Home Attachments North Coast Contracting: a small business making big waves

North Coast Contracting: a small business making big waves

They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Aaron Rae, owner/director of North Coast Contracting, is living proof of that adage. Passion for what you do is, he says, the secret to success – especially when striking out on your own.

“Some people see a job as a job,” Aaron explains. “Whereas I never feel like I’m going to work because I love what I do. If you want to go out on your own, it’s all about having that confidence in yourself and your skills. And you’ve got to enjoy it.”

Aaron certainly knows his stuff when it comes to running a one-man earthmoving business. Born and bred in the stunning Maclean region of NSW, agriculture and farming was in his blood – he cut his teeth operating machines on local sugarcane farms.

“My family comes from an agricultural farming background and I was involved in the sugar industry from around age 18 through to 24,” he recalls. “My dad was a builder at the time and I just saw an opportunity to move into site prep services and all the associated earthworks. So, at a young age, I started my own business.”

Aaron’s first machine was a Toyota Huski 4SDK8 skid-steer, which he paired with a 3 tonne excavator – a combo he says allowed him to get into tight access areas. “And if you were trenching services in or preparing under slabs or doing site cuts,” he adds, “you always knew you had both machines that worked hand in hand – one to cut and one to fill. It was a good combination.”

No doubt, it was big steppingstone, starting at a young age, but timing is everything and, with a little nudge, North Coast Contracting was off on its way. “I had that little bit of support from my dad – he pushed me a bit. But it just worked into something really good,” Aaron shares. “And at that time from about 2004 through to 2010, the construction industry was really starting to push forward in the far northern New South Wales area. It was a pivotal time for housing and it has sort of continued on from there.”

The Maclean Region has seen impressive growth over the past few years, thanks to improved infrastructure and city folk looking for greener pastures. “It was just a little unknown hamlet for quite a long time,” Aaron says. “But the Pacific Highway transformed travel times. And a lot of people who come here discover it and think, ‘Where was this hiding all my life?’ It’s a beautiful part of the world.”

And no wonder, you’d be hard pressed to find a more picturesque rural setting to lay down some roots. “It’s just a good laid back, lifestyle – a great place to bring up kids,” Aaron shares. “And it’s got that regional outlook with beautiful beaches and the rivers. The Clarence River is one of the biggest inlet tidal systems on the east coast. So, we’re fortunate to have that on our doorstep.”

Known as the ‘Scottish town of Australia’, the region is powered by two well-established industries. “You’ve also got your local, small fishing industry here with the trawlers,” Aaron says. “Then you’ve got your cane farmers in the agricultural sector. The sugar mill is one of the biggest employers in the area. It’s the lifeblood of the whole place really, the Harwood sugar mill.”

All this regional growth means plenty of opportunity for even a small business to make big strides. “I’ve been able to cater for a lot of the local builders,” Aaron says. “Then, it got to the stage where I started to direct tender for council contract work – upgrades of road networks and footpaths. They had to provide that further infrastructure to handle the growth, so that type of work has kept me busy for around a decade now.”

That shift in focus also meant finding gear that could handle the job. “The business changed direction around three years ago – we started catering predominantly for the local council heavy patching and road maintenance network,” Aaron says. “So I’m currently running a high flow track loader which runs a Simex PL1000 high flow road mill. We’re also 5.5 tonne excavator (as a combination) and the Toyota Huski SDK9 skid steer, which is the latest plant we’ve just put on. That works alongside the track loader as a finishing and a trimming machine – just to tidy up the small stuff and handle that limited access work. You’ve got to try and have the best of both worlds.”

Aaron certainly seems to have found that balance. “The combination just works hand in hand. The bigger machine’s a real heavy lifter, so it’s got that capability around the high flow attachment,” he shares. “Then, when you need the finesse of a small, nimble machine that can handle the finer work, that’s where the Toyota Huski comes into play. When you’re on a road job, doing this heavy patching, it’s good to have both there – you can mill up your patch with the heavy unit, then you do your finishing or tight out work with the small machine. It speeds up the process quite a bit.”

Aaron says he has stuck with Toyota because experience has shown him it’s a brand you can trust.  “Having had that 4SDK8, I knew how reliable and robust they were,” he says. “In a nutshell, the machines are user friendly and you know they’re going to go the distance. You hardly put a spanner to them. You just change the oil and swap the tyres out when needed and the thing will just keep going.”

Dealing with Toyota Material Handling in Newcastle, Aaron reckons you can’t beat the service there. “It was salesman Allan Peacock who helped me spec these particular units,” he says. “He was very helpful – knows his product well. I had a few special things I wanted to cater for with this one. For example, I run the Lifemaster tyres which are more road orientated for handling and turning on asphalt.”

They also decided to go with Norm Cross Flow tilt buckets from Norm Engineering “The three bolt-on edges give you that increased durability and are long lasting,” Aaron shares.  “That wear capability counts when you’re on asphalt and sealed roads. And the tilt function of that bucket makes the job much easier – when you’re on angles and sideways and things like that, you can level yourself up and trim. It just gives the machine a bit more edge and that extra advantage of getting a better finish on a job in a quicker timeframe.”

In terms of other attachments, Aaron needs a wide range for the work he does. “I’ve got the High Flow Simex PL1000 which is a good capacity unit. And I’ve also got a 72-inch slasher,” he says. “For a drain attachment, I’ve got a 96-inch hydraulic track loader. That also runs auto grade laser control, which is a great tool for doing house pads and setting up laser cuts and things like that. And lastly, I have an hydraulic hammer for the excavator. That give us the capability for concrete or rock breaking.”

For the Toyota Huski unit, he deals with Toyota Material Handling, also located in Coffs Harbour. “David, he’s the branch manager down there, he’s great to deal with,” Aaron says. “And they’re a really helpful crew of guys. Ring ‘em up and nothing’s a problem. And they’ll come out to you if you need. They’re always close and always handy.”

Speaking of Huski, Aaron says it’s the versatility of the machine that has helped him in his business the most. “It’s simple to use, easy to transport and virtually maintenance free,” he says. “It’s the toughest skid-steer anyone could invest in for an all-rounder unit.”

Usability wise, the ease and comfort, Aaron says, are second to none. “It is very user friendly. Toyota still offer the traditional hand controls as well as your foot pedals. But I’ve gone the ISO hand control. I was resistant, but now I prefer it because you get out of the machine at the end of day feeling a lot less fatigued. And once you get it all ergonomically set up, it’s all very comfortable and well-balanced.”

The Toyota name is virtually synonymous with ‘tough’ – something Aaron reckons the machine lives up to. “The build quality is, like any Toyota, simply first class,” he says. “It’s robust. It’s reliable. You hit the key and it goes. There’s a reason everyone knows the Toyota name.. And that name reflects on their construction equipment.”

That famous reliability is, of course, important in this industry. “Down time in this game is the killer for any business,” he explains. “You have to try and limit that as much as you can by having good, reliable gear. I’d have no hesitation telling anyone else in the line of work that I do to purchase the same unit.”

Aaron says the service backup with the brand is another huge plus. “I’d recommend Toyota Material Handling because of their wide service backup network,” he says. “They have branches spread across the state, pretty well everywhere you go.”

But at the end of the day, Aaron says he really couldn’t do it all without his business partner, Tiffany. “She keeps me in check every day,” he laughs. “She’s a really important part of what I do – helping me organise things when life and work gets busy.”

And life is definitely busy for the Rae family, with a business and two young girls that are also a going concern. “We’ve got Edie, who’s 11 years old and Audrey who’s 7,” Aaron shares. “They love the machines. When we’ve got a project on at home, they’re always asking can they do it instead of me.”

It can be hard for a sole operator to strike a good work/life balance, but Aaron seems to manage it just fine. The family takes every opportunity to get away from it all by exploring their local region. “We do a fair bit of camping – we go right up the river Aaron says. “We’ve also got two Border Collie dogs that love every minute of having me around at a weekend. So, we put them in the Land Cruiser or the old station wagon and we head off into the bush. I’ll often do a bit of rock and beach fishing, too.”

In terms of the future, Aaron says he’s pretty happy with North Coast Contracting’s current trajectory. “Right now, the business predominantly caters to the road maintenance network,” he says. “With rural roads, there’s always that ongoing line of work – shoulders, heavy patches or roadside drainage. And they do reseal prep every few years, too. That keeps me pretty busy.”

Not that he’s not ruling out the idea of expanding to keep up with demand. “Hopefully the business will get the chance to grow a bit further – maybe put on an employee,” he says. “We’ll see how things go but with an area that’s growing and the continued need for housing and infrastructure upgrades, there’s still that potential for growth. So, for me, it’s a matter of maintaining what I do – doing a good job and keeping clients happy.”

Visit huskiconstructionequipment.com.au








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