What Can You Learn From a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner?

Pennsylvania’s Bruce Fox passes along tips from a career of involvement in his state and national wastewater trade associations.
What Can You Learn From a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner?
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Bruce Fox was out in front of the crowd at a National Association of Wastewater Technicians meeting during the WWETT Show accepting the Ralph Macchio Lifetime Achievement Award. But he’d tell you the credit for that high honor from the wastewater industry belonged to his crew back home.

The co-owner of Allstate Septic Systems in Bangor, Pennsylvania, said a web of family and friends who work in the business provided the support necessary to lift him to this lofty spot to share in an honor bestowed to a who’s who of wastewater industry leaders.

But Bruce is good at deflecting credit for a career of hard work and willing involvement in a number of causes that helped raise standards in the pumping community. He has held a variety of the leadership positions at the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association and NAWT, and he continues his involvement today as a NAWT representative to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency MOU consortium.

I’ve seen Bruce on occasion over nearly 15 years and he’s a modest guy, always working in the background to help the industry, and even as president of NAWT was never one to seek the spotlight. His attitude reflects his upbringing in a farm family: It’s all work, plowing ahead and trying to make progress, year after year.


“Over the years somebody from your organization has asked me to do an interview,” he told me when I called about capturing the Macchio award. “We don’t usually toot our own horn around here.” He said the award, received earlier this year, was “totally unexpected and it was never one of my goals. It wasn’t on my bucket list to get this award, and I am truly honored.”

I’d say Bruce is a keen observer and a doer when it comes to developing industry training, promoting professionalism and shepherding initiatives that are important to pumpers. He’s always willing to talk on an issue-oriented topic, but he’s careful not to focus on his personal accomplishments.

However, I thought this award warranted a little reflection over Bruce’s career to date, and so I pried a little. Some background is in order.

In partnership with his brother, Dennis, Bruce has grown Allstate Septic from a one-truck pumping outfit to a company with 40 employees, a dozen vacuum trucks and a diverse menu of services including pumping, onsite system repair and installation, excavation and portable sanitation. Bruce, now 64, is happily surrounded by family at work, including his wife, Sharon, their daughter, Tiffann Myers, and extended family including Annie Kummer, Brittany Kummer, Ty Fox and Eric Kohisian.

“The first year after going into business, I went to the Pumper Show (now the WWETT Show) in Nashville and I didn’t know anybody. We got down there and were like country bumpkins,” Bruce recalls his introduction to the industry 30 years ago. That has changed as he joined the PSMA and helped develop a training program, and then joined NAWT and served as president from 2004 to 2006 and remained active in many projects.

“I’ve just been blessed with making a lot of friends and meeting a lot of people,” he says today. Bruce says joining these organizations has been a great career move, helping him grow a successful business and help so many customers along the way.

“Every minute that I’ve given to the organizations I’ve gotten something back tenfold,” he says. “The knowledge, the friendships, it’s been great for me as a person. The rewards to me and to our business have been fabulous.”


If there’s one piece of advice Bruce would pass on to other pumpers, it’s to urge them to become involved in their state and national wastewater associations. He shared a few examples about how his company has benefitted from these activities over the years:

  • Ramping up a successful inspection program. When his business was new, Bruce received calls from banks for septic system inspections, but there was no established and accepted protocol for these inspections. The PSMA developed a procedure that has helped wastewater companies complete the work more efficiently and with proven standards.
  • Networking with other professionals. Just like Bruce felt like he was on his own when he started, all septic service contractors have the same questions when they start out and constantly come up with new challenges to overcome as the industry evolves. Getting to know so many other business owners has been a godsend. “When people get into business, there is no book that says this is what you do and what you don’t do,” he says, using his state’s home improvement contractor law and confusing Department of Transportation regulations as examples of where networking is helpful. “The DOT doesn’t tell you what you’re supposed to do with your trucks, but let them pull you over and they will tell you. Both (the PSMA and NAWT) have educational materials that will tell you what you should be doing.”
  • Learning ways to educate the public. He connects with septic system users on a regular basis through his business and presentations he gives through the local Cooperative Extension service. “It’s letting Johnny Homeowner know what they have in their backyard and how to take care of it. … I always say to them, ‘I can get you now or later, and if I’m going to get you later, I’m going to get you big. If you abuse (your system) we’ll do a bigger job later.’” The reality check is a valuable service for homeowners in the long run.


Bruce has pulled back a little from the association leadership, but continues to help out with training. And don’t make the mistake of thinking the Lifetime Achievement Award is an indication he’s slowing down at work.

“When they see the same people at the helm all the time, they’ll assume (the associations) are like a clique. I try to discourage those thoughts. Guys who don’t belong are seriously missing out,” he says. And as for retirement: “I don’t see that happening. I enjoy the business and I’ve got a good group of people here.”

I’m glad to hear that Bruce doesn’t want to ride off into the sunset. We need all the good people we can get to keep advancing this industry.


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