MECHANICSVILLE, Virginia – As a businessman, Adam Medek knows something about taking calculated risks. He has taken them “all my life,” he said. The risks can make you or break you, he observed. “The more aggressive you are, the bigger you can make it, or the harder you can fall. It’s a fine line…You have to take chances.”
Adam has taken risks that have enabled him to grow his fledgling tree service business into a company that now also provides comprehensive land clearing and wood debris recycling services. It also is on the verge of opening a new mulch production facility.
Along the way he has come to increasingly rely on Astec’s line of Peterson grinders for processing wood debris. His company, Medek Corp., has three Peterson grinders and a fourth – an electric model – on order that will be stationed at the company’s mulch plant.
Adam, 44, grew up in Mechanicsville, Virginia, a suburb of Richmond. As a teenager he sold firewood. When he was in his 20s he started a tree care business and enjoyed some success, and his company grew.
Adam became interested in storm clean-up work after hurricane Isabel struck the Richmond area in 2003 and he witnessed big trucks hauling the wood storm debris.
The transformation of his company began with hurricane Katrina in 2005. By then he had done some research. He invested in a $160,000 truck with a self-loading grapple to take to Louisiana. “My wife told me I lost my mind,” said Adam. (Now his business has seven of the trucks.) He took three employees with him to Louisiana and got work picking up and hauling away storm debris. “I didn’t make a lot of money, but I learned a lot,” he recalled.
What he learned was who the players were in the business of cleaning up after big storms. He made important business connections and got his “foot in the door” and subsequently began working his “way up the ladder.” He also witnessed the operations of other contractors that were grinding the wood debris.
Back in Virginia, the knuckleboom truck gave him a competitive advantage over tree service businesses in the Richmond area. He could do tree removal jobs faster, more efficiently. He did not have a wood yard yet, so he hauled the material to another business that did grinding and recycled the wood into mulch. “That’s when I started paying attention to the grinding side.” Once he established his own yard, he began accumulating material and contracting another company to come to his site and process the material with a tub grinder.
Adam got another storm clean-up job the year following Katrina. This time it was work after a huge snowstorm in Buffalo. He bought a second knuckleboom truck for that job. He began paying more attention to dump sites, grinding operations, and the storm clean-up business.
Adam already was doing work for the state highway department, trimming and removing trees off of rights-of-way. He contacted the agency and told them he was available to do storm clean-up work. The highway department solicited contracts for on-call road clean-up work. Adam was awarded some small tornado clean-up jobs.
As his tree service business grew from one crew to four or five, it became feasible for him to invest in a grinder. After doing some research, he purchased a Vermeer HD6000 grinder. “It did what it needed to do,” said Adam. It was an affordable first step “to get my feet wet.”
“Then,” he added, “I could actually bid on a grinding job.”
His first job with the machine was grinding for Rockingham County, a locality in the Shenandoah Valley. When another hurricane struck the region around Myrtle Beach, S.C., contractors contacted him to grind the debris. He wasn’t able to service Rockingham and do the storm grinding both. “But I knew it was a good opportunity,” said Adam. He pulled the trigger on the lease-purchase of a second grinder, a Vermeer TG7000 tub grinder – which he still has – and took it to Myrtle Beach.
The Myrtle Beach job “worked out good,” said Adam. “I was able to get it done. The contractor was very happy. I was still learning.”
As the business continued to grow, Adam steadily invested in additional equipment: his first wheel loader and a high tip bucket, a shear for breaking up stumps, another excavator, a semi-tractor and low-boy trailer to move equipment, and walking-floor trailer vans.
He was still focused on storm clean-up work, however. “I didn’t plan to grind for land-clearing contractors,” he said, because the profit margin was small. Plus, he would be saddled with getting rid of the grindings. The storm business was more lucrative.
As his reputation built and grew, he began getting calls from more contractors for grinding work, but he shied away from them except for fill-in work.
He gained more experience in storm clean-up work. Along the way, he watched other grinding operations and began researching machines. He narrowed his choices down to Peterson Pacific – now Astec – and one other brand. Both brands performed well and were reliable.
Another factor was that Cat dealerships represented the Peterson brand, and Adam already was purchasing his heavy equipment from a nearby Cat dealer. The Peterson grinders are powered by Cat engines.
Ultimately he decided in favor of Peterson because he could rely on parts and service via the Cat dealerships. “If you can’t get support for it, it doesn’t do you any good,” said Adam.
“The fastest car doesn’t usually win the race,” said Adam, who drives a Modified race car. “I took that same mentality when it comes to buying a grinder. If you can’t finish, you don’t win the race.”
Another factor in Astec’s favor was that the company has factory representatives on the ground who assist the dealers. When he bought his first Peterson machine and took it to Florida to do grinding work, Adam dealt with the Peterson factory product support rep in the region when he needed assistance.
He invested in a Peterson 5710D track horizontal grinder about three years ago. “It’s worked out really well,” said Adam.” So well that he added a second identical machine a year later. He needed another Peterson grinder because he was doing storm clean-up jobs, he was getting more grinding work from local governments, and he started grinding on-site for land-clearing contractors.
Under Adam’s hand, the company has continued to grow. He built more business relationships, added more ancillary equipment and trucks. He also added a third Peterson 5710D track horizontal grinder and has ordered a fourth that either will replace his original Peterson machine or be operated as the company’s sixth machine. (Medek Corp. also has two Vermeer grinders.) Medek Corp. has 30 pieces of support equipment (dozers, excavators, and wheel loaders), most of them Cat machines. “I want to give my employees the best equipment I can,” said Adam.
Astec’s Peterson 5710D Horizontal Grinder is designed for high-volume production and can grind to demanding end-product specifications. It is powered by a Cat Tier IV C271,050HP engine or an optional C32 1,125hp engine. With a feed opening of 60 x 40 inches combined with its high lift feed roll, the 5710D can readily reduce a wide range of material, including stumps. The grinder uses a three-stage process to better break up material. Other features include the patented Impact Release System to guard against contaminants, unique to Astec. In addition, urethane cushions and shear pins provide a second line of protection against contaminants and catastrophic damage.
(For more information about Peterson grinders, visit www.astecindustries.com.)
“Astec has been thrilled to partner with Adam as he has grown and built a very impressive business,” said Steve Jones, Astec’s equipment sales territory manager. “He has assembled a great team and provided them with the training, resources and equipment to get the job done. With Carter Machinery, our Virginia dealer, we look forward to supporting Adam as he continues to grow his business.”
The Peterson grinders have worked out very well for him, acknowledged Adam. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
When a snow storm hit Virginia a year ago, Adam was in charge of a number of clean-up operations for the state, subcontracting some of the work because there was so much to do. Medek Corp., now operates several yards where material is hauled in to be stored and processed by grinding.
Adam is in the process of developing a new wood recycling facility on 12 acres between Richmond and Fredericksburg. He has ordered a Peterson 4710 electric grinder that will be installed there soon. He already has stacking conveyors and wheel loaders for the new yard. The recycling facility will produce mulch that will be sold wholesale. Adam will invest in a coloring system to produce colored mulch, too.
Adam eventually added land-clearing operations because contractors asked him to provide the service. Contractors want turn-key service, noted, instead of dealing with several subcontractors. “They like having only one guy involved,” said Adam. Also, “land clearing makes the grinding more profitable.”
“When you control everything, you can make it more efficient, more profitable,” he added.
Medek Corp. uses logging equipment for land clearing jobs. The company is equipped with a Cat 522B track harvester and a Tigercat rubber tire harvester for felling. Other equipment includes a John Deere skidder, a Weiler skidder, and a trailer-mounted John Deere 437 knuckleboom loader with a delimber and saw. Four Cat excavators with Rotobec grapple saws round out the equipment for timber harvesting.
The company also has a Bandit 3090 track whole tree chipper that is used for chipping tops and limbs. Adam purchased the machine when he got the ice storm work; a Peterson machine was not available at the time.
A typical land clearing job may range from 5 to 60 acres. The company was working on several 30-acre jobs at the time Adam talked with TimberLine. “We’re growing so we’re able to tackle larger jobs,” said Adam. The company clears land mainly for new commercial buildings, such as distribution centers, subdivisions, apartment complexes. It recently cleared the land for a new school in the Fredericksburg region.
On a land-clearing job, the company clears the perimeter of the property, then begins work after the silt fence is erected. Adam prefers felling the trees with the logging machines as opposed to pushing them over with excavators or other machines, as some contractors do.
“It’s easier to cut it,” he explained, and then to grub the stumps – use the excavators with their buckets or a Nye stump harvester shear to pull out the stumps and break them up into pieces that can be loaded into a grinder. The shear also helps remove dirt, which makes cleaner mulch and protects the grinder. The grinders essentially are transported from job to job, and the grindings are hauled back to a company yard. Some grindings are sold for boiler fuel supplied to paper plants in West Point and Hopewell.
All wood from land-clearing jobs is merchandised. Adam supplies pulpwood, low-grade logs for railroad ties and board mats, and grade logs to mills in the region.
About six to eight company trucks are busy every day hauling material, with one full-time low-boy operator dedicated to moving equipment. Some truck drivers double as equipment operators. Most of the equipment operators have a CDL and can drive a truck if work becomes slow.
Adam has a small yard near his office. He also is preparing to move into a new 12,000-square-foot building he had constructed for a new company headquarters in the nearby town of Ashland.
The company currently employs 28 people. “And I could use 10 more,” said Adam. Employees are eligible for medical insurance, a retirement plan, paid time off, and paid vacation.
“We have the best equipment money can buy,” said Adam. “And we don’t cut any corners when it comes to safety. We have a very stringent maintenance plan also…We try to take care of our team.”
He credited all the company’s employees, including office staff, mechanics – “everybody” – with the company’s success. “It’s a group effort.”
His wife, Kerri, is the office manager and handles insurance matters and oversees the company’s safety program. His sister, Crystal Carter, handles billing, prepares estimates, and oversees trucking. Trey Creekmore is production manager and prices land-clearing jobs and supervises all the crews.
“I have to give credit to my wife for helping from day one,” said Adam. “Trey has been a great asset. He treats the company like it is his. Justin Mitchell, our general manager, is in charge of human resources and safety and takes a load off me and Trey.” Trey’s wife, Allison, also is a company employee and does accounting.
Besides driving a Modified race car at local paved track, Adam likes to take his family boating and tubing on the nearby Chickahominy River and vacationing on Hatteras Island in North Carolina.
Beside knowing when to take a calculated risk and assembling a good management team and employees, Adam credits another factor with his company’s success. “The biggest thing I’ve succeeded in is doing it right, the ethical way,” said Adam. “We have a good name, a good reputation… I would rather lose money and do a job the right way then screw someone and do it the wrong way.”
“I pride myself on doing the right thing and doing a good job, even if it costs me money,” said Adam. “That’s why we’ve grown like we have… It’s all about building relationships, and doing the right thing.”