If James Starbuck had decided to keep on the straight and narrow, he wouldn’t be where he is today…
James, a third-generation earthmover, decided at age 19 to strike out on his own, buying a 2.5 tonne excavator and starting his own business.
Today, his companies Starbuck Excavation and Starbuck Plant Hire are a huge success, sending up to 100 workers on to sites on a good day… and he’s got one of the excavator world’s most popular social media accounts to boot.
And all because he didn’t want to just dig trenches.
“Dad was mainly doing underground electrical work,” James explains.
“Long, narrow holes weren’t my style, so I struck out on my own.”
His grandfather started an excavation business in the 1950s that, by the 1970s, could be sending up to 400 workers out on to sites a day. It wound up in the 1980s and his father “just kept doing what he was doing”.
“The name Starbuck is well known for excavation in the Melbourne region, that’s for certain,” James says.
Literally growing the business from the ground up, 12 years later he’s running a business that can handle anything.
“I like helping people out. If you need a hole dug in your backyard for a pool, I can handle that, or if you need diesel tanks removed, I know the bloke to do it… right through to huge infrastructure projects, such as work for the railways,” James says.
James is an early adopter of technology, which he sees, in part at least, generational.
“I’m only 31 – I say I am part of the PlayStation generation,” he laughs.
“Not only do I understand what technology can do, I expect it to do it.”
“There’s no exception for excavation and earth moving. Things are improving and changing rapidly, and I reckon if you don’t keep up you won’t get the work.
“The reality is that labour costs are going up while skill levels are going down. The use of technology, such as 3D machine control, means you can subsidise that skill level. With it, you can make an average operator an excellent operator.”
Safety and savings are the key advantages, James says.
“Using Earthworks, for example, means we don’t need spotters and string lines. Straight away, that’s safer and its saving money with less workers on the ground,” he says.
“And the margin for error is hugely reduced so there’s rarely any redoing of work. I truly believe we are at the stage where if you are not using the tech, you won’t get the contracts.
“More and more clients are demanding it because they know it makes the workplace safer and that their plans will be carried out exactly to spec because the systems talk to each other.”
James said SITECH Construction Systems had been crucial to his business’ growth.
“The team are absolutely phenomenal,” he says.
“I doubt I’d be where I am now without them.”
And as for that social media stardom?
“I started my own Instagram account five years ago. I just posted pictures of me working on diggers – that’s what I do, I don’t have any hobbies – and its just grown and grown,” James says.
That is has. His Instagram account starbuckexcavations now has more than 18,000 followers, making it the top earthmoving account in Australia for a private company - and top 10 globally.
“I post pretty much daily and it’s all earthmoving, it’s what the people who follow it want to see,” James says.
“I take the time to reply to comments and questions, and I reckon people appreciate that too. It is definitely worth the effort – we get a lot of work via the Insta account – a lot of work – plus I’ve had a few trips thanks to it, including to Japan with Kobelco to see their factories.”
It’s all not too shabby for a bloke who just 12 years ago decided he wanted to chart his own course…
SITECH Construction Systems is now on Instagram – find us here: instagram.com/sitech_cs/