Matt Lovell built a successful homebuilding business one brick at a time
Many highly successful people claim their “overnight” success stories were actually years in the making. Matt Lovell’s story is like that. His successful homebuilding company, MCL Construction, seemed to blossom overnight. But not before he put in decades of hard work.
Lovell got his start in homebuilding seven years ago, finishing the last 17 houses in a subdivision for a banker. “Things just exploded from there. It’s been ‘game on’ ever since. There’s a new automobile plant and other industry in the area, so Athens, Alabama, is just booming. It’s not real expensive to live here, so it’s an attractive place to live. We can’t keep up with everyone who wants a home built. Business has been really good.”
During the 1980s and ’90s, when Athens was experiencing another housing boom, Lovell worked for his grandfather and father, both bricklayers. During summers in high school and college, Lovell would lay brick from six or seven in the morning until five in the afternoon. “That really provided me with the foundation to work really hard.”
Life wasn’t all work and no play. “My grandfather had a 150-acre farm, which was fantastic for hunting, fishing, and all kinds of recreation. I loved growing up here. My childhood was great.”
Lovell started his own bricklaying business when he was 25, working for a contractor who did 40 to 60 houses a year. He developed such a good reputation that, even during the downturn of 2008, he stayed constantly busy.
As his bricklaying business took off, Lovell began acquiring compact machines to dig footings and do other underground work. He built a home for himself, then built and sold another, and a new business was born. “I’d been around homebuilders a lot and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
MCL Construction builds all custom homes, ranging from 1,200 to 4,200 square feet. Lovell buys lots from developers. All of the homes have buyers — the company doesn’t build spec homes. “I’m really proud of our ability to set and meet budgets. We do a really good job of that — a lot of homes come in under budget. That’s really helped ensure a steady flow of customers.”
John Deere compact equipment has helped keep costs down. The company runs a 35G Compact Excavator and a 325G Compact Track Loader (CTL). “John Deere machines have been absolute lifesavers. It’s hard to imagine not having the equipment on a jobsite. I can get things done without having to call someone else to do it. I can jump on these machines and get jobs done when I need them done. That has been very important to keeping everything on schedule and for the success of MCL Construction.”
The 35G is used to dig all footings and underground utilities, while the 325G CTL can handle a wide variety of tasks. “The 325G has tons of power, and with the tracks, it’s friendly on yards. We can haul out dirt, bring in gravel, dig trenches, cut grass, and remove brush — there are so many things you can do with this machine. It is extremely versatile.”
Lovell is still very much the hands-on guy. Even with chasing down and bidding new work or supervising his crew, he finds time to jump on a machine. And he’s a very capable operator. “Deere machines are easy and comfortable to run. And I don’t think we’ve ever had one in the shop. They start when you want them to, and they always perform. They get the job done, and that’s what we demand.”
Lovell got his first John Deere machine five years ago from his local Deere dealer, TriGreen Equipment. “I had a competitor’s machine at the time. I did about two jobs with that machine, and I knew immediately it just wouldn’t cut it. I needed a machine that could work in tight quarters around a house, and it didn’t respond like I needed it to. My dealer contact at TriGreen, Doug Swaim, really stepped up and got us a 325G CTL. It’s a fabulous machine. It performed exactly the way I wanted it to and saved the day for us.”
TriGreen has saved the day on more than one occasion, according to Lovell. “They’ve been fantastic. Whatever I need, I make one call and they get it done. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. TriGreen has been really important to all of the contractors in the area that use John Deere equipment.”
Lovell can be proud of his “overnight” success. “We’ve built this company from the ground up, brick by brick. It takes a lot of work when you start at the bottom. But through hard work and being honest with the customer and dependable, I believed we could really achieve something. And there’s plenty of work yet to do. I feel lucky to live in such a great community.”