OCONTO, Wisconsin – Anthony Tavener has built himself a ‘weekend warrior’ business with a few small machines and a bevy of attachments. His philosophy has basically been: if a customer wants something, figure out how to do it for them.
Now, Control-Com AMi Headsets from SRS Tactical worn by Anthony and his laborers help them to work more productively, and safer.
Anthony lives in a rural area, off the beaten path, in Oconto in Northeast Wisconsin. The community is some 30-plus miles north of Green Bay and situated on the bay itself.
Anthony did not plan to go into business for himself. You might say it just happened. He built a home on 66 acres in 2009. It is deep in the woods, on a dead-end country road, his gravel drive-way is more than a half-mile long.
Originally he bought a tractor to help maintain his driveway and perform other tasks around his property. After owning the tractor for a while, “Neighbors hit you up to do work here and there,” said Anthony, and he obliged them. Gradually, he made the decision to set up a business and pursue more work. “It just kind of developed,” he said.
Now he is a working ‘weekend warrior.’ Anthony, 56, has a full-time job he is happy with and operates his business – Tony’s Skid-Steer Services LLC – some nights and on the weekends.
Anthony was already familiar with operating different equipment. In fact, his ‘day job’ duties sometimes include operating a skid-steer for a company where he is the manager of a bulk storage facility that houses liquid asphalt for the road construction industry.
He started his business and began doing small jobs in 2017. He replaced his tractor with a skid-steer. “They’re more versatile,” observed Anthony. “They can lift more.” Also, a wider range of attachments are available for skid-steers to perform more tasks. “There are so many more things I could do with it.”
He eventually replaced his skid-steer with a New Holland C232 track loader, which is a skid-steer on tracks. He also invested in a New Holland E37C mini-excavator and a Haulotte HA46RTJ articulating boom lift. He has various attachments for the skid-steer and excavator and a trailer large enough to haul several machines at the same time. The equipment is kept in a 40×80 garage-shop on his property.
When asked what kind of jobs he does, Anthony said, “A variety of everything. This is kind of the deal. If a skid-steer can do it, I probably can do it.”
In the five years of operating his business Anthony has invested in and accumulated 32 attachments. “I always had a motto,” he explained. “Find out what somebody wants, and find a way to give it to them,” whether it was removing a tree, grinding a stump, digging trench lines for utilities, or other tasks. “If they needed it, I bought an attachment to make it happen.”
Attachments are “extremely expensive,” he noted, “and they never seem to get cheaper.” Yet the investments have benefited his business and allowed him to grow and expand.
For felling a tree, depending on the height he will use an attachment or use a lift to begin removing limbs and topping it with a chainsaw. For trees over 50 feet high, Anthony uses the boom lift to work on the tree with a chainsaw. He also has a specialty bucket attachment to pull out the stump as well as a stump grinder.
On some jobs he occasionally needs some labor, and he hires friends or family members. He usually turns to his son-in-law, Jeremy Roskom, who has been working for Anthony for about three years. If Anthony is working on a tree up in the boom lift, Jeremy or another helper on the ground will use ropes to lower limbs or sections of the tree to the ground.
Anthony had been considering some type of head gear communications equipment for several years for him and his helpers. “I had been in the market for something like this for a long time.” Working in the noisy confines of the skid-steer cab or with other equipment running, particularly when doing tree work with another person nearby, “safety is huge,” noted Anthony, and he wanted a way to communicate effectively with Jeremy or other helpers.
A friend, Roger Mayer, gave him a brochure about the Control-Com AMi Headset, which was being exhibited by SRS Tactical at its booth at the Great Lakes Logging & Heavy Equipment Expo in Green Bay in September. “I saw it and said I absolutely have to go.”
“I knew the name SRS Tactical because I bought a bunch of other gear from them,” said Anthony. “I’ve enjoyed their products.”
SRS Tactical, based in Crystal River, Florida, specializes in safety products for the head, face and body in all industry sectors. Its main specialty is electronic hearing protection products that enable vital communications while at the same time protecting hearing in environments with a high level of noise. “Any industry where people work in high levels of noise and need to communicate, we’re involved,” said Steve Brown, vice president of SRS Tactical.
SRS Tactical is a distributor for Sordin, Peltor, 3M and Swatcom and other companies. It is also an exclusive distributor for A-Kabel’s range of Bluetooth hearing protection, branded as 121-Connect.
Control-Com is a brand of SRS Tactical. The Control-Com AMi Headset is manufactured by an Israeli company, Cardo Systems and its affiliate, Cardo Crew.
Ergonomically designed, the AMi Headset is powered by both Bluetooth® and Dynamic Mesh Communications (DMC™) technology. It is paired with hearing protection capabilities to make it an effective solution for people working in hazardous or challenging industries.
The Control-Com AMi Headset can be used to provide communications for a group of up to 15 people. It uses a rechargeable battery that provides up to 12 hours of use on a single charge.
The Control-Com AMi Headset is a brand new product that only became available earlier this year, said Steve. There are a lot of communications products that do many things, he noted, but the Control-Com AMi Headset features technology that does more. The Dynamic Mesh Communications technology is “self-healing,” he said. Connecting to multiple headsets creates a more robust network and increases the range of the units. Another distinguishing feature is full duplex communication: the technology is always transmitting and receiving, so there is no need to push a button or manipulate other controls, creating a fully hands-free communication solution.
The Bluetooth capability allows a user to connect to a cell phone to make and receive phone calls. An incoming call also can be patched into the group of people using headsets.
(For more information about the Control-Com AMi Headset, visit Control-Com at (www.control-com.com.)
After seeing the headsets on display at the SRS Tactical booth at the expo and talking to a company representative, Anthony ordered three Control-Com AMi Headsets the next day. “I knew this was a good fit.” He ordered three because on some jobs he uses two laborers.
“I absolutely love it,” Anthony said of the headset.
“I don’t have to yell” at Jeremy or other workers, he added, in order to be heard. “I simply have a conversation with him like I’m talking to you now. It’s just a huge boost to productivity. It makes the job go smooth and safe.”
“Even walking around in different areas, we’re in constant contact,” added Anthony.
Anthony wanted a “self-contained” communications device. The AMi Headset by Control-Com provides that capability and also has Bluetooth capability. “You can take a phone call,” explained Anthony, or use your cell phone to stream music. While streaming music, the headset will automatically dampen the music volume when you talk. “Incredible,” said Anthony.
The most important benefit for Anthony is that the AMi Headset functions hands-free. He doesn’t need to use his hands to press a button or any other control as you would when talking on a two-way radio. “That’s the best part,” said Anthony. “Especially when I’m in the skid-steer.”
Skid-steer cabs are pretty confining, he noted, and the visibility is not that great, particularly to either side when the lift is engaged to pick up or lower something. “Just having that contact,” said Anthony, enables him to have clear communications with laborers, which is important when it comes to giving them directions. “We’re constantly talking,” said Anthony. “We’re not interrupted. I don’t have to get out of the machine to show him what to do. It just works wonders.”
Anthony has been so pleased with the AMi Headset that he recommended them to the safety department of his employer. “They were sold” on the benefits, he said, and believes they are going to purchase headsets for company employees.
Over the years Anthony has purchased attachments from different equipment dealers. “I price things out,” he said. He is willing to spend more for attachments that he perceives as being better quality. “When you’re skimping on money, you just try to get something to get by. If you’re in it for the long haul, go ahead and spend the money,” he explained. “Go ahead and buy a quality piece of equipment.” He avoids imported attachments. Although higher quality equipment may cost more, he believes they are worth it in durability, reliability, and maintenance. Nevertheless, he still shops for the best price. He has purchased attachments mainly from dealers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, and some
from Florida. He has purchased his New Holland machines from Beaver Machine in Coleman, Wisconsin.
Anthony uses attachments to perform a wide range of work in his business. One day he may be operating a trenching attachment, another day digging trenches to install sewer lines. Other jobs include brush cutting and clearing land, removing trees, grading and putting in driveways, and concrete removal. One day he may be doing one task and the next day something different.
One of the attachments he purchased is a Halverson 140 firewood processor with an adjustable split wedge. At times the attachment has kept him busy “nonstop processing firewood” for his own use and for neighbors.
Anthony stays busy, mainly on weekends. “I could be busy every single weekend,” he said, although sometimes he is delayed by the weather. He works a “solid three or four weekends a month.”
“There’s nonstop work,” he added. “Sometimes you just have to take a day off.”
About two-thirds of his jobs are for individual homeowners, and the other one-third are for contractors. One contractor in particular provides him with numerous jobs. Anthony’s services are affordable because contractors don’t have to pay to rent a machine and the necessary attachments.
Anthony markets his business “on a small scale.” He has advertised in church bulletins, off-road race vehicles, and occasionally in a newspaper. He also invested in some t-shirts and sweatshirts – with his company name – that he gives to customers and other people.
“So much of it is word-of-mouth,” he said. “If you go out and do a job and market it by your honesty, the quality of your work, how clean and neat you are, showing up on time, starting and finishing on time – you have no idea how much word-of-mouth travels.” One customer was so pleased with some yard work Anthony did that he referred him to several other people that resulted in three more jobs. “I do a good job,” he said.
He probably could work in his business full-time if he wanted to, but he’s content to go to work and operate his business on the weekends. “I have a very good job,” he said. “I’ve been there a long time. I love to go to work every day. I love operating equipment. And I really like what I do on the weekend. If I decide to take a weekend off, I take a weekend off. No harm, no foul.”
He works through the winter. He does snow removal jobs and still does some excavating, trenching, and tree removal jobs, although the work probably isn’t as plentiful as the warmer months of the year.
When he started his business he began by pricing his work based on an hourly rate. “I was extremely fair,” said Anthony. His price may have been a little lower than some other contractors, but he gained experience and built up his reputation. “That meant a lot to me.”
As this business progressed, he gave customers the option for him to price a job according to an hourly rate or to bid it for one set price.
Anthony will talk to a prospective customer and ask questions that will reveal how cost-conscious the individual is. If he senses that cost is an issue, he will suggest working for an hourly rate and to perform services on an incremental basis, as much as the person can afford at a given time. “I get respect from them that way.”
When Anthony talked with TimberLine, he had just finished a job to spade and transplant about 70 blue spruce trees. He has an attachment that enables him to insert spade blades around a small tree or shrub, and lift it out with the roots and dirt intact so it can be transplanted. The job also involved wrapping the root ball with burlap and placing the trees into baskets and hauling them to another site. The coming weekend he was planning to work for a contractor to tear out and haul away concrete to make way for forming and pouring new concrete.
Anthony and his wife, Kim, are members of a local Lions Club. He doesn’t attend regular meetings, but together they help with the club’s annual fund-raising events. They have two grown daughters. “We live in a real small community,” said Anthony. “A real good community. We said, ‘Let’s do something we can give back.’ She does more volunteering than I do.” Anthony also plays a little banjo.