Articles

Earthwork Is Art
CATERPILLAR Corp
February 2017

https://www.cat.com/en_US/articles/customer-stories/built-for-it/building-a-legacy-that-lasts.html

EARTH WORK IS ART

PART 1. BUILDING A LEGACY THAT LASTS: MIKE WILLHITE, WILLHITE GRADING AND EXCAVATION

It’s been a journey. And he’s just getting started.

For Mike Willhite, the founder and owner of Willhite Grading & Excavation, he always knew he’d be a business owner; in fact, it never occurred to him he wouldn’t be.

“My father was an entrepreneur,” says Mike. “He was a roofer and had other businesses, so, based on his example, I never thought I’d work for anyone but me.”

His career began in high school in San Luis Obispo County, California where he worked on a local family farm and ran with the “ag kids.” It was through the example of hard work, perseverance and appreciation of the land that his passions took root. 

“I was fascinated with the skill level their son had who was my age and already owned his own equipment,” he says. “I owe this family so much because it was then and there my decision was made to enter the earthwork field.”

 

Cat customer Mike Willhite talks about the skill and craftsmanship needed to excavate land.

 

From California to Alaska and back, Mike has witnessed and endured rough seas, staggering landscapes and rock-hard terrains.  As a result, he is stronger, smarter and has become a role model for small business owners and young operators. And he says it all starts with choosing the right partner. His relationship with Cat® dealer, Quinn Cat, was the right choice years ago, and continues to play a critical role in his business’ success. 

“In my six years of owning my business, I have only had two down days due to equipment malfunction and Caterpillar was there to fix the problem quickly and efficiently,” he says. “Down time is our worst enemy in the earthwork trade!” 

 

“DIRT WORK IS ART. JUST BECAUSE THE OUTSIDE IS PRETTY DOESN’T MEAN THE INSIDE IS AS WELL. WHAT YOU DON’T SEE NEEDS TO BE AS HIGH QUALITY AS WHAT YOU DO.”

 

Mike’s work ethic and attention to detail is a model for operators to follow. “Dirt work is art,” he says. “Just because the outside is pretty doesn’t mean the inside is as well. What you don’t see needs to be as high quality as what you do.”

Throughout 2018, we’ll profile Mike and share his story. From his childhood in California, to his time in the United States Coast Guard, to the excavation business he plans to one day leave his son. It’s an evolving journey creating a lasting legacy. Take a look at Mike at work.

For Mike Willhite, the founder and owner of Willhite Grading & Excavation, he always knew he’d be a business owner; in fact, it never occurred to him he wouldn’t be.

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Create Your Own Path
CATERPILLAR Corp.
March 2017

https://www.cat.com/en_US/articles/customer-stories/built-for-it/create-your-own-path.html

CREATE YOUR OWN PATH

BUILT FOR IT

PART 2. BUILDING A LEGACY THAT LASTS: MIKE WILLHITE, WILLHITE GRADING AND EXCAVATION

Mike Willhite is a well-connected man. As owner of Santa Barbara county’s Willhite Grading & Excavation, Mike’s network extends beyond California and the United States. With thousands of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter followers, he is globally connected to up-and-coming operators, like-minded contractors and small business owners.

“I like to teach,” says Willhite enthusiastically. “I like to turn ‘guys’ into professional operators and give them a trade they can make a living on.”

After owning his business more than six years, Mike is determined to instill confidence and know-how into the next generation of builders. He is helping them avoid the mistakes and pitfalls he made in the beginning of his career. He says it all starts with choosing the right partner. His relationship with Cat® Dealer Quinn Cat continues to play a critical role in his business’ success, and his advocacy for skilled labor.

“To anyone who is ambitious, I encourage them to get out there and do it on their own,” says Mike. “Create your own path in life.”

“TO ANYONE WHO IS AMBITIOUS, I ENCOURAGE THEM TO GET OUT THERE AND DO IT ON THEIR OWN. CREATE YOUR OWN PATH IN LIFE.”


MX Track Builders’ John Steiner is taking Mike’s advice. He reached out to Willhite via social media looking for tips on excavation. After a series of conversations, Mike offered John the opportunity to join his team.

“It’s been great learning the excavation and grading side of this industry,” says Steiner. “Mike is an excellent mentor to me and I’m learning a lot.”

As we continue our series on Mike and his legacy, watch as he constructs not only the community around him, but the careers of others as well.

 

CalContractor Cover Grading & Excavation Issue
CalContractor Magazine
December 2018

https://issuu.com/calcontractor/docs/calcontractor_2018_gradin_excavatin?e=6185870/66652295

Case Studies