TOOLS OF THE TRADE: Calm After a Storm

Hurricane Katrina gave Charles Reymond the confidence to invest in new machinery.

Trash and debris littered the streets of Pass Christian, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina swept through the small town of about 7,000 residents in 2005. While many saw the storm’s devastation as a reason to stay away from the region, Charles Reymond, owner of All Seasons Lawn & Maintenance Inc. saw an opportunity for growth.

“I got to start the clean-up process and make a difference,” Reymond says. “It helped me kick start the other end of the business, such as removing and planting trees and irrigation.”

Reymond’s business began in 1999 as a maintenance company. Before Hurricane Katrina, he had 235 accounts, both commercial and residential. After the storm, customers who were able to rebuild in Pass Christian began calling All Seasons for help – and Reymond’s client base began to skyrocket. 

The Mississippi maintenance man always wanted to expand his business to include landscaping, and hurricane cleanup efforts became his inspiration. But the task of cleaning and rebuilding dozens of homes was a first priority.

“Most of my clients had houses that didn’t get blown away, but flooded,” he says. “And when it flooded, water soaked the drywall and carpets. We had to remove all of that.”

Every damaged item found, including televisions and personal items, needed to be removed and hauled elsewhere. With the addition of 30 laborers, Reymond and his crew began to gut five or fix houses at one time. But Reymond knew he needed more than just an army of dedicated employees. Heavy equipment would drag away decades of memories, but it would be essential to All Seasons’ success.

“When most of the hurricane victims left, they took their few possessions that could fit in a car,” Reymond says. “We had to go through the entire house and literally take out every nail.”

High water levels from the hurricane also left streets flooded, making it impossible for vehicles to drive freely. So, Reymond decided to purchase a Bobcat S205 skid steer from a surviving local dealer in Biloxi, Miss. The new skid steer cleared televisions, refrigerators, washers, sinks and other objects from more than 100 homes.

“All of that debris would go out the windows and doors of the house,” he says. I used the Bobcat to move it and FEMA picked it up.”

From that first Bobcat purchase, All Seasons grew into a million-dollar landscape company. Reymond continued to use the S205, but quickly felt comfortable enough to add a Bobcat T190 model to his landscaping fleet. 
However, he quickly learned purchasing new machines has its benefits and drawbacks.

For example, Reymond now cautions against using the S205 model in wet conditions because of its rubber tires.

“When it rains continually for several days, skid steer operation can be difficult,” he admits. But there’s also a decided advantage to using the skid steer. Reymond likes the S205 because it is capable of driving over concrete and asphalt without causing damage. In addition to using the S205 for debris removal, Reymond turns to the S205 for removing old sod and spreading new topsoil.
Yet after mastering the S205, Reymond soon ran into another dilemma. The machine was too large to fit between homes and in smaller spaces. So, in May 2007, he purchased a MT55 model, which Reymond says provides the versatility he needs to move rocks and trench without damaging existing structures.
“It gets in areas where other Bobcats can’t,” Reymond says. “It cuts down on labor and gets jobs done more efficiently and faster. You don’t have to worry about scratching the side of a house.”

Reymond is satisfied with his business and equipment expansion, but jobs such as drain work require even more powerful machinery. For these specialty jobs, he rents a Caterpillar 303.5 mini excavator. But for someone who needed a stormy kick-start just to break into the landscape business, larger equipment and bigger challenges are now welcome.
October 2008
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