Mini track loader takes landscaping business to the next level
Family-owned company thrives with versatile Bobcat equipment
Julie and Ed Copps, Outdoor Expressions
For Ed and Julie Copps of Billings, Mont., the landscaping industry has been good to them in the 10 years they’ve been in business.
Ed and Julie own Outdoor Expressions, Inc. — a full-service landscape design and installation company.
Ed learned firsthand about equipment through his father’s construction business. He worked for him until he and Julie decided to do something on their own. He had landscaping experience and Julie had a college degree in horticulture science. The two partnered to create what has become a flourishing business in south-central Montana.
“We do everything in house,” Ed says. “Julie knows plants and design. She works with clients to come up with a design, and sells jobs. I’m in charge of lining up our employees on landscape installations and sprinkler installations. Once our customers have decided on a design and bid, I pick up the project and run with it.”
In the early days, Ed and Julie didn’t depend on much equipment. They started with a truck, wheelbarrows and shovels, until bigger projects came along. The next natural step was to rent compact equipment to speed up the job and replace manual labor.
“I was renting Bobcat® equipment until one day I sat down with my salesman and he made me a good deal on a Bobcat MT52 mini track loader,” Ed says.
A few years later, Ed realized that he needed a bigger piece of equipment with more lifting and digging capabilities. “In 2005 we purchased our first skid-steer loader, an S175. It opened new doors for us and allowed us to take on larger projects,” he says.
They have since purchased another skid-steer loader, an S185. Both the S175 and S185 are depended upon during the landscape season, as well as during the winter months for commercial snow removal, including parking lots for CVS Pharmacy and Target.
Still going strong
Today that same MT52 mini track loader plays an integral part in the Copps’ success. After eight years, their crews have racked up more than 1,600 hours on it, although Ed says it hasn’t lost a step. One of the biggest advantages to the MT52 is its time savings. “The Bobcat MT52 has saved me hundreds of hours a year,” Ed says, “especially when we are moving landscape supplies.”
Fits where other machines can’t
“When we do yard remodels, the MT52 has been a driving factor in our success,” Ed says. “The mini track loader makes it easier for us because it fits in areas where our larger Bobcat loaders can’t, like through gates. It hauls heavy blocks and pavers, too.
“We place the materials on pallets and carry the pallets with the MT52,” Ed says. “We can drive the machine through the gate and get access to confined spots. We previously carried blocks as heavy as 88 pounds apiece. Now we can load several blocks on the pallet and get them to the site in half the time. The mini loader has been exceptional at moving trees, shrubs and plants, especially across yards. With the low weight of the machine and rubber tracks, it doesn’t damage yards. We’re not worrying about fixing yards when we’re done; instead, the crew is concentrating on what we have to do. Our customers appreciate it.”
Another benefit: its light weight. “The MT52 is light enough to pull on a trailer behind a half-ton pickup. It does everything we need it to do. We’ve done total backyard remodels in the $60,000 range, where the only piece of equipment we used was the Bobcat mini track loader.”
Before new sod is placed, the mini track loader is paired with a soil conditioner attachment. “In some cases our landscapes are two acres,” Ed says, “and preparing the soil for sod can be done in as few as three hours. If we graded the lot with a bucket and had to hand-rake it, it would add another day, or day-and-a-half. Sometimes that’s the difference between us getting a job, because we’re saving customers as much as $1,000 in labor. “The mini track loader has paid for itself five or six times,” he says.