Daniel Buttigieg has built a substantial contracting business with more than 50 pieces of machinery and another 50 trucks, all within 20 km of the strawberry farm on which he grew up.
By keeping his business model simple, he’s made himself a valuable resource of tier-one construction contracting companies without, he claims, ever putting himself at risk. The 44-year-old said:
“I didn’t mean for any of it to happen. All I wanted as a young bloke was to have one excavator, a truck and a float.”
It helped that Daniel grew up in the Mulgoa growth corridor in far western Sydney, surrounded by fast expanding industrial and residential developments and now the construction of Sydney’s third airport at Badgery’s Creek on which he is one of four principal machine suppliers.
His business, Mulgoa Excavations, has grown exponentially with the region – each time with more machinery and trucks bought to meet the demand of new contracts he’s taken on.
Daniel claims there’s no science to it: his 90 strong workforce does not include one accountant or business manager, and its only recently that he’s started to use fact gathering telemetry built into his machines to get a better picture of how they can contribute to his success.
Daniel’s work ethic matched by his wife Tracey’s skills in the office, have been at the core of their business’s growth since Daniel bought his initial second-hand machine at age 21 with money he’d saved and an equal loan from his parents.
Before that, he’d worked in the local tip at Penrith Lakes, the only job he could get when he quit school as soon as he could, at 14, in year nine, and then with other local plant hire companies.
It was in the tip that ‘old blokes, real professionals,’ recognized his enthusiastic interest in what was going on around him and gave him a chance to learn not only on the floor but in the machines. Daniel said:
“I’d been driving tractors on the family farm since I was a kid, so they let me climb up in an old Komatsu PC 300-3 during their lunch breaks, just to get the feel of moving stuff around.”
Within a year of buying his first machine (‘old and tired when I bought it’), he’d saved enough money from local contracting jobs that he was able to walk into Komatsu to purchase a brand new PC120 excavator. He said:
“They didn’t make it easy for me. They wanted to be certain I was serious about what I was doing, and they weren’t about to sell it to me without being convinced – even though I had the money.”
It’s a policy he now applies in his own tendering processes- both when he’s applying for new jobs and when he’s buying new machinery.
“There’s no rule that says all the footy players for the Panthers have to come from Penrith,” he said, a very local insight into his business logic which recognizes the best deal, not necessarily the lowest price, wins. He said:
“When I win a tender and sign a contract, that’s when I rely on my suppliers, especially Komatsu, to help me source the gear I need really quickly.”
Komatsu comprises the majority of his fleet – 15 excavators alone – and the more recent purchases, fitted with the company’s on-board Komtrax telemetry, have given Daniel for the first time an insight into operating economy and fuel use. Daniel said:
“I’ve always gone with my gut, but Komtrax has given me the opportunity to understand the varying costs of my machines which mean I can build a rate card far more suited to every different job.”
“As winning business gets even more competitive, it’s a big help.”
Daniel’s latest purchase, a Komatsu WA500-8 wheel-loader, is the first he’s bought using Komatsu finance, a sure-fire indication that self-made Mulgoa Excavations is gearing up for business expansion. He said:
“I’ll only ever do plant hire. I’ll never be a contractor – I’m not smart enough to take that risk.”
But, he has looked around his beloved and fast changing hometown where farms, like the one on which he grew up, are succumbing to urban sprawl and he’s realized that there are services that will soon be required.
His first diversification project will be a recycling centre, close by Badgery’s Creek; five acres under one roof to accept general and building waste. For Daniel, it’s almost back to the future.
To be fair, Mulgoa Excavations has worked all over Sydney, mainly on the large infrastructure road and rail projects which are changing the face of the Sydney basin.
But of late the work has come to Daniel – his depot at Orchard Hills has by good fortune become the epicentre of a development blitz which in both area and expenditure is outstripping the rest of Sydney threefold.
It’s made him a local hero, strategically placed and locally savvy.
He’s tried to give back to the community – employing young blokes like he once was and upskilling them so that several have already gone on to buy their own machinery and start their own businesses.
For Daniel it’s bitter-sweet.
His parents Jess and Lily still have their strawberry farm on Chain O’ Ponds Road, but he knows it won’t be long before housing development takes precedence. And he’s watching the sense of community rapidly change.
That’s why he’s invested a bit – not a lot- in starting up a local cricket team, the Mulgoa Swans. He said:
“I’m hopeless at cricket, but I love it and as the place gets more populated, we’re going to need clubs like the Swans.”