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April 30, 2011

Shop Talk : Perfect Postholes and Brush Hogging

The Daily Star

---- — Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Tom Roupp of Perfect Postholes and Brush Hogging in Bloomville.

How long have you lived in the area?

My whole life.

Tell me about your business:

We drill holes for the do-it-yourselfers and contractors. Our customers need holes dug for fencing posts, sign poles and for decks. We do entire fencing jobs for people or just drill the holes for them to do it themselves. We also do precision brush-hogging work.

Describe a typical day in your business:

The days are always different, so that is hard to answer, but it might begin by meeting with potential customers who are interested in having a fence put in. I meet with them to look over the area, take measurements, consider the soil type for that location and talk to them about different post and fencing options. With that information gathered, I will work up estimates for them after I check on material prices. From there I might meet up with Bob Coager so that both of us can work on a fence installation, or check in with him as he finishes up a brush-hogging job.

How did you get started in this line of work?

Both Bob and I started out with doing a bit of brush-hogging work, very part-time. At one point, we were working on putting in posts for a deck, and the truck-mounted post digger couldn’t access the location, so we had to work with a backhoe. The backhoe got the work done, but made a huge mess, so we started looking into a piece of equipment that would fit into space-restrictive residential or business locations. When we found this specialized piece of equipment, we started the posthole-making business.

Where do you see this business in five years?

I would like the business to become self-sustaining. My main employment has slowed down some due to the dairy industry decline, and I would like to have something else established to fall back on.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

I don’t think the young guy who spent six hours hand digging the day before I arrived would find this too memorable, because he had spent all those hours breaking his back and couldn’t go any further. I showed up with the posthole digger and was completely done in 15 minutes. He was not happy.

What have you learned from your work?

I have learned a lot about making estimates, and this had to be taught through the process of trial and error. I have learned that no matter how close you may be with an estimate based on years of experience, there are always unforeseen things that can turn up. For example, discovering that there is a massive boulder one or two feet underground right where you want to dig is literally an unforeseen setback.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

The absolute rule of “Call Before You Dig” is a necessity but it may be off by several feet. It is a challenge if people do not know where their leach field is or where an old septic tank might be. It is important to be prepared for these challenges _ it’s just part of this type of work

The most enjoyable?

Finishing a job is enjoyable _ being able to look back and seeing the great work. This is really noticeable with the brush hogging, because Bob is fanatical about doing a really nice job.

How do you define success for your business?

Success is being self-sustaining, that I have personal satisfaction over the work that has been done and that customers have us return for future projects and refer our business to their friends and relatives.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

The drawbacks for our business are the boulders. The soil in this region is filled with unseen obstacles and it takes heavy-duty machines to handle this. The advantages of our business in this area is that there are lots of second-home owners and do-it-yourselfers who need our work to help them get going on their projects.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

Many posthole-digging businesses work (with) truck-mounted units. Getting this big and heavy equipment onto a job site is going to tear up a yard. Our equipment is powerful and does a good job faster without all of the mess. This is why about 50 percent of our work is done with building contractors who want the job site maintained, (and) the work done efficiently and correctly.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

The best advice I would give is to do plenty of research before you step into this line of work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail