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Home | DALLAS / FORT WORTH | Spotlight | Spotlight - Garrett Moss, Moss Utilities LLC and Moss Excavation LLC

Spotlight - Garrett Moss, Moss Utilities LLC and Moss Excavation LLC

image Garrett Moss, President, Moss Utilities LLC and Moss Excavation LLC

DALLAS/FT WORTH - The “utility” and “entrepreneurial” genes are dominant in the Moss family. With multiple family members in the underground utilities business, it’s little wonder that Garrett Moss started his own in the same field with the help of his good friend Case Whitfield. Since then, he has applied what he has learned from his family, Whitfield, his own experiences and a trusted mentor to create two businesses that show no signs of stopping.

Share a little about your background in construction.
    My family has been in the underground utility business for five generations. In the late 1980s, my grandpa was a general superintendent for Cullum Construction, which has been in business for almost 100 years. In 1989, my dad, his brothers and my grandpa all started Moss Construction Co, Inc. They did underground utilities – water, sewer, storm drainage – mainly for subdivision infrastructure, public rehab and multi-family projects. They grew a lot in the 1990s and early 2000, and it was during the 2008 recession that the business went under. I got into the family business growing up around the office and it ended up being in my blood.
Because your family was in that part of the industry, did you plan to go into a similar line of work?
    No, when I was in school, I definitely thought about doing other things. I changed my majors a few times. There was a period when I wanted to do civil engineering. I even wanted to be in the music business for a little bit. After college, I ended up working for Brinkmann, a barbecue grill manufacturing company in Addison, and I even worked for an HVAC contractor, Crawford Services, that did new construction custom houses.

How did you find your way back into construction?
    A very special recruiter convinced me to come back into the utility business, so I worked for some other utility contractors, the first being Rumsey Construction in Carrollton and then Tri Dal in Southlake.
    I started off with Rumsey being an assistant project manager. I had only a little experience but I got to shadow senior people – especially Corey Caughron – who had a wealth of estimating and project management experience. It was a lot of hands-on learning. I was thrown in the fire and learned the basics of project man-agement and estimating as well.
    I then had the opportunity to go over to Tri Dal and be a full-time project manager. It was interesting to see the whole spectrum from multi-family projects to large com-mercial jobs. Tri Dal is a little bit bigger company with more employees and has been in business for more than 30 years, so they have their own way of doing things that has been very successful for a long time.

What motivated you to start your own utilities company?
    It really came out of nowhere in a very frank discussion with Case Whitfield, who I was working together with at Tri Dal. I was a project manager on a lot of the projects that he was superintendent on; we realized we worked really well together. After about a year and a half, we understood that our growth was going to be limited there because management positions had been locked in for a long time. We also just had similar dreams in how we wanted to treat people and the type of company we wanted to build.
    I’ve always had that entrepreneurial drive from my family and I always found myself daydreaming about it and trying to learn things that would help me along the way. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but having a partner like Case who had 20 years of construction experience really gave me the confidence necessary. I felt we could use his skills in addition to my skills and we would make a great team. We started Moss Utilities in September of 2016 and the rollercoaster ride began.

What has the first year and a half of business ownership been like for you?

    It’s been really crazy to say the least. We grew a lot faster than we anticipated. Originally, we projected that we’d be off to a slow start. We thought it would be only me, Case and four or five crews. Our final numbers for 2017 were about five times what we anticipated! When we started, we had four employees, and now we have upwards of 140. 
    With that growth, it’s been a blessing to get quality projects and get our name out into the industry, but it has come with its own challenges. It’s financially challeng-ing and operationally challenging to man-age that many people. We moved in May to a larger office at 3300 Rock Island Road in Irving. We thought we were going to be in the first office for two years, but we quickly outgrew it.
    We also just started a new company, Moss Excavation LLC, with partner Devin Carr. It benefits our customers that we can perform both earthwork and utilities scopes on multi-family and commercial projects.
Do any of your family members work in Moss Utilities today?
    My uncle, Brad Moss, is an estimator for us. I also have a cousin, John Moss, who is an estimating coordinator. It’s a family company because we treat everyone like they’re family.

What advice would you give to others starting a construction business?
    Be prepared with a plan, but be ready for things to change completely from one day to the next. Also, have a thick skin for what other people are going to say about you when you try to start your own business. There are a lot of people out there who thought we were going to fail in six months, and there are a lot of people who don’t agree with some of the things we do because they’ve always done it the same way for 20 and 30 years.
    We try to hold true to our own values, and that’s what I would say to someone else: Hold true to your own values and know why you’re doing it. Don’t get in the business because you want to make money. There needs to be a higher purpose to it and a reason for doing what you’re doing that goes beyond financial gain.

Who are your mentors?

    There is one in particular who comes to mind, Rich Fleissner. Rich and I met when I was working at Brinkmann. I was fresh out of college and a customer service rep taking phone calls from angry customers, and Rich, even though he technically wasn’t my boss, took me under his wing and taught me a lot.
    One day I called him up when I realized we needed a CFO/controller. He’s been with us since about March of last year and he has really transformed our business. He gives us a unique perspective and is a father figure because he gives us more than financial advice. He gives us insight on how to handle problems and deal with situations inside and outside of work and how to manage people. He’s a huge mentor for us. Our business would not be where it is today if it weren’t for him.

Do you mentor others?

    I’m starting to. I’d like to think I am doing it with my cousin John. He didn’t know for sure what he wanted to do with his career, so I’m trying to teach him the family business, the ins and outs of it and get him some experience so he can choose his own path, whether it is staying to do this or another type of construction.

What have you learned from your family about how to run a business?

    I felt like my family treated people well and were always gracious, honest and loyal to their subcontractors, employees and vendors. They always had strong relationships. What I’ve learned is that relationships, how you treat people and doing what you say you are going to do are most important in this industry and in life.

How do you enjoy your free time?
    My wife and I just had our first child on Aug. 16. It’s been a fun time spending time with him and my wife. That takes up most of my free time, spending time with family. He’s awesome though, and from what I’ve heard, his sleep schedule is good compared to other babies. He cries pretty loud, though; our doctor says he has one of the loudest cries he’s ever heard! My wife is ready to have a second child, and I’m still trying to figure out the first. It all takes time management, though. Running a business is not a 9 to 5 job. It’s an all-of-the-time, 24-hours-a-day kind of job. My wife completely understands and knows that sometimes I have to work on Saturdays or talk on the phone at 8 or 9 o’clock at night. Hopefully, it’s a sacrifice that will pay off in the long run.
    Other than that, the guys at work have tried to get me to learn how to play golf. I’m not very good, but it’s fun. They’re also getting me into skeet shooting. I’m trying to pick up more hobbies like that.

What do you think the future holds for you? Will you always run Moss Utilities, or pursue other paths?

    I want to work on these businesses and grow our family. Really, I’m doing everything I set out to do. It’s going well so far, but I would love to continue to grow and improve our operations and be in a stronger spot in the next five to ten years.
    In the future, I would love to be in-volved in other types of investments, land development projects or even residential projects. Case has a wide range of experi-ence and our entrepreneurial daydreaming has us thinking about many potential businesses and ideas down the road.
    The sky is the limit right now. We’re just trying to stay on top of what we can handle right now. We’re open to whatever life throws at us.
    Moss Utilities LLC and Moss Excavation LLC are located in Irving. –mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net