The Key to Pumping Success? Make People Happy and Get the Word Out

Dedication to customers and crew members plus an efficient marketing plan keep the work coming to Georgia’s Affordable Septic Service.
The Key to Pumping Success? Make People Happy and Get the Word Out
James Brooks, left, and Todd Davis use a RIDGID K-6200 drum machine during a service call.

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Treat customers so well they’ll become loyal for life. That’s the mantra Allan Leist and James Brooks follow when providing diverse wastewater services for their company, Affordable Septic Service, based in Statham, Georgia.

When a small business concentrates on customer service, steady revenue growth will follow, the duo of experienced pumpers and plumbers advise. And they’re happy to explain how they go about keeping their customers happy.


Located about 50 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, Affordable Septic has a huge pool of potential customers. Atlanta is the nation’s ninth-largest metropolitan area with a population of more than 5 million. Leist and his stepson, Brooks, don’t see why they should limit themselves to only a portion of that space.

“We go everywhere. If a customer calls and needs our help, we’re going to go. We don’t stop to see where he’s located. We just want to help, get the job done, give customers 100 percent satisfaction and let them know we’re there for them,” Brooks says.

Georgia offers plenty of work because of its history and its regular cycles of construction. “We have a lot of old systems in the state. It seems like so many systems are failing,” Leist says.

Most systems they install are conventional. ATUs and more advanced technologies are employed when the soils or local health officials require them. The company is certified for drip systems and ATUs, and technicians acquire every certification they can because it can make the difference between landing a job and not landing a job, Brooks says.

Installation work has been trending upward for Affordable Septic. Several years ago there were four or five systems on the schedule every two months. Now it’s 10 to 30 systems. Leist estimates half of the increase is due to Atlanta sprawl and half is the result of more and better marketing.

The business breakdown is about one-third pumping, one-third system installations and one-third services including plumbing, onsite repairs, installing risers and monitoring ATUs.


Leist says many Georgia residents don’t pay attention to their septic systems because they’re out of sight. Some aren’t even aware they have a septic system. Affordable Septic is working to change that. Its website has a large customer-education section, and technicians stress the importance of maintenance to customers. Regular customers are put on a maintenance schedule. The State of Georgia does not have a mandatory pumping rule, but there is talk of one and local health departments urge people to have systems pumped every three years.

The state does require point-of-sale inspections, and Affordable Septic has been building that end of its business for the last two years. A good deal of service work comes from inspections and system maintenance. When alternative treatment systems came into wider use, the size of required drainfields was greatly reduced, causing problems, Leist says. As a result, systems became overloaded, and Affordable Septic is now being called in to help by adding drainfield capacity or building new systems.

“It was so fast-paced back in the day; a few years ago when construction was booming, people slung that stuff in the ground. A lot of times we see bellies in the pipe; when we dig the pipe up it looks like a banana. Those hasty installations make up a lot of the service work around here,” he says.

The company also does residential and commercial plumbing, and some industrial plumbing. It has a contract to maintain every U.S. Postal Service office in Georgia and all the FedEx stores. Those generate three to five calls a week. About 70 percent of these calls are for simple repairs such as a leaky toilet or a broken faucet. All the equipment is in the truck, and a single technician can handle several jobs in a long day’s drive.

In the past year, construction has been picking up, Brooks says, and that opens other opportunities. He says Leist enjoys “going into a new subdivision, finding the superintendent and talking to him about doing all the plumbing and wastewater work. He’ll give them a price that no one else can beat.”


Brooks, 32, has deep connections to plumbing and wastewater through Leist as well as his biological father, Frank Brooks, who also worked in the industry. Leist and Frank Brooks were best friends, and the elder Brooks died three years ago.

Starting at about age 9, Brooks frequented the shop and started learning plumbing fittings. At 19, he was managing a branch of another plumbing company. His uncles are plumbers, too, and Brooks says he regularly calls them for advice about problems he finds on the job. “I’m never too good to learn stuff. There’s always something you can be up against and not know a lot about.”

That experience and connection naturally led to the formation of Affordable Septic. Leist wanted to cut back on his own business, so he and Brooks formed Affordable in 2012.
Providing such diversified service requires extensive equipment. The list at Affordable Septic includes:

  • 2003 GMC with a 2,000-gallon steel tank and Jurop/Chandler pump, built by Diversified Fabricators in Griffin, Georgia
  • 2001 Peterbilt with a 3,000-gallon steel tank and Jurop/Chandler pump, built by Diversified
  • 2003 and 2005 Ford F-350 pickups
  • 2015 Dodge 4500 pickup
  • 2000 Ford F-250 panel truck with four-wheel drive
  • 2000 Dodge service van for plumbing calls
  • Several Hardeebilt trailers
  • 2004 or 2005 New Holland farm tractor
  • Three RIDGID inspection cameras, one with a 300-foot cable and two with 100-foot cables
  • RIDGID K-6200 drum machine
  • A Cat electric jetter with 300 feet of hose
  • Three Takeuchi excavators, TB016, TB135 and TB250 

There’s a jetter on the Peterbilt vacuum truck, too, but the crew at Affordable made it themselves by mounting a RIDGID pressure washer engine on the truck and using a converter kit to reduce output pressure.


Spreading the word about Affordable Septic is done through low-cost channels. There is word-of-mouth, and the company uses its website extensively. Pages educate customers on how to care for septic systems, discuss common symptoms and causes of a failing system, and allow for scheduling service calls. Another page includes customer testimonials drawn from a phone book website and the company’s Facebook page. Many customers tell Brooks they viewed the website before calling.

Equipment provides another way to advertise. While many companies put a name on their trucks, Leist and Brooks take that idea a step further. Their Takeuchi excavators are in the company colors of red, black and white and feature the company’s phone number. Sometimes equipment goes back to the shop after a day’s work, but often it stays on location, acting as a temporary billboard. People can see a job in progress, see how well it’s being done and see who’s doing it.

Caring for the people around them is another way to keep their business in the public eye. They support the schools near their shop. They provide Christmas presents for disadvantaged children. They donate a Thanksgiving dinner to an area family. They offer discounts for senior citizens, veterans and single mothers.

“If we see a family in need we’re going to help them,” Brooks says. “We can’t say being in business and creating money is our contribution to the community. We have to take care of people.”


While caring for the community helps build a good reputation among customers, care for the company’s staff ensures work is done properly. Affordable Septic offers its employees a 401(k) retirement plan and health insurance. There are bonuses, and that means a bonus over and above overtime pay.

“We always offer something else that is unexpected. My father is a very generous man,” Brooks says of Leist. Recently the transmission went out on the personal car of a driver. Leist had the car towed, fixed and waiting at the shop when the driver was done with his workday.

“The quality of workmanship you get out of that person reflects what you’ll do for that person. The guys who work with us go over and beyond for us because we go over and beyond for them,” Brooks says.

Current workload requires more people than Affordable Septic has on hand. Brooks has plans to change that, but he wants to grow in the right way. That means no debt and a limit on how large the company will be. Keeping the company small and personal is important to Brooks. Eventually he would like six vacuum truck drivers, six plumbers and six people for other jobs.

By 2017, he would like to add three more plumbing vans with a focus on residential service. His plan for this year is to add pumping capacity, but not with another vacuum truck. His purchase will be a tanker that holds at least 5,000 gallons. He will intercept vacuum trucks on their routes and transfer septage into his big tank, then dump at a station while drivers continue with their routes. There is a time advantage to keeping drivers on their routes, but there is also cost. By taking wastewater to one particular station he will pay 7 cents per gallon instead of the 10 to 12 cents common in the area.

“The more people you hire, the more overhead you have and the more money you have to take from customers. All we want is to do a good job for a fair price,” Brooks says.


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