Home Industry Pro Cooper Civil. When precision matters.

Cooper Civil. When precision matters.

Every business has a unique story of evolution.  Remarkably in the earthmoving industry the story often develops and blooms from a similar template.  Hard work, determination and a strong relationship with a remarkable dealership are key ingredients fundamental to the success.  Rhys Cooper founder of Cooper Civil located on the Sunshine Coast a few hours North of Brisbane, QLD shared his triumph with us this edition.

Rhys who has been operating machinery since he was twelve years old, grew up on a farm in New Zealand.  In 2001 he moved to Australia to pursue work in the logging industry in Victoria and then moved across to Western Australia to try his hand in the mining game.  Whilst working in the mines, Rhys found himself travelling to various sites all over the state operating various pieces of machinery before settling permanently in Queensland four years ago.  Rhys worked on wages as a contractor for two years before deciding that his pathway was to venture out independently.  Together with business partner Josh Mudge, they created Cooper Civil.  Everybody wanted them to succeed and the support and encouragement they receive from other contractors, friends and family was instrumental to getting the business off the ground.

Whilst many contractors start with an old second-hand machine, this was not part of their plan.  The work they were chasing required a serious machine and it was equally important in order to be taken seriously when pitching for work.  Their first Cat® 324E was purchased secondhand however it was immaculate, with only 120 hours and fitted with all the latest GPS technology.  It was virtually brand new and represented great value.  Stuart Manton and Cat Finance were a major contributor to making their dreams a reality.

Within the first 12 months of business they had built up equity and their clients were asking for more machines.   In response to demand they visited Hastings Deering to sit down and discuss their options. Stuart & Hastings Deering were incredible from the start sharing a genuine interest in their success and went above and beyond any expectations.  They are the reason Cooper Civil had the confidence to expand the business so quickly.  Rhys is adamant that there is no way they would be where they are today without the support and encouragement that they have received from Hastings Deering.  Rhys has looked at other machines in the top price bracket of other manufactures including Hitachi however the level of service offered from Stuart Manton, Hastings Deering, CAT Finance and the superior machinery from Caterpillar, it quickly becomes an absolute no brainer.

Arriving at a job site with a new Cat machine, people instantly identify you as a serious operator.  The contractors with the big jobs want to demonstrate to their clients that their subcontractors are reliable.  This is imperative when winning tenders based on meeting deadlines and productivity targets.

Recently they purchased the latest groundbreaking top of the line Next Gen series Cat323.  They were the first owners of one of these machines in Queensland.  The machine has now clocked 900 hours and has well exceeded all expectations.  The new technologies have increased safety, efficiency, productivity and established a real point of difference with their competitors.  The Next Gen range of excavators have improvements that are far more advanced than a “nicer” touchscreen and improved stereo speakers.  Caterpillar have reduced the hydraulic hoses resulting in less maintenance, 1000 hour service intervals, 360 cameras, payload scales, 3d GPS from factory and less fuel consumption.  Another benefit of the new Cat excavators is that the parts are standardized.  Owning twelve excavators this is a big saving on time and money as you don’t have to stock take a range of filters for different machines.

Cooper Civil have just ordered another Cat 323 Next Gen excavator and are excited for the Cat 336 coming out next year.   They can almost guarantee that one of the first ones in the country will be bearing the Cooper Civil logo.  Rhys believes that the 36 tonne digger is the ultimate digger.  You can trim, do detailed work, especially with the precise controls, run a tilt hitch and the leading benefit is that you can pump truckloads of dirt out and keep the trucks moving.

With machines ranging from 14 – 25 tonne excavators they have a variety of attachments for most applications including a rock breaker and grabs that are interchangeable for the 20 – 25 tonne machines.  Combining these attachments with tilting hitches maximizes their machines ability to deliver a quality finished product fast, safe and on time helping their clients meet their deadlines.

John Moore at JTM Earthmoving Repairs is responsible for their machine maintenance.  John, an ex Hastings Deering fitter, is a top-notch mechanic with an intricate knowledge of Cat machines.  His attention to detail is mind blowing and Rhys tells tales of repairs he has witnessed John perform on site that other mechanics would be floating the machine away to be pulled apart. Cooper Civil have saved a significant amount of money using his services for their maintenance.

Cooper Civil are not afraid to travel for work.  Currently their main job they are working on is the Pacific Highway upgrade in Yamba.  They are now even looking at accepting work in Melbourne and Sydney.  This long-distance work is increasingly easier to accept as they have a very solid relationship with the larger contractors that they work who share confidence in the standard of work that Cooper Civil offers.  With today’s technology and the right operators, it doesn’t matter where in the country your machines are located.

Whilst buying machines and digging holes has been important, Rhys and Josh have focused on every facet of the business including accounts and marketing. All the machines proudly display the professionally designed logo on the boom and counterweight and all operators have the logo on their uniform.  They have embraced the power of social media and have been surprised how little operators are using it for their businesses.  Civil Cooper have identified the importance of establishing a profile now so that when everybody else catches on they will be well ahead.  Instagram has been a great tool for showcasing their impressive machines and communicating some of the unique jobsites they work on.  It has also inadvertently worked as a recruitment tool.  Recently they employed an operator from New Zealand who found them on Instagram.  He was researching relocating to Australia, saw their Instagram posts and contacted them directly.  Whilst the earthmoving industry is not necessarily into social media now there may be people out there who just like looking at the machines who down the track could potentially become one of your best operators.

Their recipe for success seems to be working extremely well so far and they are absolutely flat out with work.  They are just about to start working with Fulton Hogan on the Bruce Highway upgrade in Caloundra.  They have developed solid relationships and built a strong brand reputation with all of the major operators, which has placed them in a position of demand including long-term contracts.

Rhys enjoys specialising in final trim and being able to offer an extremely high standard as he puts it, ‘when precision matters’.  Rhys has built his reputation on being that guy that can do the job quickly and cleanly.  The precision matters phrase has become the businesses positioning statement and really captures what they are about.  Rhys and Josh have been best mates since they were young teenagers and combined are a formidable duo.  Their personalities and areas of expertise complement each other exceptionally so it is no surprise that their business has experienced such success.  The boys don’t want to be slowing down with the rapid expansion of the business.  With Josh’s experience in drilling and potential contracts on the horizon, they may look at expanding into this area including buying a drilling rig.  Regardless of the avenue they chose, they are focused on expansion and streamlining their processes to maximise the efficiency whilst continue to deliver the best possible results for their clients.

Rhys always wants to be challenged and sees every day as an opportunity to make the most of it.  Who wants to be mediocre anyway?  With the business based on the Sunshine Coast the boys love working in the area, especially if there is a beach nearby for a quick surf after work.  Right now they are more than happy to put in the hard yards however looking to the future both agree it would be nice if they had a bit more free time and balance.  Rhys particularly enjoys training new operators and would relish focusing his role on human resources and training however presently it is very important to be on the ground in the face of the business.

For people starting out in the industry Rhys recommends being the best in your area of expertise.  Whilst it is difficult to buy your first machine it is important to build your own reputation as an exceptional operator whilst working for other people as a starting point.  Along with being a good operator it is imperative to know how to get along with people.  People want to work for you if you’re easy-going, firm but fair and approachable.   You must be prepared to work hard and not be paid for it.  For the first six months Rhys didn’t pay himself a cent and was working massive hours.

Any time not on the job site Rhys likes to try and be out in the water surfing as often as possible or spending time with his fiancée Gretchen and cats, Lamington and Jamoo.  He enjoys snowboarding and if he wasn’t working in the earthmoving industry you would find him pursuing his other passion which is spinning the turntables as a DJ.  Both Rhys and Josh share a love of music and DJing.   They have spent countless nights DJ’ing together over the years in nightclubs around the world. They love their drum and bass and staying in touch with all forms of electronic music.  They sometimes post pictures of themselves behind the decks on their company social media pages, to share their personal side away from work.  You can check them out at #coopercivil.

It’s hard not to get caught up in their excitement.  Their business is a passion which they love growing and developing whilst watching their hard work be paid in dividends.  It was inspirational and refreshing to meet such forward-thinking operators.  Rhys and Josh are the epitome of the future of earthmoving with their willingness to adopt new technology and change.  Whilst they are currently working their butts off to chase their dreams they are also doing all of the right things and there is no question their business is on the path to great success.

We had a ball meeting with them in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and can’t wait to follow their success as their fleet of beloved Cats grows.


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