Survivor Stories


The heel-print of the Great Recession continues to reverberate throughout the industry. So how are contractors hanging on? We’ll share a number of their stories in this and upcoming issues, with the hope they offer encouragement… and perhaps an idea you can use.


Tough cost cutting, redirection helps North Carolina firm stay afloat

Cut back any way you can,” advises Andy Smith, a partner in Raleigh, North Carolina-based Eco Turf, which specializes in erosion control and seeding. “Especially look at reoccurring costs, such as your phone bill.”

Left to right: Andy Smith, Clayton Phillis and Kevin EnnisLeft to right: Andy Smith, Clayton Phillis and Kevin Ennis

With the recession halting Eco Turf’s 11-year growth – reducing their annual revenue from $5 to $3 million in the past three years – Smith and his partners Clayton Phillis and Kevin Ennis started examining costs. The company, a 2005 Contractor of the Year finalist, stopped buying equipment and put the money toward paying off its fleet, which includes four compact excavators, four tractors, trucks, two hydro-seeders and various other machines. It laid off 10 of its 40 employees, and the partners took pay cuts.

To combat the loss in the private sector, Eco Turf entered the government sector in 2009 and learned how to handle all of the red tape. “It’s a Catch 22,” he says. “Regulations keep us in business, and they are also a major cost to us, ranging from extra paper work to attending required safety meetings for government jobs.” Their bid prices have remained the same since 2008, and they “try to sell the service more than the price.”