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Thread: North Star Locating, LLC

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    Default North Star Locating, LLC

    Hello all,

    I've been a locator since 2011, and a state manager since 2016. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that does injustice to locators in general, and I've learned that whatever corporation you work for, they're in it for the bottom line. It seems that corporate policy is to lie to the locator, lie to the customer, and laugh all the way to the bank.

    North Star Locating is based near Erie, Pa, and is my solution for the ethically bankrupt practices I've seen at every VLLC I've worked for in the past 8 years (and the companies that just pretend to be in locating for the paycheck). Although still in it's infancy, we're shaking things up.

    Ever heard of an outfit that pays a base salary, ticket completion performance bonus, and on-call stipends? I hadn't until I built the model... and it works.

    How many times have you heard a tech ask to buy his old locate rig, only to have it auctioned off for pennies? Not here. We're doing our best to reward intelligent, skilled workers in an industry that so often ignores its roots.

    We are giving our employees the option of choosing their equipment, having the company purchase it, and letting them pay for it in manageable payroll deductions, much like the boot purchase programs of yore. This may seem different, because it is. It may even seem foolish to some, but it allows the employee to the tools they know best without dropping $6000, it gives people a reason to be gentle with the equipment they're using, and it keeps the company from holding on to depreciating assets. It is a win/win arrangement.

    If you need to use that equipment for a side job, it is yours. You do what you want with it. We're not here to be greedy and drag people to court. We're here to enrich the industry, and retain the knowledgeable and skilled workers that other companies tend to discard. Our service has always relied on the boots on the ground, and I'm tired of the lack of respect. A company hires employees to work, yes, but in doing so it also inherits a responsibility to enrich their lives... and that is currently being ignored.


    If you get a second please check out https://www.northstarlocating.com

    Thanks all.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    wow . that sounds great . where is that place exactly ??? Erie, Pa??? is that in the USA ?
    wise men talk because they have something to say and fools because they have to say something....plato

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    If you want to break into the market in Maryland solicit Baltimore Gas and Electric. Years ago they had a contact with Utiliquest the term of which would suit your operation. They set a level of damages allowed per year. Met or surpass the goal and the company gets a bonus. The allowable damages were all inclusive both the locator at fault and excavator at fault. These goals were met and surpassed so it is possible, some thing like 5 or seven damages per 10,000 locates. To achieve this they required that the locators assigned to the contract mark their plant exclusively same as One Vision Locating does. That locators be assigned an area and that becomes there area so they were expert on the plant in that area. This also meant excavators almost always dealt with the same locator for digs in that area and a strong relationship was formed. BG&E had liaisons assigned to each foreman's group and met with them once a month. The liaison would also meet where there is a problem locating a line and had, and did use, the authority to declare a line unlocatable. They also opened transformers and made the transmitter connection where this was the only way the locate could be done. Equally they would check out a damage and if the cut line were found to be unlocatable would not charge the locate firm with the damage.

    This office on this contract had to be built up and was done so very well by Carl Brumfield. There were progressive production bonuses starting at $75 and capping at $1,000. Every 3,000 party charges, two per ticket where BG&E had both gas and electric, the locator got a bonus. The bonus increased each 3,000 party charges unless an at fault damage and then it was reset to $75. This was effective because a locator, beat and hot on a tough day, felt like this was good enough. They had only one damage this year and would not get fired for one thought get this right or I am out $1,000. Plus they would have to start over and it would really loose several thousands of bonus dollars. I and others in my group did high volumes of work often had years without a single damage. At the time there average damage cost $1,000 so the company was not really loosing money on this. Plus the pay scale was a combination of the quarters production less damages and adjusted quarterly. A locator could work hard and write tier own raise which gave money to the best locators. This was considered Pay For Performance and disparaged in the industry because some people not worth a damn in the first place abused it.

    Carl got transferred to another office aft the office was operating at a profit and Utiliquest immediately began dismantling what Carl had built. Soon we found out through the IT guy that Utiliquest was being paid two party charges per ticket regardles wither or not BG&E had both gas and electric in the area. In some areas other utilities provided the gas. That the way tickets were coded out meant the locator was only getting half the party charges to count towards pay scale and bonus. We used a different code for where gas was another firm. Utiliquest said that was wrong, we should not be paid even though they were being paid and changed how the computer processed the tickets.

    Someone said not 100% of the locators were getting damage free bonuses so it must not be working and eliminated the bonus, sort of. First the said the bonus was dependent of the entire office damage levels. That obtaining the goal the the bonus money would be divided equally among all the locators which on paper worked out to $50 every 6 or 12 months. If failed to reach the bonus level the the amount not reached would be added to the next bonus level and so on. If the bonus level was exceeded the extra amount would not be carried over to the next period. Soon the bonus program, none were paid by the new program, was done away with.

    Next the PFP was done away with and the best locators got pay cuts.

    With pay cut and bonuses gone management was trying to figure out why production was down and damages were up.

    If you want o expand into Maryland try contacting BG&E and see if they are interested in contracting to a firm that wants to operate like they originally did with Utiliquest. Carl Brumfeld is on Linkedin and he may talk to you about he old operation. Last I hear he was working at S&N but may have moved on.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    When I was with SM&P they had a bonus program. My group was never near it when I first started, but we basically was overturning it every 2.5 months. Now Rockford was always the leader in most things, but it was also 60% aerial. Through mentoring and such we got our group turned around and were receiving bonuses on a regular basis. The next year they moved the goal post and no longer was the bonus based on the county group now on the regional group. Never saw another bonus again. The supervisor gave out jackets and such for locators that had 10K locates or more
    without a damage.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Quote Originally Posted by paintitnow View Post
    When I was with SM&P they had a bonus program. My group was never near it when I first started, but we basically was overturning it every 2.5 months. Now Rockford was always the leader in most things, but it was also 60% aerial. Through mentoring and such we got our group turned around and were receiving bonuses on a regular basis. The next year they moved the goal post and no longer was the bonus based on the county group now on the regional group. Never saw another bonus again. The supervisor gave out jackets and such for locators that had 10K locates or more
    without a damage.
    A company jacket? Company apparel is not an incentive to get someone to but there back. Giving employees pennies while making big bucks for the employer is counter productive as it demoralizes employees. The locator knows by not getting a damage they saved the company at least a thousand dollars.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Thanks for the responses!

    I will definitely look into BG&E.

    A jacket isn't a bonus, it serves as a benefit to the company. It takes that locator's dedication and skill, and turns the locator into a walking billboard for a company that could care less. A jacket is no bonus, it is a bare minimum. North Star employees will all have jackets, and boots, and snow-pants, and cleats, and anything else they need to be out there and be safe in any weather condition.

    These corporations are top-heavy, and they tend to go through the motions. they don't have the experience base or pride to do what needs done because it is right. That ended 4 owners ago, when investment companies started calling the shots. How can you manage an industry you have no clue about? You can't. Non sustainably, at least.

    Locators have been seen as consumables. Revolving door is an understatement, and I'm tired of it. These are good people being used up and burnt out, then ground into the dust. All in the name of the bottom line.

    In my time managing for one of these corporations, I've taken the cast-offs from other companies, the ones who didn't care about what they did or who they could hurt, and I've turned them into consistent, professional locating machines. All I had to do was be there to support them. I just needed to let them know that I saw their triumphs as well as their failures, and that I was there to help either way. Over 2.5 years I retained 90% of my employee base, while the larger organization was (and still is) experiencing 80% turnover. I left because I was no longer allowed to have my employee's backs. No, if a company won't support my employees, I will not support the company. I've done that enough over the years.

    So, as Executive, will I get six figure bonuses? No, I won't. that profit will be split up between the people that matter. The ones who actually do the work and whom North Star's reputation rests. Because it is the right thing to do.

    I've heard about UQ's PFP programs, as well as USIC's texas pilots. I also know how no-cuts and Jules used to work. Each of these places was either bought out, or proved that they could care less about the success of their individual members. It wasn't "Lets do better for our employees, who are our company", it was "It's us Vs. them, and I can choose to take those bonuses for me". How backwards is that?

    I've gone blue in the face trying to explain that to VPs, and C-suite employees, all the way up to the CEO and board members. They simply don't understand actual employee investment. "My" guys did things because they wanted to, not because I threatened them with a stick, and that is what I'm carrying over to North Star.

    There will be resistance, and this will not be an easy road, but in the end, I'm a locator... and this is the right thing to do.
    yahoo likes this.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Erie, Pa is right on Lake Erie, in Erie county, Pennsylvania. It is basically smack dab between Buffalo, NY, Cleveland, OH, and Pittsburgh, PA, which puts North Star Locating in a good position to support several major utilities, smaller municipalities, and growing energy conglomerates.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    I personally don't agree with having techs buy equipment. That should be provided. If they abuse it you don't want them. To me it screams cheap ass that doesnt want to buy what the loca
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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Hey Orangeboots, I certainly understand that point of view. It is an option, and if a tech chooses not to exercise that option, the company will by all means buy what is needed. We also intend to have a healthy stock of company owned goods, but the depreciation cycle is real, and it is crazy with locate equipment in particular. It makes cash-flow and asset projections a bit of a pain.

    I came up with that after asking my 12 local guys what they thought, and 100% wanted in on a purchase program. Some of this is so they can buy what they want, what they've practiced with, and what they are capable of providing their best product with. A cable/satellite installer buys his own tools, as does an auto mechanic, or tradesman... it is a point of pride for them. And as a locator, it would be a point of pride for me as well. The company owning these tools helps prevent a technician from using them as he sees fit, and once that employee separates from the company, it limits him in performing his craft elsewhere.

    So employees don't have to buy their own stuff, but this program will enable those that do to be able to without the hefty investment up front.
    Last edited by CodyC; February 26th, 2019 at 08:34 PM. Reason: grammar

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Quote Originally Posted by orangeboots View Post
    I personally don't agree with having techs buy equipment. That should be provided. If they abuse it you don't want them. To me it screams cheap ass that doesnt want to buy what the loca
    At Utiliquest at one point locators had the option to provide their own truck. I did not and stuck with a company provided truck. I saw several problems with doing this.

    First the company was doing this to save their money, not the employees money. The truck would get high mileage and depreciate quickly beyond the remaining loan balance and should employee be fired,laid off or quit be stuck with a payment they could no longer afford. While the company offered a reimbursement that sounded good I saw shortcomings. I had worked at a previous job as a contractor and private vehicles need three insurance policies, one for general use, a second for business use and a third umbrella coverage to keep the company covered for any tort suit should I have an at fault traffic accident. So I saw big insurance costs coming.

    Another problem is of course vehicles break down and not being a company truck the employee is off without pay, or required to use vacation time, until the vehicle is repaired and back on the road.

    After only 6 or 8 months Utiliqest stopped the program and left those that joined in stuck with the trucks. While bidding on a contract as competing firm sat with the clients and showed them photos of these trucks. They said see, all different brands with magnetic sigmas stuck on them. Is this the unprofessional appearance you want to represent yuur firm? The answer was Utiliquest was denied the contract because of these trucks.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Quote Originally Posted by CodyC View Post
    Hey Orangeboots, I certainly understand that point of view. It is an option, and if a tech chooses not to exercise that option, the company will by all means buy what is needed. We also intend to have a healthy stock of company owned goods, but the depreciation cycle is real, and it is crazy with locate equipment in particular. It makes cash-flow and asset projections a bit of a pain.

    I came up with that after asking my 12 local guys what they thought, and 100% wanted in on a purchase program. Some of this is so they can buy what they want, what they've practiced with, and what they are capable of providing their best product with. A cable/satellite installer buys his own tools, as does an auto mechanic, or tradesman... it is a point of pride for them. And as a locator, it would be a point of pride for me as well. The company owning these tools helps prevent a technician from using them as he sees fit, and once that employee separates from the company, it limits him in performing his craft elsewhere.

    So employees don't have to buy their own stuff, but this program will enable those that do to be able to without the hefty investment up front.
    Will work but you need the ability for them to have calibration checked and reset when needed. I find one machine does not do all and most employers are loath to assign more than one machine per locator. When ever possible I got a second, different machine assigned to me.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Quote Originally Posted by CodyC View Post
    Hey Orangeboots, I certainly understand that point of view. It is an option, and if a tech chooses not to exercise that option, the company will by all means buy what is needed. We also intend to have a healthy stock of company owned goods, but the depreciation cycle is real, and it is crazy with locate equipment in particular. It makes cash-flow and asset projections a bit of a pain.

    I came up with that after asking my 12 local guys what they thought, and 100% wanted in on a purchase program. Some of this is so they can buy what they want, what they've practiced with, and what they are capable of providing their best product with. A cable/satellite installer buys his own tools, as does an auto mechanic, or tradesman... it is a point of pride for them. And as a locator, it would be a point of pride for me as well. The company owning these tools helps prevent a technician from using them as he sees fit, and once that employee separates from the company, it limits him in performing his craft elsewhere.

    So employees don't have to buy their own stuff, but this program will enable those that do to be able to without the hefty investment up front.

    Explain how this works if I get hired right before a contract renewal and you lose the contract to another firm. I've made 2 payments on my locating equipment and the new company wants to hire me - what happens then? Am I on the hook for the balance? What if I paid 3/4 of it off - do you buy it back? Who gets to keep it? How long is the payoff period on one of the higher end locating devices? I believe you will have problems with this setup. Also, if you grow the company, you would be in a better position standardizing on a good locating device and buying in bulk with a defined repair contract (i.e. one dies and they give you a loaner). I can see why you want to do it though - it somewhat ties your employees to you so they can't just jump ship after they start.

    Using your analogy to a mechanic - mechanics typically buy their own tools and deal directly with the Snap-On guy. The dealership has nothing to do with it.
    Last edited by Faded Marks; February 27th, 2019 at 06:16 PM.

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Cody I dont want to seem like I am piling on, I think you are doing good things. If you are doing private work you're guys are going to need more than 1 machine. I do about 60% private and I carry 3 machines. Most of my coworkers carry at least that many. If you are doing privates nobody should be doing "side jobs" and if they do I promise if things go south they will come after you. I have worked for several companies with pay for performance with a base wage. It works great till somebody tries to scam payroll. My 2 cents hire the best people you can a give them what they need to succeed.whether its pay machines trucks whatever. People who take this serious would just as soon have a new 4x4 full size as a extra .50 or 75 cents. Keep up the good work our industry needs more people like you
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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Everyone who takes what we do serious wants the good guy to win ......
    wise men talk because they have something to say and fools because they have to say something....plato

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    Default Re: North Star Locating, LLC

    Hello,

    I'm looking to purchase used locators in good working condition. Locators like the. Ditch Witch 752 or 750 Subsite Tracker. Serious inquiries send messages to procurement@erosventuresinc.com

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