The underlying resilience that drives BossHogg Industries’ demolition dominion
John W. Kahl’s introduction to construction, and specifically demolition, was more by chance than on purpose.
A military veteran with two tours of active duty and experience with multiple emergency response efforts, he was searching for a career in the civilian world. He found himself in Petersburg, Virginia, at the age of 23 taking on odd jobs to make ends meet—then a coincidental meeting with a man on the side of the road changed his life.
“It was the craziest thing,” John recalls. “I’m helping a guy change a tire and he starts talking about preservation work, where a company is paid to maintain a foreclosed property until it’s sold. It sounded interesting, so he gave me three contacts to get my foot in the door.”
Of those three contacts, only one responded. Soon after, John got his first job caring for a property in Petersburg and, in 2016, he founded BossHogg Industries.
That first job was the preface to a profession John had never considered and the evolution of one of the fastest-growing, hardest working commercial demolition, site development and excavation businesses in Virginia’s Richmond area.
The Low Point
Throughout 2017, John gradually built his company’s reputation for quality work, mostly doing jobs by himself. Home preservation is often more focused on landscaping, though interior property management is also required—including blowing out pipes, nonstructural repairs and cleanup. John performed enough jobs to buy some basic equipment, such as a commercial mower, yard maintenance tools and air compressors.
Then he decided to take on a larger project that he admittedly says was too big for a one-man show. It required the cleanup of the inside of a house as well as the surrounding two acres of property.
“The yard alone was covered with tires, shelving from retail stores, oil tanks, miscellaneous car parts, furniture, clothes, lots and lots of municipal solid waste (MSW), dilapidated outbuildings, etc.,” John says. “It took me a month to complete that job, but I would net about $12,000.”
Unfortunately, the company that hired him reneged on payment. “That was the lowest point of my life at the end of 2017. I put everything I had into that job,” he says.
After the fallout with that company, he started walking door to door putting flyers up and handing out business cards, offering to do yard work or cleanup, anything that would pay the bills, when another chance encounter would introduce him to selective demolition.
The Demo Derivative
While attending a local networking event for real estate investors and people who flip houses, John met a contractor who asked if he could gut kitchens and bathrooms.
With the confidence of youth, he told him, “Of course I can do that.” Over the next few months, John demoed parts of six different houses. He says, “I made $2,000, which seemed like a fortune at that time—and I was hooked. This was a job that required some skill and opened up doors for growth. I loved it and decided that demolition is all I want to do.”
John would meet more contractors at other networking events, building his brand and his job backlog. While projects at the time were typically small—usually 1,500- to 2,500-square-foot homes—he was honing his craft, learning how to remove materials with care and leave behind ready-to-build spaces. He was also expanding his capabilities.
As an example, John says, “In those early days, I had never heard of things like asbestos abatement and lead removal. But, when one of our customers mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to start on a job until a specialist came in to remove the contaminated materials, I learned quick. I didn’t want them going to someone else for demolition services.”
John received his certifications for asbestos removal and lead abatement from the state of Virginia within a few months. He also invested in equipment including an excavator, dump trailers and skid steers, and moved to a 5,500-square-foot warehouse with office space by the summer of 2018—all with an eye on larger commercial demolition services.
“Demolition is so much more than just removing material. It takes some care and experience to understand how best to remove materials safely.” John W. Kahl, Founder and Owner, BossHogg Industries
Entering the commercial demolition market required a different network, specifically commercial general contractors and developers.
Enter Scott Keeven, Franchise Owner for The Blue Book Building & Construction Network® (The Blue Book Network)—Virginia region. John says, “He helped me take that one large step to the commercial side with not just opportunities but also the tools to help build the business.”
John utilized BidScope® and Vu360® tools to bid on and estimate jobs, and then, through networking connections, began taking on selective and complete demolition projects that ranged from restaurant and retail to hospitality and health care. His company also added more services, including concrete cutting and breaking.
“That was a pretty common scope of work with selective demo, so I wanted to learn everything about it and my trade, as well as get my foot in the door with big-time contractors,” he says. “We had the tools and the desire, so we expanded our knowledge base.”
One of the company’s recent projects involved the demolition of a 48,000-square-foot office building in Richmond, in preparation for its renovation into the 87-room Moxy Hotel run by hotel operator Shamin Hotels. Working for North South Construction, Inc., BossHogg Industries removed ceilings, walls and some flooring, as well as the roof. The crew also had to remove materials containing lead and asbestos throughout the structure.
“That’s one of the most challenging jobs we’ve done to date, between the roof removal on top of an elevator and the scope of materials inside the building,” John says.
Another difficult job was the demolition of a steel plant in Petersburg. Working with M.L. Bell Construction, BossHogg Industries demolished the 6,000-square-foot space in record time. “We had two weeks to complete this selective demo project, which included concrete cutting and breaking as well as floor grinding,” he says.
Today, the company takes on selective demo, complete building teardowns, asbestos and lead abatement and some new construction like driveways and sitework. John and his crew are also skilled at concrete saw cutting and digging footings for buildings.
John attributes his expansion into the commercial market over the last two years to Scott. “If I hadn’t met him, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” John confirms. “About 50 percent of our income is on commercial work—work that we wouldn’t have without The Blue Book Network.”
The expansion on the commercial side has also allowed John to build a trusted team.
His team includes Project Manager Amber Parrish, who takes care of estimates and has been with John since March 2020, and Site Foreman Joseph Boothe, a recent hire, along with several equipment operators.
John says, “I’ve learned so much in the last five years. Demolition is so much more than just removing material. It takes some care and experience to understand how best to remove materials safely. I’m very proud to be a part of this industry.”
It’s that love of the business that keeps John continuously challenged and excited about the next opportunity. “There’s a lot of lessons learned and best practices that come out of every job; ways to do things better, safer and faster,” he adds.
He’s also continued to learn about codes, permits, utility markings and environmental reports. In addition to his asbestos and lead abatement licenses, he obtained his Virginia highway/heavy Class A contractor license in 2019—further demonstrating his commitment to the industry and growing knowledge base.
Looking forward, John says he will likely always strive to maintain a balance of residential and commercial contracts. He concludes, “I love this profession. It’s skilled work that continues to challenge my mind and my skills. I never want to be in a position that I don’t have a backlog of work and no prospects—it’s a goal that we are willing to work hard to achieve.”
That perseverance and work ethic are a core part of the company culture—and especially its owner.