An eye on costs equals success for Willson Sand and Gravel

willson sand and gravel

While 2020 has been a less than stellar year for many businesses, Willson Sand and Gravel is recording record sales. 

The Cambridge, Ontario-based company dates back to 1947, when Murvyn Willson started Paris Construction. In 1975, his son Bob bought Paris Construction and a few years later purchased Lakeview Sand and Gravel.

Today, Murvyn’s grandson Matthew Willson is the owner of the company, which has mainly morphed into aggregate producing as well as recycling. 

Matthew recently changed the company name to Willson Sand & Gravel, and operates 100 acres of licensed land on a 300-acre site. 

This year, their tonnage is up and profits are following suit. 

“In all our years, I never ever thought we would have as good a year as what we’re having now. In a world pandemic, I have never seen it more profitable,” Matthew Willson said. “We can’t complain, we just have to be grateful.”

Willson’s sales this year are not due to a lack of competition. The area is home to more than 30 licensed quarries. 

“There is not the demand for the supply,” he said. “You have to be here watching costs. We’re much more passionate about cost savings than profits.” 

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For Willson, keeping a dedicated focus on costs is key to ensuring the business is profitable.

“We analyze out costs all day. Not every day, all day. Costs are inevitably the profit,” he said. “We’re not huge risk takers, we slowly get ahead each year. We run our equipment sensibly.” 

Willson Sand and Gravel also caters to a variety of customers from large municipalities to small contractors.  

“We can usually work well with the smaller contractors. We’re still like a smaller contractor, so we get it,” Willson said.

The Willson Fleet

wheel loader

All crushing work at Willson Sand and Gravel is currently hired out. However, with the growing demand for aggregate, Willson predicts they will soon purchase their first crusher. 

“It’s just if I want to buy a recycling crusher or a virgin gravel crusher. I’m leaning more to crushing our virgin ourselves,” he said. 

Generally, when it comes time to expand their fleet, Willson will opt to buy new equipment over a used machine.

“We will go used if the timing is right,” he said.  

At the quarry, Willson runs a mixed-fleet including four loaders, a mid-sized dozer, mid-sized excavator, three screening plants and four stackers, as well as an old dump truck, a skid steer, backhoe and rock truck. His favourite machines to operate are the company’s Doosan 420 loader and their Dresser dozer. 

“It’s Heinz 57. I’d love to get affiliated with one suppler, but it never works out,” he said. 

“That’s the way it’s always been. We say, ‘they’re all nice when they’re new’.”

This article has been updated from a previous version