Pouring It On
Brandy Whitley and Whitley Contracting have grown a successful concrete business with the help of John Deere compacts
Whatever the obstacle, Brandy Whitley, president of Whitley Contracting, Smithfield, North Carolina, always finds a way. When she was selling real estate in the early 2000s, she realized she could earn more by building her own houses and selling them. Then when the housing market went south in 2009, she pivoted to highway construction. “It was just me and four other guys, including my husband,” she recalls. “To meet payroll until we had regular work, we’d pour footings on weekends for a homebuilder.”
Her husband Steve Whitley learned the housing business from his parents, who were in the mobile-home industry. During the early days he gained valuable knowledge about estimating projects and running machines that he was able to apply to the concrete business. “We started doing footings and driveways because that’s what we knew. I just needed to sell highway contractors on how we could do the job correctly and efficiently without holding up the large paving crews.”
Word of mouth eventually spread, and work from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and local cities and municipalities began pouring in. “Once we got our foot in the door, it’s been nonstop,” says Brandy. “We’ve been really blessed.”
“I’ve never been afraid to go against the grain. And don’t tell me I can’t do something. That’s what really drives me.”Watch Video
From underdog to overdrive
Over the last decade, the company has grown substantially, today employing 23 workers. Brandy attributes the growth to hard work. But as the owner of a woman-owned business, she believes hard work in and of itself is not enough. She has to trust her instincts and persevere. “There are not many women in this industry, so I consider myself an underdog. I’ve never been afraid to go against the grain. And don’t tell me I can’t do something. That’s what really drives me. I’m not sure what the future will hold, but I just keep grinding and growing.”
When she shows up at a job, she feels she’s sometimes overlooked. “People don’t always believe I’m the contractor. Honestly, I don’t really care. I come up with ideas and find people to carry them out. That’s what I do.”
The majority of the work Whitley Contracting does is for the NCDOT, including sidewalks and handicap ramps. City and municipal work include bus stops and bus shelters. “We did the bus stops for the City of Raleigh and were approached by the City of Durham. They had never done it before, so we guided them through it. It was a learning process for them. They were very grateful that we went above and beyond.”
Other city work includes streetscapes, with cobblestone walkways, trees, and lighting. “We really enjoy it,” Brandy says. “It’s less like highway work and more like beautification.” Steve is particularly proud of the streetscape in Goldsboro in 2015. “We did all the curb and gutter work and installed brick pavers for the sidewalk. It was really nice.”
The company used a John Deere 60D Compact Excavator to demolish and remove the existing sidewalk on that project. Today the company runs three 60G Compact Excavators. “They are our go-to machines for pulling up concrete,” says Steve. “They are compact yet spacious and comfortable, so they are perfect for what we do. We just love everything about them. We put a lot of trust in and have a lot of confidence in the Deere product.”
“We’ve used John Deere equipment forever,” adds Brandy. “You just can’t beat the time-tested quality of a company that has been around since the mid-1800s. We hardly ever have issues. But if we do, we make one call to our local Deere dealer, James River Equipment, and they send out a technician or a part to us immediately.”
Brandy also appreciates the easy and affordable equipment financing she receives from John Deere Financial. “It’s amazing and it means so much to a small-business owner, especially a woman-owned business. It has really allowed us to afford more equipment and grow.”
Keep on rolling
Brandy is optimistic about the company’s future. “The sky is the limit,” she says. “It’s a matter of how big we want to get. We’re always go, go, go. We knock it out, get it done, and roll on to the next job. But right now, we’re focused on keeping overhead low and pushing forward.”
One way the company has reduced overhead is by purchasing two concrete trucks and starting its own concrete operation. “Our concrete bills were enormous before we purchased these trucks,” says Brandy. “Plus, we were waiting on concrete all the time. We have very short windows out on the highways to get the job done or we’re penalized. The trucks have worked out perfectly.”
The company runs a John Deere 324L Compact Wheel Loader to load the concrete trucks. “We opted for the long boom,” says Steve. “That extra reach and capacity make the 324L perfect for loading the trucks.”
Keeping employees in quality machines has helped minimize turnover. “We keep our employees happy by paying them well and putting them in great equipment,” says Brandy. “John Deere machines are compact and so versatile. If it wasn’t for reliable Deere equipment on our projects, I don’t believe we would be as profitable and successful as we are right now.”
Whitley Contracting Inc. is serviced by James River Equipment, Raleigh, North Carolina.
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