on Monday, October 9, 2023
For second-generation owner Jeff Litwiller of Wayne Litwiller Excavating Inc., working alongside family and moving earth is all he’s ever known. Jeff’s father, Wayne, started the Hopedale, Illinois-based business back in 1975 and specialized in a variety of excavation needs – from grading to septic systems and even demolition.
“I literally grew up behind the seat of an excavator with my dad,” Jeff Litwiller said. “Working alongside my dad and excavating is really all I’ve known.”
Today, Litwiller operates the company with the same family foundations and values that it began with. His father is still a partner in the company and hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to ensuring quality.
“Even at 81, my dad will still come in every day,” Litwiller said. “In fact, he still looks at almost every job we do.”
With family being such an integral part of their business, Litwiller jumped at the opportunity to keep working with an equipment dealer that operates with the same family values and mindset to ensure their fleet of John Deere excavators are always running full steam. That’s why they’ve trusted Martin Equipment since day one.
“I remember as a kid my dad worked with Bob Martin Sr. at Martin Equipment,” Litwiller said. “When my dad was just starting out, he hardly had enough money to fix a machine if it did break down. Bob did what he had to do to help my dad out. We were not a big company back then, and Martin Equipment took the time to help us. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
PAVING THE WAY
Within the second generation of the Litwiller Excavating, Litwiller’s sister, Jenny, is also involved, managing office operations. The family foundations don’t stop there.
“Now it’s looking like we’ll head into a third generation because about a year ago my 19-year-old daughter Emily started working for us, too,” Litwiller said. “She’s looking to have a career in the industry, which is pretty exciting.”
Their dealer, Martin Equipment, was founded in 1926 and also has family roots. Now in the fourth generation of family operation, it’s led by DeLene Martin Bane, who is paving the way for up-and-coming women in the construction industry just like Emily.
“With my daughter coming on board, I’m looking ahead to the future and how to adapt and make the right business choices for her,” Litwiller said. “I know our dealer relationship at Martin is one choice that we’ll keep making.”
SUPPORT TO KEEP DIGGING
In the excavating business, a machine’s performance means everything when it comes to productivity. Maximizing uptime is key, and Litwiller said they trust Martin Equipment to keep them running. Litwiller can make a call to his territory sales manager, Ken Hofer, and get support quickly. He really values having that trusted relationship and direct contact.
“If something goes down, I make a quick phone call and I have someone at Martin who will take care of it,” Litwiller said. “They’ll bend over backwards to get my machine back to me or give me a different machine in the meantime. That kind of support is huge.”
Another key part of their dealer relationship is honesty.
“If you’re buying a used car, you’re going to have to go through games on the prices,” Litwiller said. “With Martin, that’s not the case. They say, ‘This is our best price’ and it is. I definitely trust them over anyone else. They just have good values and I’m not just a number to them. They really listen.”
Not only does Litwiller value their transparency, but he’s experienced firsthand how quickly Martin Equipment has taken action to get his operation back up and running. The company has a large fleet of John Deere excavators so they’re able to tackle a range of projects for contractors, businesses, individuals or even municipalities. They trust Martin Equipment with servicing their full equipment lineup, with excavators ranging in size from 17s to 450s.
That lineup recently got a new addition, too – their very first John Deere tracked skid steer.
“For the first time in 30 years, we switched skid loader brands,” Litwiller said. “Martin kind of convinced me that Deere is the way to go.”
Litwiller finds a lot of value in the dealership’s expertise and approach to business.
“Martin Equipment is just top-notch to work with,” Litwiller said. “They’ve got family values just like we do. From the top down, they’re good people and they’re experts at what they do.”
MARKETS CHANGE, FAMILY DOESN’T
When a business operates for as long as Litwiller Excavating has, you can expect some changes over time. Being able to adapt and evolve is what leads to success.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years,” Litwiller said. “The cost of everything has gone up, including labor. Twenty years ago, our main business was basement excavation. Today, the housing market has slowed and we’re seeing a shift to some of our different excavating services, especially in the septic systems area. You have to adapt as you go.”
While the business has changed over time, Litwiller and his company have continued to stand the test of time with good people and good service.
“We do great work and have a great team, but I’ve inherited a healthy pessimism from my dad about our business outlook year after year,” Litwiller said. “You never know what’s going to happen or if you’ll be in business next year. But so far, we’ve been proven wrong for 48 years.”