Treating People Right, Diversifying Into Grease Service Are Keys to Success for Florida’s Brian’s Septic Service

Growing up in a pumping family, a young Brian Miller struck out on his own and eventually exceeded all of his business expectations

Treating People Right, Diversifying Into Grease Service Are Keys to Success for Florida’s Brian’s Septic Service

The crew from Brian’s Septic Service pose for a team photo in the company yard.

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Brian Miller took a calculated risk when he decided to leave his father’s septic pumping company and establish Brian’s Septic Services back in 2005, equipped with nothing more than a small vacuum truck and an industrious work ethic.

Nearly two decades later, that gamble has clearly paid off. By leveraging years of pumping experience, offering diverse services, investing in productivity-enhancing equipment and treating customers as well as employees with great care, Miller slowly but surely built his Tallahassee, Florida-based company into a feel-good success story he didn’t envision starting out.

“I never imagined getting as big as we are now,” says Miller, who was profiled in Pumper in 2008. “And we did it without a lot of advertising — just mostly word-of-mouth referrals.”

Admittedly, some of the company’s growth stemmed from a diminishing field of competitors as area pumpers either died or retired. But much of it came through sheer grit and a conservative approach to business finances.

“For the first 10 years, I worked nights and weekends,” he relates. “I did whatever I had to do to make it work. And it worked out great.”

Miller started out with just two employees — he and his wife, Lisa. Today the company employs 17 people, runs five vacuum trucks and owns a small fleet of excavators and other earth-moving equipment. The company pumps septic tanks, repairs and maintains septic systems, installs new septic systems and pumps out grease traps.


The key to the company’s growth? For starters, treating customers and employees with respect.

“It’s all about customer service,” Miller says. “If something isn’t right, we go and figure it out, then fix it. We give customers a one-year warranty on our work.

“In this day and age, customer service is lacking at a lot of companies,” Miller adds. “We’ve even fixed things that were several months out of warranty, just to keep customers happy. That’s the kind of thing they’re going to tell family members and their neighbors.”

The bottom line: The company is named after Miller. And when it’s your name on the trucks, customer service and accountability is of paramount importance.

A hardworking team also has factored immeasurably into the company’s success.

“It takes a team to make something work,” Miller says. “I can’t do it by myself. You’ve got to have good people that know what they’re doing and trust you.”

Miller shows his appreciation for his employees by offering health insurance — the company pays half of the premiums and provides retirement accounts, with the company matching up to 4% of employees’ contributions.


Miller got into the industry while working part-time for his father, Buck Miller, the owner of Miller’s Septic Services, established in 1972 by Brian Miller’s grandfather, B.B. Miller.

After graduating from high school in 1992, Miller, now 47, wasn’t interested in working for the family business and held down several jobs in the retail world instead. He returned to the family business for a few years before deciding to go out on his own.

“It was a happy split and it worked out for everybody,” he says. His brother, Greg, bought the family company when their father retired, and they remain friendly competitors.

Miller says he received assistance from his father, who helped finance a vacuum truck; his brother, who referred customers to him when Miller’s Septic got too busy; and local plumbers that referred customers who needed tank pumpouts and system installations.

“To this day, there’s still a couple of companies that send me work and I send them plumbing work,” he states.

Differentiation in terms of services also helped. Miller’s father stopped doing septic system installations in 1995, but still often received requests for such jobs. So Miller decided to do installs and fill an underserved market niche.

“I aggressively went out and got after it,” he says.

Today, the company installs about one system a day. Installations generate about half of the company’s revenue while pumping and repairs/maintenance contribute the balance.

“There’s a lot of new construction going on in Tallahassee, plus at least four other major companies went out of business,” Miller says. “So that’s made things much busier for the companies that are left.”


The company relies on five vacuum trucks. Three were built out by FlowMark Vacuum Trucks on Peterbilt chassis with 4,400-gallon aluminum tanks; two of those vehicles also carry 400-gallon water tanks and jetters from General Pump (4,000 psi at 6.5 gpm) for cleaning grease traps and jetting sewer lines. All three trucks are equipped with National Vacuum Equipment Challenger 4310 blowers.

“That power is good for pumping lift stations that can be 30 to 40 feet deep,” he notes. “It also allows our drivers to run out a lot of hose (without losing vacuum power) and avoid ruining customers’ lawns.”

A 2012 International with a 4,000-gallon aluminum tank built by Imperial Industries with a Masport pump and a 2011 International with a 2,500-gallon steel tank built by Lely Mfg. with a Masport pump to round out the truck fleet.

The company also owns a ProVac portable grease trap pumping unit from Conde (a brand owned by Westmoor Ltd.), a backhoe, five excavators and a skid-steer, all manufactured by John Deere; four Dodge flatbed truck with toolboxes and storage cabinets made by CM Truck Beds; a 2021 Peterbilt dump truck with a 19-cubic-yard dump body made by Ox Bodies; and a RIDGID SeeSnake pipeline inspection camera.

The 4,000-gallon tanks on four of the trucks increase productivity and open up new markets.

“With that big a tank, we can do three or four jobs before we have to drive across Tallahassee to make a disposal run,” Miller explains. “That saves us a lot of time and fuel.”

The larger tanks also led to emergency work for utility companies, he notes.

“(They) work great when we’re hired to pump out lift stations when the power goes out, like when there’s a hurricane,” he says. “We just man those stations until the power comes on, so they don’t overflow.”


Miller says one of the most valuable business lessons he’s learned is giving more responsibilities to others, which frees him up to focus on growing the business.

“It was hard because I’m a hands-on kind of guy and l like to know what’s going on with my people,” he says. “Plus customers always want to talk to someone who can give them answers, so I wasn’t sure how it would work out if I didn’t do that.

“Until about five years ago, I answered all the phone calls and did my own scheduling,” Miller continues. “If I would’ve known then what I know now, I would’ve hired an office manager a long time ago. I struggled with letting go more than anything else. But now I can work on the business, not in it — get out there and talk to more people and line up more jobs.”

Looking ahead, Miller says he’s currently in “a comfortable place.” He’s not eager to grow the business much bigger than it already is. In fact, he believes that less just might be more.

“If anything, I would downsize before I’d try to get bigger,” he says. “The bigger you get, the more headaches you have.

“But in the meantime, we’ll keep doing what we do — take care of customers and do the best job we can,” Miller concludes. “In the end, it’s all about customer service.”


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