2M Locating President Chris Post recently appeared on Two Trees PPC MarketPlay Podcast to talk about all things utility locating, damage prevention and future tech like augmented reality for utilities.
The episode is available now everywhere you get your podcasts:
Welcome to MarketPlay, the marketing podcast where we play games instead of just talk all about this week’s marketing and advertising news. I’m your host, Meryl Hathaway, and we’re brought to you by Two Trees PPC out of Sacramento, California.
Now let’s get to quizzing you and our guest on everything industry. Good luck and welcome to MarketPlay. Hello, good morning. I’m Meryl Hathaway, and joining me is Mike Wisby of Two Trees PPC. How are you doing, Mike?
Mike: Hey, good. How are you doing? Happy Friday.
Meryl: Happy Friday. I am pretty good, and I’m very excited for our guests, so today we have Chris Post. Chris is passionate about taking businesses from good to great and is now the president of 2M Locating LLC specializing in providing underground utility locating and digital mapping for the building and construction industry.
He and his best friend and co-founder, Matt Morrow, worked with architects, civil engineers, contractors, excavators, federal and local government officials, industrial and manufacturing companies, private property owners, utility and water districts, and universities all out of their hometown of Sacramento, California.
2M Locating provides only the newest and best equipment, unmatched quality, respect, and an experienced team for each and every job with one goal in mind—preventing damage and accidents on job sites by accurately locating, mapping, and documenting underground utilities. Without further ado, I like to welcome Chris to the show. How are you doing?
Chris: I’m excellent. It’s Friday and I’m a fan of the show, so I’m excited to be on myself. Thank you.
Meryl: We’re so pumped to have you, and congrats on your new business.
Chris: Thank you. Yeah, it’s exciting to be back in the saddle as they say. I have a lot of fun with that.
Meryl: Definitely. All right. Well, let’s jump right into our first game called getting to know you. I will ask you a series of this or that questions, and you’ll just answer them with your first instinct response. Don’t think too much. Are you ready?
Chris: Okay. Yes.
Meryl: All right. Number one, tablet, or laptop?
Chris: I’m device agnostic. If it can connect to the internet, I can work.
Meryl: Okay, interesting. You’re a rare species. Number two, Sacramento or Fresno?
Chris: Sacramento. Matt did the Fresno thing. I’m actually a fourth-generation Sacramento resident, believe it or not.
Meryl: Is that right? Wow.
Chris: Yeah. My great-great-grandparents like the place and everyone else did too, so here we are.
Mike: He’s a Sacramento guy.
Meryl: Yeah. Wow. Born and bred.
Chris: We talked to a lot of people from Sacramento. They take off for college, university, or some venture, and then it seems like the city always brings you back. It’s a small city but big. It’s just a great place to raise a family, the people, and everything here, and an awesome business community too. I’m happy to be back.
Meryl: I think Sacramento reminds me a lot of Cincinnati. I went to school in Ohio. There are a ton of people who travel, travel, travel, do all kinds of cool things, and if they’re from Cincinnati, they all end up back in Cincinnati. It’s so interesting.
Chris: Sounds very similar.
Meryl: Yeah, it’s very similar in that way. All right. Instagram or TikTok?
Chris: I’ve never even been on TikTok, so Instagram.
Meryl: Perfect. Well, no problem because it looks like it’s going away this season. Hopefully, nobody else is too upset. I know they are, so we’ll just skip right past that. Netflix or YouTube?
Chris: Netflix if I can find something to watch. YouTube if I need to learn something.
Meryl: Good one. It’s so funny how many people use YouTube as an education tool rather than entertainment?
Meryl: Yeah, it’s fascinating. Podcast or public radio?
Chris: Podcast all the way.
Meryl: Yeah, iPhone or Android?
Chris: I’m iPhone to the core.
Meryl: Oh, all right. Cool, so we’re specific about that? I like it. Lastly, although these might not apply to you, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM or 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM?
Chris: 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Meryl: Yeah. I knew it was 12-hour. I didn’t know when it started.
Chris: Wake up, grind, and keep going until wife says, all right, put it away. It’s family time. When you run a business, as you guys know, there’s always something else you can do or improve.
Mike: You have to actually draw a line in the day to say, all right, I’m not going to do this anymore.
Meryl: Especially now.
Chris: You do, but I love it.
Meryl: That’s a good night’s sleep too after 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. I imagine you have a very sound sleep. Amazing. All right, awesome. Let’s jump right into humble beginnings. I’m very excited about this one for you.
Please tell us about your very humble beginnings. What was your first job ever?
Chris: My first job ever, my dad had a business growing up, so ever since I was a little kid, I just shadowed him and was doing everything from filing paperwork, to answering phones, to driving forklifts, and just wherever they needed me. Which was awesome growing up in learning about business.
Meryl: I was going to say.
Chris: I’m actually very blessed. My father, his father, and his father were all entrepreneurs, and then my mom’s father was also a business owner as well. I’ve got to grow up with lots of different entrepreneurism and knowing if you don’t treat your customers right and run your business right, your family’s not going to eat.
That was instilled in me at a young age. My first official job, I would say—like arm’s length, not family—was I was a busboy at a steakhouse. I think every person should work in food service, especially at a young age. It’s really where you hone customer service. People are coming in not just a bite to eat, but for an experience.
It’s on you and the rest of your team to provide that experience as well as the good meal, et cetera. Whether that’s keeping their glasses full or helping the waiter so that they’re not as loaded up, so they can provide better service. I feel between growing up in a business and then getting into the foodservice, that’s where I really honed my focusing on the customer and their experience as the primary objective of any business.
Meryl: I couldn’t agree with you more on that, by the way. I’ve said that for years, and I was told that for a long time. And then I’ve worked in so many restaurants and bars. I think that I learned so much beyond just business things, or even just about customer service. It was also about you learning what it’s like to literally serve other people. What that feels like, what that entails, and then I’ve taken that into almost any other experience I’ve had because I have more compassion, I have more empathy, I have more respect, and I understand how hard those jobs are.
When you’re even going through a fast-food drive-thru window, those people are working exceptionally hard. You know that from bussing, serving, or bartending.
Chris: Totally, and you also learn team dynamics. If the cook isn’t doing this, then that’s going to backlog this and this. It’s everyone jointly working together in this system playing their role to make sure the customer has a great experience, so.
Meryl: Each one is equally important, really, when it comes down to it.
Mike: It’s good to have that viewpoint as well to see it. Take a step back and look at the whole organization as a whole. That’s something that CEOs and C-suite people have. That’s why they got there. It starts with the first job. That’s why we do the humble beginnings thing. I think it’s really important to see how it starts from the very first job all the way through.
Chris: Yeah. You’re serving people, making them happy, providing value, and then they pay you for it. It’s simple but it needs to be done with the priority focused on the customer, not your pocket first.
Mike: Exactly. Without them, we’re nothing. That’s the thing. The client, the customer always has to come first. That’s why we do what we do.
Meryl: Yeah. We know that you’ve done all kinds of different work in the industry. I’m fascinated to know—and don’t feel like you have to shorten anything. How is it that you jumped from where you were then, into these different industries, to finding yourself now today doing the business that you’re doing?
Chris: The life and times of Chris Post. Let me tell you. I went off to Chico State for college. I had a lot of fun there obviously, came back, and it was the housing boom and real estate boom in the early-2000s. My father was in commercial real estate. At that time, I joined him as a junior broker, so for about five, six years I sold and leased industrial properties.
That was another very instrumental career path early in my life because I saw big deals being made with big REITs and public traded companies and the rest of it. I saw the efficiencies and how they operated and learned about contracts, legal, insurance, offers, and negotiations on a bigger level—on millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of square feet. That was because I joined as a junior broker to an existing team, so I was fortunate to jump right into more of a higher echelon of deal-making.
What happened was the market collapsed. I was commissioned only, and my wife was like, remember when we used to have food in the refrigerator, and you used to bring home commission checks? It’s time to rethink this a little bit. That was actually a really difficult period for me because I was working with my father, who supported my mother and my sisters. I did a lot for him, and me leaving that, I felt I abandoned my family if that made sense because he relied on my help.
It was a really difficult period and coming to grips with being young and realizing your first career is over. Being in Sacramento, when construction and real estate died, the only thing pretty much left is the state government. My wife worked for CalPERS, and she’s like, go get a job. I did the thing. I ended up getting a job at the treasury, at the State Treasurer’s Office.
I was a training officer. I gave new employee orientations and all that stuff. Right after I was hired, the governor—I think it was Governor Brown at the time—instituted the hiring freeze because that was like furloughs, and it was like all during that time.
Here, I am a new employee orientation person with no new employees. I’m glad I ended up working in bureaucracy because it showed me how much I’m not a pencil pusher or order taker. Basically, they’re like, we can’t do anything. We’re going to keep you. We’re not going to eliminate you, but I’m wondering, do you even need my position anymore? Why are we wasting money on my salary? Not that I don’t want a job, but I’m just—
Meryl: Sorry to point this out but…
Chris: What am I supposed to be doing right now? They started giving me just random things to do, but it was a state job. Right at that year, the iPad was released and iBooks was released. I got a hold of the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, and I had nothing really to do. I’d get everything done for the week by Monday.
I just sat in my cubicle and I read. I randomly had a friend from college call me and say, hey, you were the geek in all of our marketing classes that did the PowerPoints and stuff. I got a friend that needs a website. Can you help that? I’m like, I don’t know how to code a website, but I just read about outsourcing from Tim Ferriss’s book.
I went on up—it was oDesk at the time, now it’s Upwork. Hired someone, and it was actually someone down in your neck of the woods. It was a friend down in Los Angeles, and she had this community project she was doing where she and her husband had installed artificial grass. The city was saying that they had to tear it up, and so she started a campaign to change the…
Anyway, I made this website called Grass No Roots. She was in it, and I don’t know if my website did anything, but she and all her people were able to change all that. They’re able to use the more drought-tolerant stuff like that.
I bumped into another friend up here, and he had started a business. I was like, hey, you got this really basic website. I’m trying to do this now. He gave me a shot, then someone else did, and it was growing and growing to the point where I was making more gross, not net after taxes and everything, than my state job.
I told my wife. I was like, I can’t do this anymore. I have to sit in this cubicle. My boss can look down, and even though I got everything done until the clock struck 5:00, he’s got that laser dark looking, I can’t leave my cubicle. I just feel like I’m in prison. She’s like, I get that.
Meryl: I never understood that, by the way. Does anyone think that helps anything? If you already did what you’re supposed to do, isn’t that like, damn my employees efficient AF. I don’t need to do anything beyond this. What a great guy. Let you do what you need.
Chris: Thank you. Not to divert from the story here, but just a quick example was my first week, my boss’s boss asked me to pull up a document and I’m new to the state. There are all these acronyms, three letters this, and I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. I was like, “Oh, this must be the document you’re looking for, right?”
He goes, “No, it’s not that. Here it is,” and blah, blah, blah. I was like, “Oh, okay.” I go back to my cubicle. I type in into Google what it was and like, oh, he meant this? I went and grabbed it, I walked right back, and I go, “You meant this one, right?” He goes, “Who gave this to you?” I go, “Excuse me?” He goes, “How did you get this?” I was like, “Well, you told me what it was, so I just went back to Google to clarify. This is what you need, right?” He goes, “I was expecting this in two weeks.”
Meryl: How dumb do you think I am?
Chris: My jaw hit the floor like what?
Mike: That’s the state, though.
Chris: It’s like you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Chris: I needed to get out of there. I was completely miserable. Another one. The first day I was there before we had the commercial real estate office, we had CNBC playing in different rooms. People talking about the market, new development, and all this exciting stuff. I remember, I came back from my first lunch, and I saw one of my new co-workers.
I was like, “Hey, did you catch what the market closed out today?” They go, “What’s that?” I go, “It’s the stock market. Dow Jones or anything. Did you see what it closed at?” And he goes, “Why would I care about that?” I was like, “Oh, okay. This is not my environment.” I rolled the dice. I started Postmodern Marketing, which is a play on my last name. We started growing.
I had been in commercial real estate before. I’d worked with a lot of contractors, developers, and those people for their properties. I just started calling on all of them. I actually focused on Yelp at first. I figured that most of the decision-makers wouldn’t be the ones actually searching for website companies. They would have their assistant or someone that would probably be a younger person, and at that time, Yelp was the big thing.
I was working with yoga teachers and all these just beginning startup stuff. But I made sure—assuming I did a good job for them—that they would leave me a review. That got me onto the shortlist of more things. And then it was more of a sales perspective, which I believe I was very fortunate enough to come from a sales background from a little bit higher of a level versus a lot of the people in the marketing industry. I feel they’re, they’re the technician, as well as the business owner.
They’re the graphic designers, they’re the developers, and not to generalize too much, but a lot of times, they’re not the most business people. They don’t return your call right away or this and that. The customer doesn’t know what’s going on. That’s the worst feeling in the world. I just was very proactive.
The other thing was, I didn’t understand. I had never worked in marketing before, and even though I majored in it, I understood it, but I didn’t understand the pricing. I’m like, hang on a second here. Okay, it takes three hours to code this jQuery widget, and this and that. I don’t know what that means or if that takes that long.
It’s a perverse incentive if you think about it. I send you the draft, you don’t like it and make changes because it’s not good or what you wanted from our needs analysis. You send it back to me, I charge you more hours to fix it, and we keep going. I make more money the worst I do. If you think about it, it’s weird.
Meryl: It’s bizarre.
Chris: Nobody knows these, and who sits down at their computer for an hour and doesn’t look at their phone? How are you billing someone for an hour? No one’s actually doing that. I thought about it like a car. I don’t know how long it takes to fabricate the muffler, but I know that hey, X dollars, that sounds like a good price to me. That’s a good value.
I took that approach. It’s $5000, it’s $10,000 for a website, and sir, ma’am, it’s not going to go over this. It’s on me to make a profit by delivering this more efficiently, et cetera, but I promise you, this is the value that we both agree it’s worth. It will never be another unless you make the significant scope of work changes, et cetera.
I think that really allowed us to grow and scale because a lot of the—especially construction industry, used to bidding and all that. They just look at it and it’s like, okay, that’s the X and it’s part of the deal. I feel that got us a lot further because I was able to talk in English to people instead of giving them this spreadsheet of design hours, program hours, QA hours, and it’s this. I’m like what? Seven hours for this? How do we know that’s accurate? Who‘s auditing?
I did that and grew the company. Ended up one of our competitors, it seemed like a great idea to merge our operations together. In the end, it wasn’t. But also at that time, I suffered some personal setbacks. My father-in-law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at 61, threw us for a loop, healthy guy everything.
One of my best friends growing up, 37, had an early death unexpectedly from a blood clot. They got my father-in-law’s cancer out, but then we got the bad news that it came back. It was just this one-two, one-two punch, and things weren’t going great at work. My personal life was bleeding into it, and I’ll be honest, I probably wasn’t the best partner to work with at that time because I was just completely sidetracked.
Meanwhile, we’re making a bunch of money and things are going well. I wasn’t really focused on the business too much as I should have been. It just came to the point where it makes sense to leave. We negotiated the buyout, which is a very interesting experience selling your business.
The more interesting thing—and recently, someone wrote a book—is the period after you sell your business. It’s your whole identity like you live and breathe. This is like your child, and then all of a sudden it’s honey, can you run and pick up the dry cleaning? It’s like I don’t have anything to do. I’m done.
I was in charge of all these people. I’ll admit, there were a bunch of egos involved too. Great book, by the way, Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. I got a lot of time. I took three years off, basically, and we traveled the world. My daughter is five now. She’s been to 15 countries.
We lived for a month at a time in all these different places chasing summer, so we didn’t have winter for three years.
Chris: Yeah, it was great. I was doing some consulting.
Meryl: That sounds amazing.
Chris: Yeah. Well, it was one of those things that two very close healthy people in my life died early. They all wanted to do this and that, but they delayed it because of their careers and that. It’s like, you know what? My legs work. There’s money in my pocket. I have the desire to travel. My daughter doesn’t need any tuition, bail money, or who knows what the future is going to hold, right?
Meryl: If not now, when?
Chris: Exactly, because you’re going to be dead. My CPA actually started getting mad at me after I sold the company. He’s like, “What are you going to do?” I’m like, “Absolutely nothing. I’m going to rewatch Seinfeld from start to finish, I’m going to read all the books on my to-read list, and I’m going to go travel and relax.” “These are your prime earning years,” and blah, blah, blah. And I’m like, “Yeah, but I could be dead. Then all I did was work.”
Mike: That’s so true.
Meryl: You did. You earned so much. You did so well. You turned something so small into something so profitable. I just think that seems like the end all be all in life is to have experiences that you really want to have. I mean, I’m in awe of the fact that you were able to do that. I’m also envious. I’m not going to lie about it, especially right now when I picture traveling around the world and having […] in Italy.
Mike: That would be nice right now.
Chris: Well, it’s bittersweet. I’d give it all back to have my father-in-law and my friend back. No questions asked, but I didn’t want their passings to go in vain. It’s just one of those things—you grow up and you talk to your uncles and aunts and everyone is like, oh when I was your age, I wish I did all this. It was just one of those things where it’s like maybe it’s time to listen to them.
We did it, and then I actually got a little bored. I’ll be honest with you. You get all this stuff, and then it’s like you’re used to being productive and doing all these things. I actually met another entrepreneur that’s a really amazing guy, Craig Hewitt who runs Podcast Motor.
We talked and he’s like, I don’t care if you’re traveling. As long as you’re cool with the hours, you can run our business development program. I started working with a bunch of major brands and people helping them get started in podcasting and all that, and then we were in Taiwan, which is an amazing country. If no one’s ever been there, I highly, highly recommend it.
The virus, we’re starting to get pretty crazy. We have our daughter, and she’s firstborn, and we’re both the firstborn, so both the grandparents are like you need to get back here. In retrospect, we probably would have been safer staying there. Anyway, we came back to Sacramento.
When I sold the business, we ended up selling the house, cars, and everything. We cashed out. We were literally vagabonds for three years. We only have our furniture and stuff in storage, but we lived off our 60-liter backpacks. We’ve been bouncing between our parents not knowing what’s going on.
In the meantime, my friend from high school, Matt Morrow, who we have been trying to do a couple of things over the years. We almost bought a vacation rental in Hawaii, which I’m thankful that didn’t work out because we wouldn’t even be able to travel to it right now. Like completely upside down.
He’s like, hey, I heard you’re back. He took over his father’s land surveying company, Morrow Surveying here in West Sacramento. It’s been around for 37 years. He’s like, we’ve been subcontracting this utility locating workout for just a number of years at some pretty high dollar amounts, and I think this is a viable business, so here’s the deal.
I’ve already bought the equipment. I’ve already formulated the LLC, you come in, we agree to a partnership, and basically, it’s like my dream. He’s like here are the foul lines. Here’s some startup capital, here’s some equipment, build our business, and that’s where we’re at right now. I’ve been doing that since about June.
I knew nothing about utility locating before all this, but I find it absolutely fascinating because one, the mission of it is really important because technically, we’re in the damage prevention industry. If you’ve ever seen call 811 before you dig or any of that stuff.
What we do is 811 is a public service where they’ll come out and mark things from the public mains and streets to the private property. Once it enters private property, then you need a private locating company like us. If you think about it—before any construction project is—you want to make sure one, if you have a gas line, you’re going to blow up, and that’s definitely not a good thing.
Even not as major as that, if you hit a waterline or something, the project has to stop, the fixer has to come in, and the delay. Construction’s done and all these dependencies where this person needs to finish their job, then that person could start. It throws off the whole logistics of the job, et cetera.
What we do is prevent all of that. The other thing is we’re into digital mapping. We can take our locating results, and then whether that’s through sketching it with CAD over Google with aerial, or we can fly a drone up and actually tie that into a survey control point so that whatever we’re droning, taking pictures of imaging is actually GPS. They can see exactly where things are, and it’s down to like six-inch accuracy. Which for the engineers, and all those people are extremely important to be able to see that.
But mostly, to be honest with you, the best thing about this industry is coming in blind because construction’s just one of those old boys’ networks (for lack of a better phrase). It’s multi-generational—Matt took over for his dad, and Tom took over from his dad.
Our generation is coming up now, and they want Instagram advertising. They want things done on how they do, but more importantly, everything in this industry has always been that way. Some of the things we’re doing as far as innovating is—again, traditionally, a company would come out and they would use… If you’ve ever seen the locators with the wand things that they’re pointing out, that’s called electromagnetic technology. There’s another one called GPR, which is ground-penetrating radar, which is like this lawnmower thing that shoots radar down to find buried pipes, et cetera.
Typically, what would happen is they would take the results of that. They spray-painted, right? You’ve seen on the street all the orange is this, water is blue, and all the rest of it. Then they would take those lines and put it over a Google Earth aerial. It’s actually our first job, a real job.
I’m showing the client I’m like, yeah, and when we’re done with this, I’m going to present you something like this. I showed him. He’s like, well, that’s cool, but that’s like a two-year-old picture. There’s a burned car right there. That’s not here right now, and this building was demolished. That’s great, but I’m not going to be the one doing this.
I’m going to have my excavator guy on the backhoe come tomorrow, and he’s never been to this site. Now he’s going to look at this picture and be like, okay, that’s good, but this isn’t relevant to what I’m actually looking at. I asked him because one of our competitors charges literally, maybe two arms and a leg. It’s just ridiculous for this, and it’s half of the time not accurate.
And I said hang on a second, I got my drone in the car. What if I just flew the drone about 50 feet up and took a live picture of our freshly marked findings today. If the guy is here tomorrow, there are no buildings going to disappear. Oh, my God, that’d be so valuable.
We did that, and we got all these kudos for that. Now we’ve added that as an actual service offering in there because it’s actually relevant, and we don’t charge extra. It’s included. It’s really interesting coming into this industry. And there’s one specific national company that’s been on the major acquisition over the last 20 years. That’s how they’ve expanded nationally. But in my opinion, they’re lazy and entrenched. They took a bunch of private equity money, and they own a majority of the market.
They’re lacking in the customer service, in my opinion, they’re overcharging because they can. There’s not really an alternative out there. Well, now there is.
Mike: I like that. I like how that applies to so many other industries as well. You see that. You see the big players in marketing, […] early marketing company, you see it as well. You come in and you just do things. You change your product to suit what the customer is asking for. That’s all we do.
Chris: It just goes back to what we started in talking about as far as the restaurant industry. It’s about the customer. Has anyone bothered to ask the customer if they actually want this?
Mike: Exactly, literally listening.
Chris: Oh, it’s always just been done this way. It’s just crazy. Again, coming in here fresh not knowing all this stuff. I’m just asking. Well, what if we did this? Would you pay for me if I did this or that? Absolutely. That’s a new way of doing that.
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Chris: We’re using Google Earth and all these other things where people can see our things and interact with them. They can walk down the street and see where the lines are, which is helpful for bigger projects. The cool thing we’re getting into right now is random, but he’s actually upstairs right now.
We flew a guy in from Virginia, and we’re looking at acquiring his mapping company, and starting to get into augmented reality and virtual reality. I don’t know if you saw in the news, Facebook is going with Ray-Ban’s parent company. They’re going to be making VR glasses. Obviously, Google Glass existed before. We’re hearing rumors of the eyeglasses. Well, that’s all the consumer-grade stuff.
On construction sites, they got some other ones, and Microsoft is doing some stuff, but VR is coming our way. If you think from a damage prevention perspective, if I can have some glasses on while I’m on a backhoe and I’m looking around and I have this mixed reality environment where I can see—in VR or like augmented reality—the utility line, I know I don’t dig there.
I don’t want to keep referencing a map or anything. The data is integrated into my senses (if that makes sense). That’s just going to be more and more safe and safe and safe because pretty soon, everyone will be on the job site having this. It’ll be standard PPE, and you’re going to be able to pull up job plans, et cetera. See our markings, and now those job sites are going to come alive.
We’re still a couple of years off from that, but I feel right now there’s this huge opportunity in getting positioned for that. And then being the company that educates and takes the people from the previous platform to the next one. From snail mail to email, from fax to digital photo or whatever the next paradigm shift because that’s going to be really, really important.
We’re looking at going after universities, 3D mapping, and everything because they’re constantly adding dorms, labs, and they need to switch out utilities or send more fiber optics this way. We really, again, want to help these customers. Not to sidetrack, but you’d be absolutely amazed. No one knows where utilities are buried. No one records this.
Mike: That’s insane.
Chris: It’s absolutely insane. Actually, some state governments are now starting to require highway construction that all of that is documented with GPS and professional surveys because they waste so much money.
Meryl: How is this not done?
Chris: It’s always been done that way. We want to come in, standardize, and change things so that you can now build off this model. I’m getting into the sixth and seventh inning of the business plan, but there’s a technology called digital twins. And it’s used in everything from engineering to buildings.
Say I have a hospital. If we can 3D map this and have the whole thing live virtually, that’s the digital twin part. Now, it’s all scaled, measured, and everything’s correct. Engineers can now engineer digitally, solve any problems that come up, and have the cost damage, et cetera savings before they actually go out to the real world and stick a shovel in the ground. We weren’t expecting to find that. Especially in a hospital, you got people’s life support.
Being able for them to have this virtual environment for them to literally walk through, identify issues. Think of Photoshop with layers. Let’s show the utility layer. Let’s show the HVAC layer. Let’s show whatever.
That’s the direction that we’re trying to take this company where it’s more than just locating utilities. It’s really showing you how that gets into your whole system, and then you’re able to engineer, do everything that you need digitally first, safely, and then cost savings of only doing it once.
What do they say in the medical? Measure twice, cut once kind of thing? It’s really exciting. We’re getting into some crazy technologies that I’m just becoming familiar with. I’m like a kid in a candy shop. It was just when I got into marketing, Mike, just reading all the blogs and digesting every single thing you can about SEO and this.
It’s taken that same approach as I got YouTube, Twitter, and podcasts, and I can just learn all I can. Mix mash those ideas and turn them into something that’s a little bit more forward-thinking and profitable. Obviously, that needs to be done too—to make these customers actually have something that is a value, it stays there. They don’t have to call us every time they need to do something to go spray paint something. Oh, yeah. You’re in layer number two.
Meryl: Wow. Talk about making things efficient. Revamping the industry since you joined it. Wow. Coming from a marketing background obviously, what are some of the ways right now that you’re using all of the knowledge you have within marketing to get the word out of what you guys are doing? And the fact that this is obviously very new within a COVID experience has to be a unique challenge. What is it that you guys are doing to get your name out there? That this is what you guys are up to now.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. We have four channels of leads. We have, as I mentioned, the Genesis of this company was Matt’s surveying company, subcontracting our work. So that’s a steady drip there, which we’re very grateful for. And then the good old Google and being in the rest of all that kind of advertising.
I was lucky to know what local SEO is, which a lot of my competitors don’t. Even with the under-construction website, we’ve been able to pull in some pretty significant jobs from the SERPs. And then we just hired a girl Matt and I went to high school with. I was on Instagram and posted Matt and I’s business cards. She was like, oh, hey. My husband, COVID is causing him a career change. We just brought him onboard to do full-time sales, and then we’re going to, hopefully, wrap up negotiations and acquire this mapping company in Virginia and start integrating that.
Networking, LinkedIn, and just cold calling. Construction is a very relationship business. And then we have a bidding department. You’ll get Google searches and stuff like that, but a lot of it is you’re a sub of a sub (if that makes sense). A lot of it’s going to be relationships where you’re performing really well. Again, I’m just using that service like I did when I started Post Modern Marketing.
Instead of Yelp, which there’s not really the equivalent in this industry, and no one’s really looking at it. It’s demonstrating value, providing these new ideas, and saying, even if we’re the same cost, look how much faster we can deliver this. Look how much more accurate we can deliver this.
The other cool thing that we have is with Matt’s surveying business, we have a licensed survey crew at our disposal per se. That’s hard to have. Most locators aren’t doing any mapping. Let alone, we can get down to, I think three-centimeter accuracy if we need to. That’s pretty, pretty crazy.
Doing a fair amount of inbound and outbound. We’re going to be opening. The plan right now is in the spring, I’m actually going to be moving down, probably, to San Diego for a little while to open up a Southern California office. And then part of the plan in acquiring this company in Virginia is they do a lot of training, and they have a network of locators across the US.
As you’re probably aware of, it’s stalled, obviously, right now. But there will be an infrastructure spending bill coming, and it’s just a matter of how many billions or trillions that are going to be. Our goal is to be covering all the major markets within the next 24 to 28 months to be able to get as much of that. Because if you think about it, all of that going towards infrastructure, what’s the one thing they have to do? Dig, right? What is the one thing you need to do before you dig? Check for utilities so you don’t blow yourself up.
We want to be the company that can procure as much of that work as possible across the US. That’s what we’re working on right now is the scaling aspect of it all.
Meryl: That’s really exciting.
Chris: It is, yeah.
Meryl: I just want to touch on the fact, you mentioned the word relationship. Obviously, you have known your business partner for many, many years now. What is it like working—advantage, and disadvantage wise—with a close friend like that?
Chris: I think it’s really great because Matt and I are yin and yang. I’m crazy, Chris—all-visionary, all-over-the-place. Anyone who knows me would tell you. And then I kind of whittle it down and focus. Matt is calm, collective, and soft-spoken, but when he does speak, it’s very serious. We play well off each other.
Mike: I have exactly the same with Myra, my business partner. We’re yin-yang. I totally relate to that.
Chris: That’s really good. But then sometimes, I think the challenge in this industry is, for example, when we first started talking—Matt and I—about this, I go, what are you guys using for project management? Asana? Trello? He’s like a yellow notepad. This industry is very old school.
One of the challenges is, not that he’s not good with tech or anything like that, but it’s just getting people to use the systems where they just don’t see the value. But I can connect this to Zapier and this and that. You don’t have to do this. It’s always been done this way. That’s the challenge, to try and break that mold. But for the most part, it’s fantastic.
We went out to dinner last night—he and I—and just talked about how fast things are happening and where we want to take this. To have the ultimate trust in your partner—so 2M, Matt Morrow, that’s what’s that. You can tell I’m obviously not the majority owner or it’d be different initials.
It’s just a great partnership. I can’t say enough about just what a solid, solid duty is. We’re all in line as far as the same business ethics, customer support. But then where we differ is I think the advantage. As far as his experience—running operations and crews, et cetera. And my experience—as far as procuring leads, business growth, and scaling—I think is a pretty dangerous combination (in a good way).
Meryl: It’s finding someone who does all the things that you don’t naturally do per se, you guys both can bring what you do to the table, and it matches really, really well.
Chris: Yeah, and we both knew each other’s personalities. It’s like baseball. He’ll always be like, “Okay, Chris, you’re talking the sixth inning again. We’re still here at the bottom of the first.” He brings me back to earth a lot of times. But then I’m—at the same time—showing him like, but yeah. You got to look at the sixth inning. Look at all these cool stuff coming. We got to position ourselves for this, this, and this. This will be in four years. This will be in three years. But yeah, we have our plan mapped out.
What’s the old saying? Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan. Do they get punched in the face?” So I thought I’d be running a marketing agency right now, and now, I’m not. It’s all about surfing the waves and taking advantage of all the opportunities presented in front of you. There is so much opportunity right now that I’m just excited. I just don’t understand anyone complaining about like, oh, there’s nothing to do. This COVID thing has reshuffled the decks. The entrenched players, the market leaders, et cetera—everything is shuffled, and people are willing to look at alternatives.
Who’s to know what’s going to happen? I doubt we’re all going to go back to how it normally was. There’s going to be some hybrid of that. But I think it’s time for entrepreneurs, for businesses to rethink their business models, talk to their customers, see what their current needs are, what they’re anticipating their future needs are, and make it more in-line with the reality, instead of, again, the way things always work. Because things aren’t the way things always were, and they’re not going to be.
Meryl: Yeah, definitely.
Mike: Sadly, it took a global pandemic for these businesses to wake up and realize that, but I’m really, really excited to be a business owner at this time.
Mike: It’s leveled the playing field. We have an opportunity to do things right the way it should have been done before and listen to customers. I hear that all the time, and I see the success of people who listen to the customers. It’s a great time. And keeping it positive. Pandemic’s a terrible thing, hundreds of thousands of people are being affected. Millions, in fact, impacted (I should say). We just got to get together, make the best of this, and come back strong.
Chris: Absolutely. Provide value. That’s the key to everything.
Meryl: Yeah. Wow. Thank you, Chris. So let’s jump to a section of the show we call Shout Out. This is a segment of our show when we shout out to a small business from a member of the black, indigenous, or person of color community that is nailing their business niche who we think that the people should know about.
This week it is Lambda Vodka out of New York City, started by Charles Hughes and Richard Solomon, a New York-based married couple. They were inspired by Cîroc Vodka—and I did not know this—who targets the urban community with their spirit of vodka. The men decided that they wanted to provide the LGBTQ+ community with their own spirit and target them with it, but also be created by members of the community. And therefore, Lambda vodka was born.
The name is known as a symbol of empowerment and hope stemming from the 1970s activism, born at Stonewall. Speaking directly to their audience with notions of inclusivity, affordability, and acceptance. Quickly going from a brand sold in just a handful of stores in New York City to opening up their own Lambda lounge in Harlem. They are the only brand of vodka to cater directly to all communities. You can follow the guys and their message on Instagram at @drinklambdavodka or at lambdavodka.com.
Mike: Everyone loves vodka.
Chris: Sometimes too much.
Meryl: Let’s throw it at everyone who wants to be a part of inclusivity and acceptance. And yeah, I’ll drink to that. Why not?
Mike: Yeah, let’s have a shot.
Chris: Cheers. It’s Friday.
Meryl: All right. Our last segment of the show. Yes. Happy Friday. We’re going to play Branded. Chris, these are just a few multiple-choice questions about your new industry, to throw some fun numbers into the episode. Unfortunately, you already answered at least one of these. We’re just going to go ahead and go through it anyway. I’ll start with that one. What is the national call before you dig, phone number, which is recommended to call before digging for buried utilities? Is it A) 411, B) 611, or C) 811?
Chris: C, 811, and it’s very important to make sure you call before you dig.
Meryl: You are correct. Oh my God. Some of the things I read. I was like, please call this number. Don’t be a guy who thinks it’s fine to just dig. It’s not. It never is. Number two, we know that construction is a major contributor to the US economy. How many dollars worth of structures are built each year? Is it A) $872 billion, B) $1.3 trillion, or C) $400 trillion?
Chris: I go with B, the lower trillion answer.
Meryl: You are correct. $1.3 trillion worth of structures are built every year. I was like, whoa, that’s expensive. Lastly, every year in the US, there are how many incidents involving hitting underground infrastructures during excavations? Is it A) roughly one or two incidents every day, B) roughly one or two incidents every minute, or C) roughly one or two incidents every hour?
Chris: Stuck between minute and hour. Let’s do the minutes.
Meryl: You are right.
Meryl: How needed is this business?
Mike: Yeah, I didn’t realize just how essential you guys are.
Chris: Yeah. There are too many cowboys with shovels out there going crazy in their yard.
Meryl: There are a lot of them. Oh my God. Put the shovels away, dudes. Call 811.
Chris: It’s very dangerous. Yeah, absolutely. We’ll mark that and make sure you don’t hit anything.
Meryl: Absolutely. With all the technology you’re talking about introducing and the accuracy, that number could realistically change because of what you guys are doing.
Chris: Yeah. Think of, again, to get that stimulus, there’s going to be so much more construction activity because you have to spend this money on projects. That’s just looking at those statistics now, scale that up. It’s important for us to get in there to protect people in job sites. It’s going to be a problem. We need to help people so that we don’t hurt people and cause delays and the rest of it. Which hurts other people and their pocketbook. So all around, we’re here to prevent damage.
Meryl: Yay. Chris, you were so wonderful. Thank you for being here.
Chris: Thank you.
Meryl: Just to wrap up, let’s tell listeners where it is that they can find you or contact you about your services, or even about asking you about any of your wonderful, glorious past information that you blurted all about. Where can the people find you?
Chris: Oh, sure. Well, our website—like I said, is a work in progress—is 2mlocating.com. We have a LinkedIn page and an Instagram page @2mlocating that we’re just starting to get all that going now. And then for me, probably the easiest is just shoot me an email or a call. I’m just [email protected], or we’re at (916) 237-7445.
Meryl: Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for doing what you’re doing. It’s really interesting to learn about.
Chris: I appreciate it.
Meryl: Mike, do you have anything you want to wrap with?
Mike: Thanks, Chris for coming on. I learned a lot from that, and I had no idea how vital 2M Locating is going to be. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you can do. If you’re going to use all that technology, oh my God, that’s going to be a game-changer.
Chris: Thanks, I’m excited. I really appreciate you letting me come on here and be a guest explaining what we do and why it’s so important to everybody.
Meryl: Absolutely. We’re so happy to have you. Thank you for being here. Stay safe out there, and have a wonderful day ahead.
Chris: You guys too. Enjoy the blue skies. See you.
Mike: See you.
Meryl: Thank you so much for listening to MarketPlay this week. I’m your host Meryl Hathaway. We’re brought to you by Two Trees PPC out of Sacramento, California. Always fighting for the small business. If you liked our podcast, don’t forget to subscribe, leave us a review, and share it with your colleagues. Have a safe week out there, and we’ll see you next time.