It can be a lot to handle, but there are also plenty of advantages to running a business on your own.
A lot of pumpers start out as a one-man operation, and many remain one. Growth is great, but sometimes making a good living and being your own boss is the goal, and it’s easy to see why some guys are happy with that.
Here we look at a couple one-man businesses we previously featured in Pumper and discuss the pros and cons of running the show solo.
Learning the ropes
Kyle Getter worked at the business he ended up purchasing for several years before becoming the boss.
PRO: Buying an existing business meant a built-in mentor. The previous owner and his wife helped Getter make the transition into ownership and taught him a lot about running the business. That support and mentorship helped Getter immensely in the first couple years on his own.
CON: Long, busy days. Getter does everything from answering phones to pumping to bookwork.
CON: You’re very dependent on equipment and having a backup truck is very important. What do you do if something happens to your truck? It may be a logistical and financial hardship, at best. Getter understands the importance of having a backup truck. Just a year later, the frame on one of his trucks cracked. Luckily, that was his backup rig and he had another to keep running.
PRO: Keeping things low-key — and saving money in the process. Getter uses GPS on his cellphone to plan his routes.
PRO: Customers like that Getter is the one they talk to on the phone and he’s also the one who pumps their tanks. People like talking to the owner. There’s a level of familiarity and trust that’s hard to beat.
Getting the family involved
Matt Herink’s situation is similar to Kyle Getter’s: He bought an existing business, worked closely with the former owners, and he and his wife handle everything themselves. His goals are always the same: be efficient and minimize costs.
PRO: Herink finds it gratifying to help his customers. “All I know is that it’s just part of my nature to help people. … When they call with a problem, I want to go help them solve that problem,’’ he says.
CON: Missing his sons’ sporting events. Herink’s three boys are involved in sports and his busy pumping schedule means he’s sometimes missing out on things. But adding an employee is also challenging, and so far Herink just does what he needs to do. “People call for help and if you don’t go, you lose the business.” He’s decided to run things as long as he can by himself, but knows eventually he can hire some help.
PRO: Kids can easily get involved. Herink’s three boys all help out. Emphasizing the boys’ involvement is great on many levels. Their pictures are features in the company’s advertising. They like to ride along with Herink and help clean restrooms. The Herinks are requiring the boys to earn a two- or four-year degree first, but hope at least one of them wants to take over the business one day. Watching a living legacy in action would make any parent proud. (Bonus: No grumbles about nepotism when all the employees are family.)
PRO: Setting your own hours is definitely a perk of being self-employed. If you want overtime, you can get it. If you want to take emergency calls or schedule pumpouts on Saturdays, go for it. And if you don’t want to that’s ok too. You may have to pass some work on to a competitor on occasion, but hopefully the reverse happens sometimes too.
CON: Vacations may be nonexistent, especially starting out. Everyone needs a break once in awhile though, and taking a vacation shouldn’t be stressful. Just plan ahead, hope for the best and enjoy your days off. Here’s some advice:
- Depending on the trip, have calls forwarded to your cellphone. If it’s just a weekend away, tell customers you’ll schedule them as soon as you return.
- If you need to unplug, let voicemail take care of things and include the number of a pumper you trust in the outgoing message to hand off any emergency calls. Return the favor.
- If you have holding tanks regularly scheduled or maintenance contracts that need to be upheld, work out an arrangement with another pumper. Trade off handling each other’s work when you’re out of town.
- You may lose a job or two, but established customers won’t fault you for taking a few days off. Work will always be there to come back to.
For more tips, check out this podcast on marketing tips. Rhode Island pumper Larry Torti has a one-man operation that he grew from nothing to success in just a few years and in a very competitive New England market. Here's how he did it.