The background and experience Michael Macura Jr. brought to his startup company in 2013 looked like a blueprint for success. He grew up in the site-work business—his father was in the construction industry for more than 25 years. Macura had a degree in engineering and 7 years of experience as a construction manager. But most of all, he had a real passion for the industry.
“As early as I could sit in an excavator seat, I was running one, and it has been a part of my life ever since,” Macura said. “My passion for this type of work has driven me to continue to succeed and grow.”
Just as important as his passion for construction, he had a solid business plan. For the most part, he stuck with the plan; when he got off track, he learned some valuable lessons. Today, Macura Excavating, headquartered in North Grafton, Massachusetts, is a well-established site-work subcontractor.
“Starting this business from the ground up was a challenge,” he said. “Our name was well-known throughout the Metro Boston area, thanks to the work of my father (Mike Sr.). I was able to piggyback on some of his longtime relationships, which made it easier to break into the business. But, right from the start, I wanted to operate a different type of company. My focus has always been on commercial projects in various industries in lieu of residential.”
“[At Macura Excavating], our No. 1 goal is to deliver a quality product to our clients and provide a safe work environment for our employees. When we sign a contract for a project, we are committed to delivering that project on time, safely and on budget,” he said.
Macura admits he still has plenty to learn as new challenges surface regularly. “I’ve had my ups and downs, but I don’t regret anything I’ve experienced,” he said. “As long as you keep your head down, continue to move forward, and have the drive to be successful, then you will be.”
When asked to share his advice on getting into the construction business, buying equipment and being successful, he passed along some ideas from his original plan, as well as adjustments he made along the way.
1. Be strategic about purchasing decisions.
When Macura makes decisions about equipment acquisitions, he first identifies how the piece of construction equipment can make his company productive and profitable.
“Owning excavators and loaders is the clear bread and butter of what we need to perform our work,” Macura said. “However, we also analyze where our outsourced expenditures are, weigh the ownership and operating costs, and determine if it is a profitable investment to increase our bottom line.”
In 2018, Macura and his team determined the company could improve what it was spending on trucking—both exporting spoils from sites and importing aggregate to sites.
“We invested in a tractor-trailer dump, instead of a triaxle or 10-wheeler dump, to minimize the cost per ton to move material,” Macura said. “Also, we elected to purchase a tractor so we could purchase a lowboy trailer to move our equipment in-house. The purchase of the tractor served two purposes for us.”
Another area in which Macura identified an opportunity to improve his company’s efficiency was the amount he was spending on processed gravel, structural fill, sand and stone purchased from local pits.
“We made the decision to invest in a jaw crusher and scalping screener,” he said. “After doing so, we are now able to utilize every type of soil we encounter on a jobsite. We can crush rock and make it into structural fill. We can screen common fill and make it into pipe bedding.”
“Lastly, we can use both the crusher and the screener to make dense graded stone, crushed stone and sand,” he said. “This has helped us be more competitive at earning work, but it took a long time to be in the position to ensure our sales and volume were at the correct level to justify the investment.”
2. Carefully consider renting or buying.
Which equipment he uses for a particular job can be very important to Macura’s bottom line, and it may vary from job to job, depending on the type and size of the project.
“The question of rent or purchase always comes to the forefront when you are in need of additional equipment beyond what your fleet has,” Macura said. “‘Will I be able to keep this machine working?’ and ‘Do I anticipate a steady flow of work in the future to maintain or exceed current sales?’ are questions always at the forefront when determining if purchasing a piece of equipment is the correct decision.”
The key, according to Macura is keeping the machine working. “If the machine is working, it’s contributing, and that equates to savings and efficiency,” he said. “You need the correct equipment to be productive, but you don’t need the burden when it is not contributing. Typically, when we do not have enough equipment to meet our job needs, we elect to rent equipment that we do not use at least 75% of the time on a jobsite. Generally, this is dozers, vibratory rollers and off-road rock trucks.”
As far as financing the equipment, Macura said, “Have a financial plan. Don’t buy a bunch of equipment because you think you are going to have work—only buy what you need. Look for equipment that is productive, with good pricing, warranty and dealer support.” A big part of Macura’s early success was a partnership with his local dealer—Equipment East LLC in Dracut, Massachusetts.
“Initially, I rented a number of different brands of excavators and wheel loaders, including machines from Equipment East, our local dealer,” Macura said. “When I could afford to purchase equipment, I contacted dealers representing various top brands in the industry. I was originally attracted to Equipment East because of its dealer support, financing options, warranty and, most of all, purchase price. I would not be where I am today without the support of Equipment East, especially Dan Clifford, who has been a great friend to the Macura family for many decades.”
Macura owns multiple crawler excavators and wheel loaders for site preparation tasks, including bulk cuts and fills, and excavating for new office buildings. On a project in May 2019, he combined multiple excavators, wheel loaders and an articulated dump truck to complete the earthwork on a new, 11-acre commercial project.
Fuel efficiency, according to Macura, is one area in which the machines have improved in recent years. “Operate them in the right mode and you will experience very good fuel efficiency,” he said. “That affects the bottom line on every job.”
3. Be efficient in everything you do.
“Every little bit counts—even the smallest thing is important,” Macura said. Some of those small things, he said, include:
- Staff the job with the right amount of people and the proper equipment for what you are doing.
- Develop relationships with as many people as you can in your local construction market, from civil engineers to developers.
- Stay constantly engaged in what’s going on. Spend time doing the work, but also set aside a good portion of your time for business development.
- Always keep building a backlog of work.
4. Find your niche.
“Look for the right size jobs that you can do efficiently and profitably,” Macura said. “I don’t dabble in things I am not good at. Don’t take on large public jobs if you do not have experience in large public jobs. Don’t take on small residential work if it’s not going to be profitable. This is one area where I’ve made some improvement in how I manage the company.”
“Continue to build equity in your company by reinvesting profits back into the business. Over time, that will make your firm more stable and allow you to add capital and resources,” he said.
5. Pick the right client & the right job.
“Don’t try to do everything,” Macura said. “I’ve done that and paid the price. When I was concerned about maintaining a volume of work, I panicked and took on some work that I should have avoided. Sometimes, you are better off sitting at the office and waiting for the next job rather than taking on a job you will regret.”
“Of course, when you are just starting out, that is sometimes easier said than done,” Macura said. “Being a new business forces you to make decisions to keep revenue up and overhead and operating costs paid every month. I would have been in a better position to pass on suspect jobs if that aspect of the business had not been such a financial burden.”
Not only is it important to pick the right project, but when it comes to clients, Macura said it’s crucial to know who you are working for. Whether you’re a contractor or a subcontractor, Macura said, “Gather references for people who are going to hire you. You will be investing a lot of time and money financing the job, and you need to be confident that you are going to get paid for your work in a timely manner.”