Esposito Construction has been providing superior site development, paving, infrastructure development, and site improvement work to the Tri-state area since 1999. What started as a couple of friends making extra money power washing and staining decks, has since turned into a robust site development company with nearly 300 employees. “We started doing it in college and we’d go out and we’d power wash people’s decks and we’d go back three days later and we’d stain them,” says Matt McMahon, vice president of business development at Esposito Construction. “One of our guys who’s still working for us—he runs a pipe crew today—would come work with us, and he accidentally spilled five gallons of decking stain on some lady’s driveway. Since the very beginning, we’re always just going to do the right thing by our customers, so we went to Home Depot, got some sealer, and did it in like 20 minutes, and that was the ‘light bulb moment.’ We said, “We’ve got to start a business doing this.”” Within a couple of weeks, they had bought into a seal coating franchise. “That first year we started seal coating, and doing the decks simultaneously, and the following year, we started putting some blacktop in the back of our pickup trucks and doing pothole repairs and things like that,” McMahon explains. “I would say within three years we became one of the largest driveway companies in New Jersey, doing about 1,500 driveways every summer. You look back and that’s when it really exploded on us. We ended up being the driveway contractor for some national home builders.
Unbeknownst to McMahon and his partners, those national home builders were in some financial trouble. After payments stopped, one of the site contractors walked off of a job. Knowing that McMahon had a backhoe, he asked them if they could put in some leader drains. “The site contractor walked away from the job and they knew we had a backhoe and he says, ‘Hey, could you guys put these leader drains in for us?’ So we started putting leader drains in,” McMahon explains. “I think we eventually got paid 30 cents on the dollar after arbitration, but we learned how to be site contractors, and it was a great learning experience. After that we really sat around in these arbitration meetings with thirty other contractors that all got burned—we sat back and it ended up being the best networking group you could ever imagine.” “You had thirty guys, and we all just kept feeding work to each other,” he continues. “It was a great thing and that’s really what made us site contractors. Ever since then, we’ve always just sort of added these elements to our business. We’ve added the paving, we added the pipe work, once we started doing some pipe work, we bought a little dozer and started doing some grading and some earth work. We were always using subcontractors for our curbs and sidewalks and they kept burning us, rescheduling every freaking week and so we started our own concrete company. Now we run like seven concrete crews every day, just doing curbs and sidewalks. That was about 17 years ago, and we have about 265 employees now.” “Now we have in-house engineering teams, in-house surveyors, in-house safety managers, and really it’s grown a lot.”
Growing Business through Tech Adoption
According to McMahon, one of the key elements of Esposito Construction’s growth and success over the years has been their willingness to adopt new technology. “I think that we were sort of the first ones in this area to really start embracing new technology,” he says. “First it was when the iPads came out, it was important for us to get all of our superintendents iPads, because we wanted to save on printing plans every day and really more than that, just have the ability for our guys to really be able to keep the most current drawings right there with them and not have a truck full of rolled-up plans.” “That was sort of the first thing, and then we got into GPS machine control, and that was a real game-changer for us, and now it seems like everybody in New Jersey is using GPS machine control. We’ve always invested in technology just because we are the young guys in this business and for us, we just know how to use it. Our staff is fairly young for the most part, not completely, but for the most part they grew up with this tech and it’s very user-friendly for them.” “To me, it’s the downtime that really kills us, because you’re mobilized on a job, you’ve got your guys set up to be there for a week, you can’t stop on a Wednesday and tell those guys, ‘Hey, we’re going to be back on a Monday, once the engineers sort this stuff out.’ Technology has allowed us to ramp that pace and make it where we get decisions and actions that day versus waiting weeks on end for something to happen. “I would say that’s probably our biggest advantage of it, and also just like the record-keeping, being able to have digital platforms where they are really prompting our site managers and supers, with just a simple reminder, ‘Hey, it’s 3:45, do your daily reports,’ and that daily report, it’s going to have weather conditions and job site conditions and downtime and productivity rates and things like that and all of that really allows us to make better decisions going forward.”
Soil Connect and eTickets
Always looking for the latest technologies to give them a leg-up in the field, Esposito Construction heard about an app called Soil Connect. Soil Connect is the first and only institutionally backed digital marketplace focused on the soil and aggregates industry. Created to solve the high costs and inefficiencies associated with the transport and management of soil and other materials, third-generation builder and developer Cliff Fetner envisioned a digital platform that connects those who have soil, aggregates, and other building materials with those who need it. “I was using it to just search for dirt,” McMahon says. “We’ve got 4,000 yards here, 4,000 yards there. 20,000 yards in Staten Island—which you’d never believe—but I was impressed.” At the time, Soil Connect was developing eTickets — a contactless, easy-to-use e-ticketing platform designed to eliminate the use of paper tickets and allow users to easily capture customer information, type of truck, destination, pictures, eSignatures, type of material, load count, and more. eTickets was designed to provide a better ticket management solution for any industry that hauls and manages loads. Eliminating the human error associated with traditional paper tickets and ultimately helping contractors get paid faster. Esposito Construction got involved with some beta testing and has been using the platform ever since. Vice President of Esposito Construction, Scott VanSickle, explains the impact that the e-ticketing platform has had on their day-to-day business. “All of our drivers use it every day,” he says. “I’m constantly getting notifications—every single time one of the drivers is posting a ticket.” “Getting to this point was a challenge, but the Soil Connect team did an awesome job to get us here. We were pretty specific about the parameters that we were trying to hit, and they did their best to oblige. Even a few parameters that once we actually got into some beta testing, wanted to be changed, having seen how the functionality really would be because you’ve got to put yourself in a truck driver’s shoes.” VanSickle worked with the Soil Connect Customer Satisfaction team on several aspects of the platform, providing real-world insight on the interface, drop-downs, input fields, and other features. “One of the big features that we were pushing for was the ability to export tickets,” VanSickle says. “Although on the admin side exporting the data in an Excel format was very useful for tabulating and things like that, it’s not really useful for billing purposes when we have to submit actual load tickets. So they worked with us to create an export function that allows us to export single and multi-page PDFs, so we could take a batch of tickets either per driver, per project and export them in a PDF format, so we can just turn over the file and/or the actual hard copies and get it done.” According to VanSickle, it was easy to get their employees on board with the software. “We are fully digital. We consciously made that decision quite some time ago from time cards to field reports, to HR, requesting time off and everything,” he explains. “Luckily, our guys are at least somewhat familiar with the different apps and platforms that we use, so adding another one wasn’t so much of a heavy lift.” Using eTickets, Esposito Construction has been able to create efficiencies across several elements of their business, including billing, tracking, monitoring hours, and more. “Just having tickets every day is tremendously helpful,” VanSickle says. “Previously, we would have to wait until the end of the week for the drivers to come in and drop off all their tickets, and then we have some clerical staff that’s tasked with sorting through the trash bag full of tickets that get dumped on her desk on a Friday afternoon. So just being able to quantify those loads on a daily basis, as opposed to on a weekly basis is tremendously useful.” Esposito has also seen the benefits of having all of their information available digitally, in one location. It’s a tough business, and having all of your hauling data in one easy-to-access place can be very helpful if a contractor ever has legal issues. “It’s so great to be able to have this digital paper trail of who said what, when, and really to be able to approach it like that, it’s really powerful stuff when that stuff does resurface,” McMahon adds. “There’s a certain point in any company, you get big enough and that stuff just kind of happens, and so being able to have a platform where we can go in and quickly access all that information because it really is a lot of man-hours to go out and recapture that information if it’s not all stored in an accessible place.”
Looking to the Future
Esposito Construction continues to grow and expand their site development repertoire—most recently into site remediation and environmental work. As they continue on their successful path forward, Scott VanSickle offered some parting words for other contractors in the dirt business. “Construction has been ongoing since the time of the Egyptians, so we’re not really doing anything remarkably different,” he concludes. “Adopting and embracing technology has just allowed us to do it smarter, faster, and more efficient. From GPS machine control to digital ticket tracking, technology allows us to do what we do better.”