Valley Landscape Sculpts Edmonton With Finning & Cat

Sept 27, 2016

For someone who wanted to run his own business, Mike Palmer, President, Valley Landscape has built a very successful landscaping company in Edmonton, Alberta. “I was doing some volunteer work for a water conservatory agency in Santa Clarita, California, doing what I thought was landscaping, but it was just basically spreading mulch. Whenever I was asked what I wanted to do for a living I said I wanted to have a business. I could sell dirt, as long as it’s a business, I’ll be happy,” says Mike. “Little did I know, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

After returning home, Mike attended the University of Alberta’s School of Business. It was there that Mike and his childhood friend, and fellow student decided on a business venture. The two had little experience in landscaping, but big dreams about running a successful business together. Mike laughs as he explains that they thought landscapers would have four months off a year. And then there was the money. “Our first job was for $5,000. We thought who pays $5,000 for a landscaping job? We had no idea then how profitable the type of work Valley Landscape does now would be.”

Mike feels fortunate to be landscaping for a living. “It’s a lot of hard work but I love what I do. I enjoy going to work every day. I love coming to a site that’s just clay – there’s nothing there, and when we leave, there’s trees, grass, plants and you have happy clients. I love the fulfilment that comes with it.”

“I have been a customer of Finning for 12 years and the customer service is second to none.”

Valley Landscape started out as a two-man team in 2002, with one skid steer wheel loader that Mike says they borrowed from his partner’s dad. Today they are a full-scale operation that specializes in commercial and residential landscape construction in the summer and snow removal in the winter.

Over ninety percent of Valley Landscape’s business is referrals from customers and general contractors. “There is one area in Edmonton that we affectionately refer to as ‘Valley Row’ because we literally did the landscaping for almost every house in the neighborhood. Just by word of mouth on the quality of our work,” says Mike.

Valley Landscape was a die-hard fan of a competitor’s brand when they started out, so when Mike met a Finning rep at a local trade meeting, who suggested he try a Cat, he said no. But that was about to change. “He had no idea that our current non-Cat machine was about to break down,” says Mike.

“If you’re down and you’re a small company like mine was at the time, you’re losing money. If you don’t have the equipment, you can’t do the work.” So when Mike’s new machine broke down he called his Finning rep who dropped off a Cat 257B multi-terrain loader to demo. “That competitor’s machine never came back and the Cat never left,” said Mike.

When Mike went to sell that machine because he needed a bigger one, he was pleasantly surprised. “The re-sale value on that machine was ridiculous,” said Mike. “I think we ended up paying $2,000 to $3,000 a year to use that machine. That’s how little it was. We’ve sold other machines since then and I am always amazed at the resale value.”

For Valley Landscape, the serviceability and usability of Cat machines is what keeps them coming back. “I have been a customer of Finning for 12 years and the customer service is second to none,” he explains. “With Cat our downtime is a lot less. We’ve had issues, but we’ve never had to question whether Finning is going to take care of it.”

And it’s not just the service. His operators like them. “There are certain features of the Cat we absolutely love,” says Mike, “especially with the D-series. The big thing is your knees aren’t sore at the end of the day. It’s also a very quiet machine inside and out and we absolutely love the backup camera, you can see all of your surroundings, and safety is a huge part of our business.”

Mike says he has a lot of people ask him why he likes Cat. “The first question is always ‘don’t they cost more?’ Yes. But how much is it worth to you if your machine goes down? I’m not willing to take a risk to save $5,000 to $10,000 which can be eaten up in two days of lost productivity. With Finning we’ve never had to worry about that, we’ve always had a machine on site ready to work when one of our machines is down.”

Mike is obviously a Cat convert but has some sage advice for anyone looking to purchase that first piece of equipment. “You have to get in and try it to experience the difference, and Finning will let you try it. You also need to understand that Finning is not going to pressure you into buying the machine. When we bought our first Cat, the machine did the selling. When the sales rep asked me what I thought, I asked how much and how do we make this machine ours?”