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Fall 2008

Pool builder buys equipment, increases profitability

Overall process is improved dramatically with Bobcat loader and compact excavator

Steve Cunningham

Steve Cunningham upgraded from his S185 to a T190 and added a 435 compact excavator for improved profits.

For veteran swimming pool builder Steve Cunningham, some things are in, others are out:

What’s in: A Bobcat® T190 compact track loader and Bobcat 435 compact excavator.

What’s out: Renting equipment and hiring subcontractors for pool excavation.

What it means: Control of his own schedule, faster turnaround for customers and increased profitability.

Cunningham, owner of Calypso Pools, Lexington, S.C., has been building swimming pools for 29 years, the last nine as owner of his own company. Cunningham installs about 50 vinyl and custom concrete pools a year; some are as large as 3,000 to 5,000 square feet. His Bobcat machines do almost all the dirt work.

Economic decision No. 1

Initially Cunningham rented equipment, but when his business began to grow he purchased a Bobcat S185 skid-steer loader from Bobcat of Columbia for grading around pools. “The money I spent for just three days a month of rental equaled the payment on a new machine,” he says. “That made buying an easy decision.”

Later, he switched to a Bobcat T190 to counteract the Lexington area’s heavy summer rains and red clay soil. “The compact track loader is the perfect fit for my business,” he says. “Now I can work regardless of the weather conditions. When rubber tire machines are idle, I can be productive.”

The T190 is used to move soil out of the way when a pool is being dug and to backfill with new soil.

Economic decision No. 2

Cunningham was spending $1,200 each time he hired an excavation company to dig a pool. “If I dug two pools a month, I saved more than enough money to purchase my own excavator,” he says. “I now save up to $3,000 to $4,000 a month by not hiring subcontractors. It was a no-brainer.”

His choice of excavator: a Bobcat 435.

“The 435 is strong enough to use a 3-foot bucket to carry soil,” Cunningham says. “That’s the same size of bucket as on the backhoe we previously hired to excavate the pool. With our excavator we can dig as fast as the subcontractor with the backhoe did, but the 435 is much more maneuverable. We can get in places where the backhoe could not work. Plus, the ZHS machine enables us to get very close to buildings.”

The T190 and 435 allow Cunningham and his six employees to control their own schedule. “Instead of taking up to six weeks to complete an entire pool construction project, we have cut our time down to less than four weeks,” Cunningham says.

Profitable economics

By owning equipment instead of renting or subcontracting, Calypso Pools is at least 15 to 20 percent more profitable.

“My Bobcat machines have always done what I expected them to do,” says Cunningham. “As a business owner, I have very high expectations for my equipment. Bobcat has never let me down.”

Loader retains great value

Steve Cunningham, Lexington, S.C., had heard all about the legendary trade-in value of Bobcat equipment. So when he purchased an S185 skid-steer loader a few years ago, he expected to get a good 50 percent of his original cost back upon selling the machine.

He was more than pleased when his dealer, Bobcat of Columbia, offered him about 90 percent of the original price of the S185 when he traded it in for a new T190. “I was pleasantly surprised to learn the value of my loader when we worked the numbers,” he says. “That’s one of the many reasons Bobcat is No. 1.”