John Christiansen’s decision to specialize in a niche construction skill – caissons – has helped his aptly named The Caisson Company weather economic downturns. Read John’s story below to see how Bobcat loaders have helped him find success in a challenging market.
John Christiansen found his career after determining what he did not like – working on large-volume construction jobs.
As a new college graduate in 1999 working in general contracting, John steered away from big projects and spent his days on pavement finishing and site work. Often his work involved constructing light pole bases, bollards and sign piers – also known as caissons – for other contractors.
Tripling His Caisson Business
John quickly saw an opportunity for a niche offering turnkey service for caissons. General and concrete contractors focused on big jobs, and electrical contractors didn’t have the equipment to build caissons.
“It takes a lot of little things to do a specialized, turnkey light pole or bollard installation with anchor bolts that have to be accurate, squared up and in the center of the base,” John says. “Where somebody else would have to rent equipment and fabricate cages, we have all the materials in stock and the equipment ready to roll.”
At the beginning of his career, a great week meant building 20 to 25 caissons. He kept building more and more caissons each week, quickly expanding his business. John separated from the general contracting side of the business in 2004 and changed his company name to reflect his niche – The Caisson Company.
“We basically tripled our business at that point,” he says. “The Caisson Company does between 200 and 250 projects a year. Each project could have one to 300 bases.”
Investing in Bobcat Equipment
John’s decision to specialize in a core competencyhelped the company remain stable through economic ups and downs. In a strong economy, The Caisson Company takes on jobs that others pass up. In a downturn, John keeps costs low because of his expertise and equipment investments.
John learned to operate Bobcat equipment while working on construction crews before he started his business. When it came time to buy his own equipment, Bobcat was the natural choice. While he’s demoed other brands over the years, he says nothing he’s tested compares with the reliability and consistency delivered by Bobcat equipment.
Now his company owns four Bobcat S650 skid-steer loaders, as well as such skid-steer attachments as buckets, pallet forks and multiple Bobcat auger bits ranging in size from 6 to 36 inches in diameter. The skid-steer loaders are the backbone of the operation, providing the power and precision to drill footings for installations, transport and pour concrete, and perform dirt work.
“The Caisson Company crews don’t operate any other brand than Bobcat skid-steer loaders,” John says.
Long-Term Relationship for Bobcat Equipment
Daniel Hankins, sales specialist with Bobcat of the Rockies, sold John his first skid-steer loader – in John’s kitchen. This long-term relationship with both Bobcat and Daniel helped The Caisson Company achieve consistency across their equipment and company. Daniel even remembers that the crew prefers foot pedals, without John mentioning it before each sale.
“He understands every aspect of our business and the reasons that we like our equipment a certain way, what size machine we need,” John says. “Having that relationship makes it easier for us to efficiently operate the business. We’re able to send an email or text and say, ‘Send me a new machine.’”
In the near future, it’s likely that The Caisson Company will be adding more Bobcat equipment to their fleet. In addition to hundreds of caisson projects on the schedule for crews and loaders, the company plans to offer trenching and setting for light poles and signposts. This new core competency will require new equipment, so Daniel’s phone is apt to soon ring with John on the other end.
Consistency With Bobcat Equipment Improves Safety and Productivity
With four crews working on different projects at any given time, consistency is key. Thanks to similar controls and settings on each Bobcat loader, it’s easy for anyone on the crew to jump in and do good work.
“Using a skid-steer loader to drill small caissons for light pole bases and bollards allows us to get into areas that a normal drill rig cannot access,” John says. “We can haul concrete into back areas where concrete trucks cannot get into. Our loaders are used every single day to drill holes and make things happen that people didn’t think was possible.”
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