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Rathjen’s Landscaping Inc. Clinton Corners, NY

Unlike many businessmen, Ben Rathjen loves to bring his work home with him. Three years ago, when the landscape company owner bought his first engcon — an EC206 (pre EC-Oil) on a CAT 305.5 — the first thing did with it was to clear his own property.

“I had a lot of time running it…which was really good practice,” Rathjen said. “If you’re in the machine every day, after about one or two weeks you’re not thinking about what you’re doing. It’s just muscle memory, and then… it just becomes perfecting it and realizing all the other things you never thought you could do, like reaching around trees to get to something.”

When Rathjen has a lull in his schedule (which isn’t often these days), he doesn’t rest, or do paperwork for his company, Rathjen’s Landscaping Inc. in Clinton Corners, NY. Instead, he does a project on his own property.

On a recent chilly day, Rathjen happened to be working at home, where there’s now a house, plantings and landscaping, a 1,600-square-foot workshop, and the beginnings of a fieldstone wall where there used to be a wooded lot. He was using his engcon, (he’s traded-up to an EC-206 with EC-Oil) to prepare the 120-foot long footing for the wall through a line of trees.

“Normally I do work for clients and then…I don’t get to enjoy the work,” he said. “But when it’s at my house, I get to see it and enjoy it every day.”

Rathjen has been working since 2010, when as a high school student he started a part-time lawn maintenance business. He was always busy, and by 2016 he’d incorporated, hired additional workers, and in 2019 invested in his first engcon. His business has grown ever since.

The 30-year-old has an easy smile, and moves quickly around the job site and into the cab of his CAT. His interest in engcon was sparked by watching others in the business.

“I’m on social media a lot, and seeing how other guys used [tiltrotators] I was like, ‘I gotta have that.’ It was the first excavator I purchased and a lot of people thought I was crazy for getting an engcon right away.”

But Rathjen has a young man’s enthusiasm and optimism. Although the initial expense and learning a new machine was a little daunting at first, he had the help of engcon representatives who helped him set up the EC206 on his new excavator. He remembers that after a few hours, his reaction was just, “Oh wow!”

A traditional set-up on an excavator requires the operator to move the machine around, but with the engcon, he loves “… being able to sit in one spot doing whatever you have to do.”

“That first machine really transformed my business,” Rathjen said during a talk in his home office. “I was able to do larger jobs in less time with fewer employees.”

For the cost of one employee for basic tasks for a year, Rathjen said, he was able to purchase his engcon. “…and you have the engcon every day — it doesn’t call-in sick, it doesn’t hurt its back…and you’re going to have this machine that you paid for in one year….and you’re going have it for maybe six or even 10 years.”

Rathjen is building on his success

“I just bought an EC204 for a Cat 304 next generation excavator that I purchased,” he said. “The efficiency of having one is awesome, but now being able to have two machines and two encgons on one job, or one on each (of two) jobs… it’s going to be a huge boost in production in the amount of work we can do.”

“The main focus of our work is heartscaping…that’s bluestone patios, fieldstone walls, boulder walls, and we wouldn’t be building boulder walls if I didn’t have the engcon, because it wouldn’t make sense to do that kind of work if we couldn’t do it efficiently,” he explained.

Rathjen described a particularly difficult job, building a boulder retaining wall behind a house.

“…it was very tight quarters and there was a section I couldn’t even get the machine into. The amount of over-excavation that would have been required with a tradition excavator would have been significant,” he said. It was managed because he was able to position the CAT from aove, above, at an angle that would have never worked with a traditional bucket and thumb, but the engcon made it possible.

“To be able to set those boulders at such a difficult angle quickly and efficiently…that was one of the first jobs where I thought ‘I could never have done this with this (the engcon)’,” he said.

While he still has a crew doing the general landscaping that gave him his start, Rathjen is looking to expand further, into designing and building water features…starting with one on his own property, maybe a Koi pond.

“A lot of companies dig them by hand,” he said. “Five or six guys digging for five or six hours. I could probably do that in an hour and a half with an engcon.”

Rathjen’s philosophy for success is to keep growing. ”In my mind, if your foot’s not on the gas pedal, you’re basically preparing to fail. And if you’re not embracing new technology and looking to expand, [then] your business” won’t grow. There’s little repeat business, he said, noting that after he puts in a patio or builds a wall, those customers might never need a new project done. “{So], you have to constantly be bringing in new clients….and show them that you’re able to do things that other contractors aren’t able to do.”

That is why Rathjen features engcon equipment in his business videos, and advertises in local magazines, and posts on Facebook and Instagram. He also says that potential customers want to be a part of something different and cutting edge, so caring enough to have the latest and best tools and equipment shows how a company cares about what their customers want.

“I’m actually surprised by the number of clients who have reached out to me and said, ‘Ohhh, I love your videos on the equipment and what you can do with it. That’s so cool that it spins and it’s got that little grab thing on the back (the tiltrotator). That’s awesome! ”

Awesome yes, Rathjen said, but also “It’s simple, it’s safe… it’s really just a great set-up.” And that applies whether he’s working on someone’s summer home, or in his own backyard.

« I was able to do larger jobs in less time with fewer employees. »

Ben Rathjen
Rathjen's Landscaping Inc

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