there that have it and if you don't have it yet, you really need to have it. 

Like grading systems. I get into a machine that doesn't have any type of grading system and I'm like, “What do I do with this?” Give me a grading system in this thing because if I want to dig that hole over there and I want to be three feet deep, I know exactly how far three feet deep is by the push of a button. So it's just one of those things that once you learn the technology, you embrace it. You embrace it wholeheartedly because you understand how much better it can make you and how much more efficient it can make you.

Taylor White: Yeah, no, I 100% agree and these are conversations that I want to continue as well. You're going to be at ConExpo in March, Ryan, right?

Ryan Goodfellow: Yeah, we will be, yes.

Taylor White: And I can't wait to talk to you in person about this stuff and kind of get everybody else to continue these conversations about technology and leadership and owning a business and all the other stuff that's kind of going on. But I want to save some for the show as well, too. So we've been chatting for an hour now, even though it doesn't feel like an hour at all, but I know that there's more value that we can pull from you. So I can't wait to see you in March at ConExpo. And I want to thank you for coming on today, Ryan, on the podcast brought to you by Komatsu, everybody. Thank you to our supporters at Komatsu and thanks for coming on, Ryan.

Ryan Goodfellow: Thanks, Taylor. Thanks for having me. Thanks to ConExpo-Con/Agg for having me. This is awesome.

Taylor White: We are less than 100 days from the 2023 show. That's right. We are coming up on the largest construction family reunion in North America. Conexpo-Con/Agg is going to be here before we know it. If you have not registered yet, there's still time to secure your tickets. Visit conexpoconagg.com and use the promo code 'Podcast20' to get 20% off. That's right, 20% off with promo code 'Podcast20'. If you already have your tickets to the show, join us in the countdown to the show and comment below to let us know you're going to be there and what you're most excited to see.

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