Give Me a Vintage Truck and Hardworking Employees

Rob Ratta enjoys running older rigs for installing and pumping work, and thinks recruiting good workers is the biggest challenging facing the wastewater industry.
Give Me a Vintage Truck and Hardworking Employees
The office staff includes, from left, Mary Trainor, Jen Ratta, Lynne Bourque and Mark McKenna.

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Name: Rob Ratta, owner
Business: R.M. Ratta Corp.
Location: Ayer, Massachusetts
Age: 45
Years in the industry: Ratta Corp. is a third-generation family business operating for over 60 years.

Association involvement: I’m new to YOWA (Yankee Onsite Wastewater Association) but over the years our family has belonged to this association as well as others.

Benefits of belonging to the association: It gives us an opportunity to see how other small businesses are adapting to the changing market, and a chance to share information. It also keeps us informed about the ever-changing technology that is key to our performance.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: Finding help. Let’s face it, being a pump truck operator can be a physically demanding job and it’s tough filling those spots with quality help. We try to set the bar high for the level of service.

Our crew includes:

Technicians

  • My cousin, Fred Ehwa, is my right hand. He has been running with the pumping business for the last couple of years and is doing an amazing job.
  • Scott Goodman has been with our family for 20 years, pumping and doing inspections. Customers ask for him by name. You won’t find a better service provider out there than Scott.
  • My brother-in-law, Matt Robinson, has been here almost as long as Scott. He’s our lead Title 5 inspector, and with the market as good as it’s been lately he’s always in the field.
  • T.J. MacGregor is one of our “newbies,” with a year under his belt. Already he’s made his mark as a crucial part of the team. He’ll be running his own construction crew before we know it.
  • My cousin, Nick Ratta, has recently come back to the family business and we couldn’t be happier. His flexibility and attitude are one of a kind. He may start the day in a pump truck, take the 10-wheeler to deliver some material, and finish up the day helping with a system repair or installation, all with a smile and ready to do it again the next day.
  • Jon Olden came to us when we purchased the portable toilet division of a company a few years back. He has the highest attention to detail and demand for perfection with every portable unit that is in service. Like Scott, customers ask for him by name.

Office

  • Our office team is a close-knit group. My wife, Jen Ratta, keeps us on track and has assembled a team I could not be more proud of.
  • Mark McKenna has been with us the longest and handles all our commercial accounts. He is tenacious in growing that side of the business and keeping the construction pipeline filled.
  • Lynne Bourque manages the portable restrooms and the Title 5 inspections, and has an incredible drive for knowledge of the industry. Recently she became a Certified Grade 2M operator, and we can’t wait to see what she decides to tackle next.
  • Mary Trainor started as a backup for Jen and has worked side by side with her for the past four years. There isn’t much that Mary can’t handle in the office.

Typical day on the job: I cannot really say that any day is “typical.” We run a small crew here considering the size of our business. On any given day my construction crew may consist of just T.J. and myself, and that is OK. With some creativity and hard work, we are able to get the job done. The guys on my team are all resourceful, and not one of them would say, “that’s not my job.” I’ve been doing this long enough that I know how the job should go, but sometimes Mother Nature just doesn’t want to cooperate and we need to adapt.

Helping hands — indispensable crew member: This is a tough one, as every one of our employees is a key component to what makes this business successful. I would have to say there are two — my cousin, Fred, and my wife, Jen. I trust Fred immensely and could not be more proud of where he is taking our pumping business. The relationships he has built with plant operators, homeowner associations and property management companies are a solid piece of this business. I don’t have to worry or second-guess what he’s doing. At times I really wish I could clone him. Jen keeps me grounded.

The job I’ll never forget: Two jobs really solidified our reputation as an installer. The first was a sewer main extension and preliminary treatment plant updates for the Groton School. The job was a bit of a challenge and a blast to do. The second was the replacement of a septic system at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts. This was an enormous undertaking for both us and the museum. The project lasted four months and through the winter. It was 28,000 square feet of leaching network, a series of collection tanks, a Microfast 9.0 system, and a host of additional utility upgrades. Never once did we feel like we bit off more than we could chew.

My favorite piece of equipment: They are all my favorites. Most of our trucks are old, vintage even. We still run a 1979 International pump truck that my dad bought brand new. It has been overhauled once or twice, and it’s a showpiece to go down the road. It still will work circles around some of the newer technology that is out there. My dad is still running his 1972 Brockway with a 4,000-gallon IME tank on it up in New Hampshire.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: I would have to say that the most challenging sites have involved dealing with groundwater and controlling it.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: “How did you do that?”

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: Like our Title 5 inspector’s license, I would like to see Massachusetts adopt a statewide pumping and installers license like New Hampshire does.

Best piece of small-business advice I’ve heard: Well, that would be from Dad and it goes something like this — “Care about what you do, do your best all the time, and treat your customers like they’re family. You have to be able to lay your head down on your pillow at night and be proud about what you’ve done.”

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: I don’t think I will ever be able to get completely away from the industry. I tell my wife all the time when I retire I am going to run the pumpout boat at a marina someplace warm.

This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: This is a construction trade. The population and the technology are growing faster than the number of qualified people to operate it. I am concerned that there is not enough of the younger generation taking an interest in this field to keep it moving forward and keep up with the technology. It can be a labor-intensive job, and folks just don’t want to get their hands dirty anymore, which leads us to having inexperienced operators in the field that don’t necessarily understand the job in front of them. It takes years of experience in this trade to be good at what you do, and the technology is outpacing the experience.
 
 



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