PAW Demolition is a full-service professional demolition company providing commercial, industrial and residential demolition services in central Florida. The family-owned company employs 80+ people, works on high-profile, million-dollar projects and owns 35 pieces of Cat® equipment. Of course, it hasn’t always been that way.
President Rick Wohlfiel explains, “When I was 18 years old, my dad asked me to move to Florida, give him two years of my life and help him start a trucking business. So, we began with a plan and one dump truck, and by the time two years were up, I was already in love with the business.”
The early days weren’t easy ones, however.
“My entire family including my mother, brother, sister and brother-in-law, and a close family friend, joined the effort early on. We poured our hearts and souls into building the foundation that still sustains PAW companies today,” Rick says. “The early days required a good deal of sacrifice on the part of everyone with very little reward.”
And the sacrifices paid off. Over the next few years, the family continued to nurture the business based on strong work ethics, professionalism, and a desire to help customers succeed. Eventually, they had a 40-truck fleet and worked with about 100 owner/operators – a pretty good-sized trucking company that offered truck repair services in the Tampa Bay region.
But they sensed there could be more.
“We started looking at the margins in the trucking industry and became frustrated with what we could make. We knew what we paid for the materials we were trucking and knew how much we sold the materials for. Buying it from A and selling it to B. It’s easy math – that margin should have fallen straight to the bottom line. But it didn’t. So, we knew there was a leak in profitability, and we realized it was in the trucks themselves. Trucks are necessary, but the money wasn’t in trucking – it was in the materials.”
Bolstered by this discovery, the family wanted to steer the company into equipment, but couldn’t do site work that would compete with customers. Through the years, they began handling materials, worked their way into the recycling business, and ultimately began residential and then commercial demolition
Along the way, the truck repair business grew into a premiere heavy-duty truck and RV service and repair division called Fleet Tech. Today, Fleet Tech services PAW trucks and equipment, but 80-90 percent of their business is from outside clients, providing both parts and service.
“Once we had invested in a crusher, we needed to feed it. This caused the demolition business to turn into a monster of its own,” Rick continues. “We didn’t necessarily set out to grow, but once we’d invested in the crusher, we knew we had to feed the monster. If you don’t feed the monster, it will eat your furniture – meaning you’ll go bankrupt. So, our mindset was always, ‘How do we feed the monster?’ This mindset led to us entering into the demolition business, which made it easier to find materials. Because we are the people doing the wrecking, we can control raw materials from our own jobs and use them to keep our recycling yards and trucking company going.”
It’s an entrepreneurial spirit that has served the PAW company well. Each of the four divisions – demolition, materials, trucking, and fleet service and repair – can be an entry point for customers, and the businesses are designed to feed each other.
Rick explains, “We want everything we do to have synergistic value within our scope, and we tool ourselves accordingly. Then once you’ve purchased a tool, you begin looking for other work for it.”
It’s a solid philosophy on which the company’s machine fleet has been built as well.
“We’ve got some nearly zero-swing low radius 320s because we do a fair amount of work on bridges with heavy traffic nearby. If you have a hydraulic hammer up on a bridge, you don’t want the counterweight to be out in the open lane. So, it requires us to have the kind of tools you can use on the shoulder of a highway, but then it’s not stuck doing ONLY that kind of work. It can feed a screen, feed a crusher, bail material, loadout stuff. When I buy a tool, I make sure it can do steel, concrete and trees – because those are the things we handle. It’s always about diversity.”
When asked why the company chooses Cat® equipment, Rick replies, “The biggest reason is dependability. You simply turn the key, and it keeps running. And this is where the story gets good.”
Rick explains that in the early days, the company experienced financial difficulties and they didn’t always have the funds to service and maintain the equipment as recommended. But the machines held up and even maintained strong resale value.
“I guess you could say the equipment was good to us when we were not always as good to it. And our Cat dealer Ring Power was always good to us when we did service it. Plus, they were local, so everything was right there, which meant little or no downtime. Their serviceability is huge – and they still back that up today.”
Another reason to choose Cat? Rick pauses for a moment.
“When we experienced difficult times, the dealer was there for us. They gave us time to get caught up. They believed in us and stood by us. That means a lot to me even now.”
What started as a one-truck, family business in 1983 is now setting the bar for professionalism in the entire demolition industry. Listening to customers and providing solutions while maintaining high work standards and integrity has been key to their success.
Rick insists that it’s not really complicated, “I hold on to what my dad taught me: Use a calculator, trust the numbers, have a great work ethic, and have fun doing it. That’s worked well for us as a cultural foundation. We have an attitude of excellence and strive to do next-level work. We’re always innovating – always looking for ways to serve our customers even better.”
PAW Demolition was recently featured on World’s Greatest Television, a national television series featuring amazing companies and organizations behind products people use every day.
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