And Sister Makes Four

With Stacey Scott climbing into the cab of a vacuum truck, this Massachusetts family quartet is poised to build on 45 years of pumping success

When Dotti Scott schedules a septic service appointment for Scott Septic Inc. of Hopkinton, Mass., she’ll tell the customer to expect “my husband, my son or my daughter.”

That’s right. Her daughter, Stacey, 24, drives a vacuum rig and services septic systems. So does son, Robbie, 27, and husband, Rob, 57.

“I hear from customers all the time who are pleasantly surprised that a family member is handling their service call,” says Dotti, 55, who manages the Scott Septic office.

The two Scott kids literally grew up in the family business. Robbie recalls tagging along with his dad as a youngster and falling asleep in the truck cab while his dad serviced residential and small commercial septic systems. At age 11, Robbie earned money to buy a bicycle by helping his dad with pumping jobs — a job he continued through high school. He joined the business full time after graduating from high school in 2001.

Like Robbie, Stacey also started riding along with her dad at a young age. But she didn’t consider going to work at the family business until her 2004 high school graduation. “I’ve been around the trucks since I was little,” she says. “When I graduated from high school, I had no idea of what I might do. Dad asked me if I’d like to learn the business, I thought, ‘Why not?’”


The Scotts joke that nobody has a title (although technically, Rob Scott is president of the small company) but there’s nothing funny about rising fuel costs, stiff price competition and a challenging economy.

Robbie says that a $15 surcharge was added to pump-outs in 2009 to help offset diesel fuel prices that had soared above $3 per gallon. “We lost some business because of that, but we had to do something to try and recapture that cost,” he says.

The surcharge was dropped after diesel fuel fell back below $3. There are no plans to reinstate it even as Robbie watched prices creep back up in recent months. “I just don’t think we can reinstate the surcharge because we had so many complaints about it. We have faith that we’ll be able to make it,” he says.

Careful scheduling of septic jobs has helped to reduce miles put on the company’s two service trucks. Robbie says that because 10 towns in their service territory are served by four sewage disposal facilities, work is often scheduled to keep disposal runs at no more than 5 to 10 miles.

Meanwhile, Scott Septic has improved efficiencies by having a third-party waste hauler handle septage collected from customers in a dozen towns that don’t have access to a central treatment facility. Instead of making frequent trips to a treatment plant, Scott’s service trucks empty their loads into the hauler’s 10,000-gallon tanker.

“It pretty much levels out to pay a third-party hauler as to haul it yourself. The hauler has negotiated a bulk rate, which is much better than what we could do,” Robbie says.

Robbie also is concerned about installers who compete solely on price. He notes that because of the economic downturn, some contractors — who may have previously worked in the excavation or landscaping industries — have added septic system installation to their service mix.

“Specialized septic people are getting pushed to compete on price,” he says. “We keep running into people who have a state license but aren’t experienced installers.”

The economic downturn also has had an impact on the company’s service volume. Robbie says that the company has recently been handling five to six service calls daily, down from the typical six to eight.

On the other hand, Scott Septic has benefited from a state law that requires real estate transfer inspections for septic systems. Both Rob and Robbie are state-licensed inspectors. Stacey plans to take the necessary coursework and exam for the license.


The tight-knit family operates an efficient, third-generation business by jumping in, when and where needed, to serve customers. That is how the elder Scott learned from his father, Donald, 80, who launched the business in the mid-1960s after working for the sewer department in the city of Natick, Mass.

When Donald Scott retired in 1981, Rob and Dotti took over. Rob drove the truck on service calls and Dotti handled scheduling and billing. “For the longest time, it was just me. I had to work daylight to dusk pumping tanks and doing inspections,” he says.

The dawn-to-dusk model continues today with a few more Scotts in the field. Dotti still manages the office. Rob and Stacey generally make service calls starting in the morning and then join Robbie for septic system installation projects the rest of the day.

Dotti, who grew up in her family’s restaurant business, can’t imagine it any other way. “Being in a family business is really all I know. I learned long ago that you’re the last to get paid,” she says. “But I also know that the benefits of having your own business far outweigh the disadvantages.”

Among the benefits is a dynamic energy that each family member brings to the business. “We have some pretty interesting discussions around the dinner table, Dotti says. “Overall, we have a great rapport.”

Rob and Dotti are clearly pleased that both children chose to take the family business to a third generation.

“I just couldn’t be any prouder. They’re both good, down-to-earth kids,” Rob says. “I wasn’t a bit surprised that they wanted to follow us into the business. They’ve literally been around it all the time.”


Scott Septic runs a 1995 Freightliner FL80. Built out by Andert Inc., it has a Masport pump and a 4,000-gallon steel tank. The company’s other service vehicle is a 1989 Western Star Tri-Axle 4900. It was built out by Shorey Manufacturing with a Masport pump and a 5,000-gallon steel tank.

Other equipment includes a 2005 Peterbilt 357 10-wheel dump truck, a 1976 Mack R487 six-wheel dump truck, a 1994 Kenworth T800 tractor, a 2003 Cat 311CU excavator, a 2006 Cat 430E IT backhoe, a 2007 Cat 303C CR mini excavator, a 2003 JCB 190T track skid-steer and a 1983 Cat 930 wheel loader. The company also uses a RIDGID SeeSnake.


After 45 years in the same, compact service territory, Scott Septic has built a strong word-of-mouth reputation. “We’re serving septics that were installed back when the company started. That just shows the systems will last if they’re properly maintained,” Robbie says.

Although the company has served many of the same customers for decades, Stacey and Robbie recognize the need to broaden their customer base for the future. As time allows, Stacey wants to upgrade Scott Septic’s current static website to include more interactive features. Robbie already posts advertising signs at every septic system installation site and makes a point of networking with customers and neighbors whenever he’s on a job.

In addition, Scott Septic is adopting an idea that has helped others in the industry ensure a steady cash flow. This summer, Dotti will mail cards to remind past customers to schedule septic system maintenance.

Although Rob Scott says he hasn’t made retirement plans, he welcomes the opportunity to take an occasional day off to fish for striped bass in Cape Cod Bay. And he and Dotti look ahead at the possibility of a fourth generation of Scotts to run the family business. Robbie and his wife, Melissa, just had their first child.

The long days that accompany running a family business are expected. “It just never ends and that’s what makes it work,” Dotti says. “You’re tired but it’s a good tired.”


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