Results 1 to 5 of 5
Like Tree3Likes
  • 2 Post By Mke
  • 1 Post By CableAvoidanceTool

Thread: Starting A Locate Company

  1. #1
    NGP
    NGP is offline
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    VT
    Posts
    2
    Years of Experience
    4
    Rep Power
    0

    Default Starting A Locate Company

    Hello All!
    This one is for all the owners of small private locate companies out there. After some years working as a technician I recently began the process of beginning my own locate/concrete imaging company and I wanted to get the low down from any folks who have gone the same route. Mainly, what methods did you use to attract your customers? Bids? (of course), online marketing? direct mail to contractors? Cold Calling? What worked for you? What didn't work? I am in a new city from where I used to work so relying on old contacts is out. And as a tech I never got to work on the customers side of the business outside of locating in the field. I have the experience, just looking for a little help getting the ball rolling! Any positive feedback is appreciated. Thanks in Advance!

  2. #2
    Mke
    Mke is offline
    Senior Member Mke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Republic of Washington
    Posts
    1,536
    Years of Experience
    16
    Blog Entries
    34
    Rep Power
    77

    Default Re: Starting A Locate Company

    couple of questions...

    Did your previous experience include Private locates? I ask because typically small locating companies survive by word of mouth and most of the work they get is solely private locating. You may be able to grab a small phone company or water company but usually these don't pencil out very well, but look great when trying to market the company for other contracts.

    I've none a few locators that opened their own company and all of them thought it was going to be a lot easier then it was. Most had to take it in the shorts for the first year or so until they built their reputation up. As for marketing... this is what most of them did...

    1) Website - lots of pictures of previous work. List of services and projects previously worked on.
    2) Calling - call Geotechnical and Environmental companies. (good portion of our work came from these guys... and they tend to spread the word to the engineering firms that pay them to do the work) Ignore the big name construction companies... they tend to have their "Go to" guys and won't give you the time of day. Talk to the smaller subcontractors. The Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical subs will forget to coordinate locates from time to time and will need locates quick and in a pinch... This is where you need to be available. If they learn that you are available they tend to call you cause the other guys are busy.
    3) Free stuff... Construction guys are whores for free stuff. If you do this, make sure it not the real cheap stuff. It will be laughed at and most will throw it away. Simple screen printed T's or flex fit hats with company logo on front and the number in small print on the side would suffice. You'd be surprised on how many contractors will call because the # is visible on the hat and they don't have to go looking for the business card or website.

    4) Fees - If you want to bill out at $160 an hour, know that if that is going rate and the other guys bill that price as well... They will get the job over you. Keep your price at that level, but offer the contractors a "Introductory" price. you need to get them to call and to do this you will have to lower the price to cover expenses but not to low to the point you are losing money. One of the guys I know had to keep this introductory price break for almost a year before he earned the respect and started to get the calls. At this time you can up the prices all around. Up your normal base fee ($160 to $180 or $200 depending on services) but make sure your original contractors that use you keep the "discount"... so instead of them paying $150 an hour they are up to $160 or $175 etc...

    5) Services - Make sure you offer as much "one-stop" shopping as possible. Locates, Concrete scans, Utility Scans, Small push camera inspections, Fault finds, etc... Contractors love when one company can do multiple things.

    6) Be available- A couple of the guys I know started a locating company thinking it was going to be easy and they wouldn't have to work for a slave driver... Then they realize how much they have to jump through hoops for contractors. Night work, weekends, out of town, short notice, emergency, even consulting on damage investigations etc.. Never say no, you can tell them it will be a while, but starting out you really shouldn't say no to any job... no matter how crappy it is.

    Let me know if this makes sense.... Also, what equipment are you using?

    mke
    yahoo and daman1 like this.

  3. #3
    NGP
    NGP is offline
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    VT
    Posts
    2
    Years of Experience
    4
    Rep Power
    0

    Default Re: Starting A Locate Company

    Mike,
    Thanks for the detailed reply. I currently have a website up and running, you can see it here: www.NGPTECH.com. I'm offering a number of services such as GPR, concrete scanning, utility locating, etc.
    The smaller firms is where I was heading as I have reached out to some of the larger construction companies in my area, and like you said, they brush you off before any real dialogue can begin. As for my prior experience I did a number of GPR based private utility locates/mapping for larger industrial complexes such as Dupont, Westinghouse, National Grid and so on, but as for small time stuff for homeowners or general contractors I have yet to work in that arena.

    For equipment, right now I rent on a job by job basis mainly because I cannot commit to the pricing plans available for purchasing when revenue is not yet consistent. For GPR I use the GSSI utility scan as well as the structure scan 1600Mhz and the structure scan mini 2600Mhz. For general locating I use the RD 8100. The one downfall with renting equipment is that it essentially takes away any opportunities for same day or one day service as I have to give the rental company a two day notice for shipment of the equipment.

    I get what your saying about the construction guys going nuts over free stuff and already have a box of nice t-shirts made up ready for dispersal. When it comes to initiating that first contact with the smaller geotechnical and engineering firms however, this is where I am at a bit of a loss. When making the calls I want to make sure that they count. One thing I run into is that people are not expecting to be contacted and pretty much brush you off without really listening to "the pitch" (for lack of better words). When you made your sales calls to the smaller companies how did those conversations play out? Did you have a setup in place for countering objections, delivering value, etc.?

    Thanks again for all of the info, much appreciated!

  4. #4
    Senior Member yahoo's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Louisiana
    Posts
    3,910
    Years of Experience
    15
    Rep Power
    167

    Default Re: Starting A Locate Company

    all the luck in the world to you sir ! I hope you are successful !
    wise men talk because they have something to say and fools because they have to say something....plato

  5. #5
    Senior Member CableAvoidanceTool's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Locator's Paradise
    Posts
    111
    Years of Experience
    9
    Rep Power
    12

    Default Re: Starting A Locate Company

    Ah Vermont, the glittering jewel of New England. I was surprised to see that you were based there.

    I'm sure you have already done this, but get your company on the 811 website as a private locator. The 5 states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island share the exact same dig safe 811 website, so you will tend to get buried in the list of other companies that are offering services. However you should still do it, it's free as far as I remember from a few years ago.

    Also, get on neighboring states 811 sites. You should go after New York and Connecticut, just in case. New York has a monetary cost to get on, but I'm not sure about Connecticut. You are pretty close to Albany, so there is a nice area to go after, more populated than anything in Vermont.

    I see you are renting equipment, this is tough for a new business. Like you said yourself, you have to give the rental equipment company time to react. Also, the profit to the rental company will eat into your bottom line.

    In terms of electromagnetic, you can get some cheaper equipment to purchase outright on ebay. You could get something decent like a used rd7000 for $1,500 or around there. Should come with a passive mode.

    The really tough one is the GPR. Very expensive. I think the cheapest one out there is the MALA Easy Locator. I only say that because, we looked at buying some years ago, and the other one quoted to us was the GSSI brand which was more expensive. Rumored to be better though. I only used the MALA in person so I couldn't say. You might look on ebay, perhaps a more populated area of craigslist like New York City or Boston might be selling one for cheap, if you're lucky. However, no returns on craigslist, so maybe still go with ebay.

    Another strategy is to call around to all distributors and ask them if they have any used, refurbished, or older models they want to get rid of. Try Eastcom associates in New Jersey as a starting point.

    Fault finding can be done with certain models of RD units but you need the A-Frame which is a separate device. I did private locating for a few years, this was my least requested service out of everything we did. Not a huge market really, sometimes you can even find the fault with just regular electromagnetic locating.

    Water leak detection is pretty big, you can get into that with a audio transmitter and headphone wand and set. I don't know too much about that, though. I have seen the equipment in person during a class by Warren Vega up here in the northeast but I've never used it personally. Surely you could go with ebay on this as well.

    Another huge issue I'm sure you will have to eventually deal with is insurance. Even though we don't accept liability for our marks in the field, being a professional opinion only, most clients will require you to have liability insurance. It can get expensive, especially for a newer and struggling company. I was quoted $6,000 yearly for a 2 million dollar policy, only if you paid it all up front. That's half the cost of a GPR or used car right there. I will straight up tell you that many big, well known excavation companies will not do business with you unless you have insurance and can prove it. Even though you make them agree they won't sue you for utility markings. Makes no sense, but that's the way it is.

    Others have said this but it deserves repeating. The best way to make a name for yourself is to be the lowest cost. Find out what all your competition is charging in a 100 mile radius, and be lower by at least 10%.

    Your absolute biggest hurdle as a new company... is that no one knows who you are yet. You have to build that reputation, mostly through word of mouth and repeat first customers. I used to work for someone who built his locating company from the ground up, further south than Vermont, and he would tell me stories about how it took him 2-3 years just to get to the point where he could get a decent income from it.

    Another strategy is to attend the dig safe meetings that happen in a yearly fashion all around the area. Contact the dig safe people who run the meetings, they will allow you to give a presentation. I have seen presentations by managers of On Target, Dig Safe of Maine, various excavation and environmental companies, they are allowed to do so. So can you. This is perhaps the best opportunity to advertise. Make good looking pamphlets and pass them out at the meeting, make them available on the counter tops.

    It's going to be tough, but hang in there. Especially in Vermont, where it's sparsely populated and where the Winter is like from game of thrones.

    But, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Believe me, I tried.

    Best of luck and warmest regards. I'll keep your site bookmarked and watch your posts on here. I've seen a lot of private locating situations, I might be able to offer advice here and there. Your site looks good, very professional. Make business cards, hand them out as much as you can.

    When I think of more, I'll come back.
    yahoo likes this.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •