Continual Modernization Will Propel This Boston Pumping Company for Years to Come

Blending proven customer service with new technologies will ensure three-generation family company Regan Septic Pumping will keep going strong.

Continual Modernization Will Propel This Boston Pumping Company for Years to Come

The Regan Septic Pumping team includes, from left, John Regan Jr., Jason Potvin, Raphael Luz, Fred Caira, Dan Regan and Alyssa Regan. The crew is shown with a 2020 Kenworth T880 from Imperial Industries and running a National Vacuum Equipment pump. (Photos by Noah Willman)

Unlike many people, Dan Regan knew from an early age exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up: Operate the family business that he now owns, Regan Septic Pumping, based in Wayland, Massachusetts, a western suburb of Boston.

         “It’s something I know how to do and I’m good at it,” the 47-year-old entrepreneur says. “It’s a legacy thing, too. My family has done it for nearly 65 years, and I enjoy carrying on that name and reputation.”

         By and large, the third-generation owner is following the same blueprint for success established by the previous owners: Regan’s grandfather, John Regan Sr., who founded the company in 1946; and his uncle, John Regan Jr., who sold the company to Dan in 2019. Their main business principles were providing great customer service and investing in good equipment.

         “We always answer the telephone — that’s a big thing in our success,” he says. “We answer whether it’s Sunday morning or 2 a.m. on Christmas. We get a lot of emergency calls from customers who can’t find another pumping company that works on weekends and holidays.

         “We do whatever it takes to get a job done. It’s not about getting as much money as you can out of customers,” he continues. “It’s doing what you need to do, which gets them to call you back again the next time around.”

         Hanging on to the old-fashioned customer service, Dan is also taking the company in some new directions as he modernizes operations. From computerizing customer records and using scheduling software to maximize route efficiency to investing in a brand-new $250,000 vacuum truck, Dan is tweaking the family’s success formula to ensure it endures for generations to come.

         “Uncle John (now retired at age 83) might grumble a little bit,” Dan says of the fine line a younger generation often must walk when changing things in a family-run company. “But then he laughs and says, ‘Hey, I’m going to Florida.’

         “The way he sees it, he ran a business for 60 years and it worked fine,” he adds. “But we’re trying to make it a little better. And if that doesn’t work, we can always go back to the way it used to work.”

         What does John think of the changes? “It’s time,” he concedes. “My thing always was just answer the phone and get the job done. But so many people schedule stuff on the internet these days, and that stuff scares me.

         “A lot of these changes are a little mind-boggling for an old guy,” he continues. “But honestly, I’m in awe of all the things Danny is doing. It’s funny because if it was my son, I’d probably disagree with everything he’d want to do. It’s just hard for fathers to let go.”

DEEP PUMPING ROOTS

         John Sr. and his wife, Mary, had 16 children. Eventually, three sons — Dan’s father, Joe, and his uncles John and Philip — ended up working in the family business, which centered on pumping tanks and installing septic systems.

         Around 1983, Philip split off to form an excavating company; Dan worked for him part time as a teenager, then joined the U.S. Army after graduating from high school.

         Dan served three years on active duty, then joined the Army National Guard in 1994. He worked for Philip full time from 1994 to 2012, when he bought his uncle’s excavating company. During his time as a National Guard reserve, Dan was deployed to Bosnia in 2001 and to Iraq in 2007. And in 2019, he bought the pumping business, too, and combined it with the excavating business.

         “I was cursed from the very beginning,” Dan jokes, referring to a family photo that shows his father holding him while sitting on a backhoe when he was just 3 days old.

         The company relies heavily on a core group of employees: Dan’s wife, Alyssa Regan, who runs the office; Fred Caira, the primary route driver; Alyssa’s brother, Billy Hayes, who works in the office; and Jason Potvin and Raphael Luz, excavation crew leaders.

EQUIPMENT INVESTMENTS

         Over the years, the company has developed a large inventory of equipment that enables it to provide a variety of services. Three vacuum trucks form the backbone of the fleet: a 2020 Kenworth T880 built out by Imperial Industries with a 5,000-gallon aluminum tank and National Vacuum Equipment Challenger pump; a 2013 Peterbilt built out by Andert with a 4,000-gallon steel tank and Fruitland pump; and a 2004 Peterbilt with a 4,000-gallon steel tank fabricated in-house and a Masport pump.

         “That was a good winter project,” Dan explains. “We had the steel rolled and bought the domes and welded it all together. It was the biggest welding project we have ever taken on — probably about 250 hours of work between me and Uncle John.”

         The company also invested in two tanker trailers (5,000- and 6,800-gallon aluminum tanks), both built by Imperial Industries and equipped with Masport pumps. Both units also feature a Kohler Power Systems “pony” motor that powers the pump, which allows them to pump without a power takeoff system.

         “It makes the trailers self-sufficient,” Dan says. “If we’re doing a new installation, for example, Uncle John can drop off a trailer tanker and go do something else while we dewater the yard. We also offload the smaller trucks into the tankers so we can go to the dump with one big load. And we pay less for trucks because we don’t need PTO capability.”

         The company also owns five excavators and two front-end loaders, all made by Caterpillar; two Bobcat skid-steers; a LeeBoy road grader; a CASE backhoe; and two Kubota loader-backhoe tractors.

         In addition, the company invested in a bucket lift made by Versalift (Time Manufacturing Co.) for trimming trees or even putting up Christmas-tree lights for customers. “There’s almost nothing we won’t do for our customers, and that’s one of the reasons for our company’s longevity and success,” Dan says.

DIGITAL UPDATES

         Regan Septic Pumping also is in the process of adopting a business management software program called Tank Track. The software does everything from maximizing route efficiency and scheduling service calls to managing customer data and creating disposal compliance reports for government agencies. Dan expects the subscription-based service — developed specifically for the septic industry — will provide a good return on investment in terms of improved efficiencies.

         “We schedule jobs now the same way we did 50 years ago — get a phone call, write it down on a blotter and then fill out a work order,” Dan says. “I figured there had to be a more efficient, electronic way to do this.”

         Staff currently is taking data for about 8,000 customer accounts, recorded on index cards, and loading it into the cloud-based system. Route drivers will be able to upload photos taken during service calls and will have access to customer accounts via computer tablets, he says.

         Besides investments in equipment and technology, the company’s success also stems from name recognition and a reputation for honesty, Dan says. That allows the company to charge higher rates and compete effectively with about a half-dozen competitors, he says.

         “We’re not the cheapest game in town,” he says. “In fact, we might be the most expensive one in town. But I still keep two trucks on the road for five days a week, for a minimum of 40 hours each week.

         “It’s always been that way,” he continues. “I came up working on the excavation side of the family business, and we were always either the middle or highest bidder — and we still worked 80 hours a week for years. That tells me that the price isn’t the bottom line for most people. It’s knowing that a job will be done correctly.”

LEGACY BUILDING

         Dan says he doesn’t feel any pressure as he strives to position the 74-year-old company for further growth and maintain family ownership. “Not at all,” he says. “This is exactly what I always planned on doing — get into the Army and then work for the family business. And I have no regrets at all.”

         For about the next five years, Dan doesn’t anticipate a lot of growth. Instead, he wants to focus on fine-tuning the company’s operations to improve efficiencies.

         And while Uncle John admits it was difficult to let go of the business he spent decades building, he’s confident his nephew is just the man to keep the family legacy intact.

                  “Danny has got a million things going on and he still stays on top of everything,” he says. “It makes me feel good that the company is in such good hands.” 



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