Tom Gardocki—also known as the “Dirt Ninja”—has more than 300,000 followers of his YouTube channel, Instagram account, and Facebook page, with fans following him executing earthwork projects from start to finish. His three-year-old company’s success is attributable in part to his savvy social media skills he started leveraging for his work in 2010. Gardocki and his business partner Craig Hammel own New Era Excavation in Londonderry, NH, providing earthwork services mostly to the residential sector in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. In 2012, Gardocki appeared on the Discovery Channel’s “Machines of Glory” construction equipment operating competition during which his team won. His YouTube posts feature job time lapses, enabling viewers to follow a job from start to completion in less than five minutes. “It’s a great way to show the customers we know what we’re doing before they even pick up the phone to call us,” says Gardocki.
Gardocki teaches classes on social media primarily for the landscaping industry at Hardscape North America exposition as well as locales in the Midwest and on the East Coast. “Social media is here to stay,” he says. “If you’re not using it, you’re missing out.” Gardocki says although YouTube has reaped the greatest benefits, it takes time to produce the videos, which have to stand out in a platform saturated with videos, users, and channels. “But if you can break through and gain a good following, it’s a tremendous asset,” he adds. He uses Instagram mostly to connect with other contractors worldwide. “We post reviews of equipment, tools, and machines we’re using on our job sites,” says Gardocki, adding that that’s how he learned of engcon attachments and bought one upon the recommendation of European contractors. Gardocki’s fleet includes a Caterpillar 926M wheel loader, a John Deere 200 excavator, and a Caterpillar 316F excavator. He likes the engcon attachment for its versatility in hosting other attachments. Gardocki has a website—thedirtninja.com—dedicated to selling caps, coffee mugs, and shirts with his logo to his fans domestically and worldwide. Gardocki also credits his company’s success to solid relationships with clients and equipment dealers as well as community involvement. He volunteers for homebuilders’ association events and participates in construction career days. “We get one of our local dealers to donate equipment and we let the kids run a mini excavator,” he says, adding, “It’s a big hit.”
What He Does Day to Day
Gardocki starts work at 7 a.m., operating the equipment as Hammel does ground work. The rest of the day entails meetings with builders and customers and estimating and billing paperwork.
What Led Him to This Line of Work
“I’ve been on heavy equipment since I was four,” says Gardocki. “When my dad would get home from work [his parents operate Interstate Landscape in New Hampshire], I’d get out into the yard and help him unload trucks at the end of the day.” Gardocki earned Associate’s degrees in construction management and business management from the University of New Hampshire.
What He Likes Best About His Work
“I love doing this work. My passion is running equipment. I love being outside every day,” says Gardocki. “As much as sometimes dealing with customers can be a pain, it’s a nice feeling making them happy and completing a project on time or on budget. It’s cool to see a house go from an empty lot to a full house and looking really nice or on the landscaping side taking somebody’s ugly old yard and turning it into a nice place they can enjoy for years to come.”
His Greatest Challenge
“There’s a major labor shortage across the United States, but definitely in New Hampshire,” says Gardocki. He wants to keep his company small in terms of employee numbers and instead invest in technology that creates efficiencies. “We’re investing in tools and machines that eliminate labor,” he says, referencing attachments such as engcon. “I’d rather invest in an attachment that shows up every day for work, is never late, and is versatile.” Trimble 2D grade control systems also fill in the labor gap and provide more safety measures, Gardocki adds. “You don’t ever have to get out of the machine to check grade,” he says.