Mathew Deines Brings Skills Learned as a U.S. Marine and Seasoned Accountant to the Pumping Industry

California mom and pop outfit All-American Septic Pumping streamlines the service process to make the most of a micro-sized operation.

Mathew Deines Brings Skills Learned as a U.S. Marine and Seasoned Accountant to the Pumping Industry

  Deines pulls hose on a residential septic service. His new truck is a 2021 International HV 507 with a 3,600-gallon aluminum tank and National Vacuum Equipment blower built by Amthor International.

Trading profit-and-loss statements for pumping septic tanks may sound like an odd bit of career calculus. But nearly three years after making the abrupt U-turn from accounting to the septic service industry, Mathew Deines says that, on balance, things couldn’t have ended up much better for him and his wife, Nicki.

“My father-in-law said, ‘You can’t do that — you’re an accountant,” Deines says, recalling the day in 2018 when he decided to switch professions and establish All-American Septic Pumping & Services in Valley Center, about 40 miles north of downtown San Diego. “But I did it anyway.

“My goal was to stop commuting downtown [to San Diego] and leave corporate America to work for myself,” says Deines, who was a corporate accountant for nearly seven years at the time and knew he was about to get laid off. “And we’re super blessed. … It’s amazing how we are where we’re at, basically based on a wing and a prayer.”

The financial numbers reflect the company’s success. In 2020, All-American Septic increased its gross revenue about 150% compared to 2019. And this year, the company is on track to slightly outpace last year’s numbers, says Deines, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

Deines says a big assist from Nicki has been instrumental to the company’s growth. In 2020, she performed her own 180-degree career maneuver when she learned her contract to teach first- and second-graders at an elementary school would not be renewed because of the pandemic.

“So she offered to take over the phones and run the office, which was a huge blessing,” says Deines, noting he was handling both administrative and route-driving duties at the time.

“She loves talking to customers and is very patient with people who are stressed out by [septic] emergencies,” he adds. “She’s done a lot of research on her own and now is very knowledgeable about the industry.”


After considering several of what he called “microsized” job possibilities, Deines says his father-in-law, Marc Collins, inadvertently influenced his decision to enter the septic field. At the time, Deines says he noticed that Collins, who owns American Construction & Septic, a septic-system installation and repair company in Center Valley, was always referring pumping work to other contractors.

“There definitely was a need for a good pumper,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of people jumping into this as a career and a lot of people in the business locally are nearing retirement. So the timing seemed right.”

So the finance-minded Deines did a break-even analysis to gauge the company’s potential, got Nicki’s approval and bought a used 2008 vacuum truck. To raise capital for the purchase, the couple sold a four-unit apartment building they owned.

From at least one vantage point, the pumping career was meant be, Deines says, noting that for some unknown reason, he’s had no sense of smell for the last seven years or so.

“That’s a huge positive — a major perk,” he notes. “I tell people that and they get a good laugh out of it.”

As for the name of his company, Deines says he wanted something patriotic that tied to his service in the Marines, as well as something that would imply a smaller, family-owned company.

“We like to think of our company as a mom and pop business that also happens to be technologically adept,” he notes.


Being a former accountant definitely gave Deines an advantage over pumpers starting out with no financial expertise. While he still ended up hiring an accountant when the duties became too time-consuming, his financial background helped him make good business decisions and maximize profitability, he says.

One thing Deines didn’t account for, however, was downtime stemming from repairs on both the used truck and a newer truck: a 2021 International HV 507 with a 3,600-gallon aluminum built by Amthor International. The truck features a 4310 blower from National Vacuum Equipment and an Allison automatic transmission.

“We underestimated the time and cost associated with the trucks going into the shop,” Deines says, noting he recently sold the used truck. “We’re still trying to figure out what to do for a backup pump truck because if our truck goes down, we’re dead in the water.”

Deines is strongly considering an investment in a Super Duty TVP-1600, a 1,600-gallon vacuum trailer made by Wastecorp Pumps. The company’s 2015 GMC 3500HD dually pickup truck would tow the unit, he says.

He says the vacuum trailer would be a more affordable option than a backup truck. The unit comes with either a steel or aluminum tank, a vacuum pump that generates up to 363 cfm, a tri-axle trailer and optional tilt-tank capability.  

“In California, buying an old, beat-up truck [for a backup vehicle] isn’t an option because it must be a 2012 model or newer, which makes it expensive,” Deines says, explaining why a vacuum trailer makes more sense. “Plus we don’t want another truck to maintain, or to insure while it mostly sits idle.”


Providing good customer service has been critical to the company’s success, and the new International truck plays a pivotal role by enabling Deines to get to more customers per week, courtesy of the 3,600-gallon tank.

Both of the available waste-disposal sites the company relies on are about a two-hour roundtrip away. As such, a larger tank makes a big difference in terms of enhanced productivity and lower fuel cost, he says.

In addition, the facilities charge for a full load, whether the truck is full or not. That motivates Deines to be very strategic when planning service routes.

“Going to the disposal facility can eat up a good portion of a workday,” he says. “So logistically, we have to plan ahead to make sure the tank is as full as possible.”

The company also adjusts prices accordingly by ZIP codes within San Diego County; the longer the distance Deines has to travel to a customer’s home and then to the disposal site, the higher the fee.

Does that make All-American Septic more expensive than some competitors? Sometimes yes, he says. “But I’m certainly not willing to race to the bottom on pricing,” he notes. “There’s a competitor who charges the cheapest rates, but he operates with a different business model than I do.”


The company also strives to do the simple little things that make a difference to customers — answering the phone, even during odd hours, for instance, or confirming appointments with customers the day before a service call.

“Things like that help to build your reputation,” he says. “Basically, we treat customers the way we’d want to be treated. I like to sleep well at night and not have to question how I’m making my money.”

Deines also points out that because he’s usually booked out for service calls a week to two weeks, he sometimes refers customers to trusted competitors.

“You have to first take care of your customers, even if I can’t be the one to do it,” he says. “But I keep an eye on online reviews and if I see negative comments, I don’t refer to that company anymore.”

Positive online reviews have also played a key role in the company’s dramatic growth. Deines also believes it helps that the company is family owned and operated by a veteran — things that Deines says he promotes in the company’s marketing efforts.

“We definitely advertise that we’re veteran-owned and family-operated,” he says. “I think a lot of people are in a mindset these days to shop small — support small businesses.”


Looking ahead, Deines says he and Nicki find themselves in a situation that many smaller pumpers can relate to: Striving to find the delicate point between achieving slow but steady growth and keep providing good service, while still maintaining a sane lifestyle that isn’t dominated by the business.

“We’re trying to find a balance between running sunup to sundown and killing myself versus trying to find family time, which always is the struggle,” Deines explains. “My biggest problem is I don’t know how to say no. It’s hard to do when someone has a mess in their yard, and we’ve got a pump truck sitting here.”

One thing is certain, however: For the time being, the couple will achieve those goals by themselves.

“As of now, we have no plans to hire employees and take on that headache,” he says. “We seriously considered it for a few months when we still owned both trucks, but it never penciled out on paper, once you add in things such as workman’s comp and all the state-required benefits.”

Looking back, Deines has no regrets about his career makeover.

“I really enjoy meeting and talking to new people, and Nicki does, too,” he notes. “We are people persons.

“We have no complaints,” he adds. “On paper, I figured this would be a good way to support our family. And it’s turned out to be just that.”  


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