Our Generation

New partners in a Boise-based company seek to build on a good public image with professionalism and expanded services
Our Generation
Master Rooter service technicians use two pumper trucks to clean a 23,000-gallon septic system with several access manholes. The system is at a truck stop near Meridian, Idaho. (Photos courtesy of Master Rooter)

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Take a look at this Master Rooter company article featured 10 years ago in the May 2003 issue of Pumper magazine. We spotlight the company again in a follow-up story to see how the business has evolved over the last decade: “Master Rooter Expands to Three Businesses.”

When Lance Rackham and his brother-in-law Chris Hayes bought Master Rooter, Inc., in Meridian, Idaho, it was a sound company with a good reputation. 

Lance’s father, Larry Rackham, had spent 16 years building Master Rooter into a well-known septic pumping and drain cleaning company, working around Meridian and the adjoining city of Boise. When Lance and Chris took over in October 2001, they decided to build on a good thing by adding fresh ideas and new services. 

Lance had several years’ experience in the industry, working for his father. Chris had worked mostly in construction, though he did manage the office at Master Rooter for nearly a year before the buy-out. 

While the Master Rooter name implies drain cleaning, fully 50 percent of the company’s services involved liquid waste pumping and disposal services: grease trap and septic system installation, repair and maintenance. 

New-generation ideas 

Today, the partners are building a new professionalism and image for the company. They also resolve to build the business by expanding its services. “For instance, when we acquired the company, we didn’t have a plumbing license. Getting this was one of our primary goals,” Lance says. In 2002, they were able to obtain a plumbing license for Master Rooter, and Lance adds they are now able to provide a full-service operation to all their customers.   

“A lot of Meridian is rural, and we do a lot of work in the rural outlying areas. In doing that, we try to provide our customers with one-stop shopping. Besides drain cleaning and plumbing services, we install and restore a lot of septic drainfields; install and replace septic tanks, sumps and grease traps; and replace mainlines that have failed. 

“We waterjet pipelines using our US Jetting trailer jetter and our Aquatech hydrojetter, cleaning lines up to 48 inches in diameter. We also have a TV inspection capability. We don’t own a backhoe, so we subcontract that work out, as well as major plumbing work. In this way, we can provide full service.” 

They expect to add in-house excavating services soon by adding a Bobcat with a backhoe attachment. “Later on, we plan to add a light dump truck and a regular backhoe machine,” Lance says. 

Building an image 

As they build the business, Lance and Chris focus on building a professional image. “We believe that perception is 75 to 90 percent of how people view you and your company,” says Lance. “So we have made a commitment to having our first impression be a lasting impression at the highest level of professionalism, so that we become well respected and get called back on future jobs. 

“That involves what we look like, and even what we smell like. How we present ourselves, and, so to speak, the words we use. These things are going to make for loyal customers, rather than someone who is just going to do the work for the cheapest price. People are going to call us because they know they will get the job done right, and they can trust us. That’s going to be the future of the company.” 

Chris notes that one project they tackled early was the preparation of an employee and policy handbook. That handbook has answered many questions for employees, while helping head off problems or misunderstandings on both sides. 

“Getting the employee handbook put together and out to everyone was a big thing,” he adds. “Because of that good form of communication, there is now a level of trust and understanding.” 

Clear expectations 

The handbook spells out policies and procedures that everyone is expected to follow. It tells employees the benefits they receive, what is expected of them, and what they can expect from management. It covers personal appearance and conduct and the care of trucks. 

Each employee was expected to read the handbook and then return a signed acknowledgement form the following week, stating that they accept it as a condition of employment. Lance and Chris received 100 percent acceptance. 

The company’s policies and culture include training. “We spend quite a bit of money on training, vehicles, equipment and looking sharp,” Lance says. “There is a continual training process. 

“We have weekly meetings that always include safety tips and some type of training on service procedures. We show them weekly videos on things like how to communicate effectively and how to sell themselves and the company to the customer. All our technicians are now uniformed. Their name and the company name are shown on their uniform, and they wear a clean uniform each day. 

“We have our pumpers and other large vehicles professionally cleaned once each month. In addition, when our pumper technicians visit the dump at the treatment plant, they can use the pressure washers there. As for the vans, technicians are provided a bucket and soap in our yard to wash them down and clean them inside as needed. 

“Being clean inside service vehicles is just as important as the outside to us. If a customer follows you out to your vehicle and trash is falling out of it, or the floor or dashboard is covered with stuff, you are not portraying a good image.” 

Right stuff, right procedures 

Master Rooter operates three vacuum pumpers, all with tank capacities over 3,000 gallons. Two of the pumpers are combination cleaners, equipped with a 300-gallon freshwater tank and a 1,500 psi waterjetting system, used mostly in grease trap and sump washdown after pumping. 

For servicing sand sumps, one of the pumpers has a hydraulic lift on the tank for rear-end dumping, as well as a tank vibrator. The third pumper is utilized mostly for septic tank work, “but when we have to replace that truck, we will put a jetter unit on it,” says Lance. 

“With this equipment, the technicians can wash down the whole inside of a grease trap or sump, and can also use it to relieve minor line blockages,” Lance says. “They can clean it out clear to the bottom so the customer can see what has been done, and we don’t charge any extra for that service. We don’t want to be known for doing just a partial job, but a complete job.” 

Technicians also add a perfume additive to the pump oil to make the air smell a little bit better on jobs. “We try to do these little extras that the customer will notice, and this shows that we care,” Lance says. 

The company has a 4,000 psi US Jetting trailer jetter for cleaning grease trap inlet and outlet lines from grease interceptors, and for other commercial and industrial line cleaning. For flushing and jetting work on pipes over eight inches, Master Rooter uses an SDR1500 Aquatech truck-mounted hydrojetter carrying 1,500 gallons of freshwater. 

“We’ll use this a lot for cleaning lines going from dairy barns to lagoons, as well as for mainlines from apartment complexes and storm drainlines,” Lance says. “In the summertime, it gets a lot of use in cleaning farm irrigation lines. Both jetters have root cutter attachments.” 

Nice new home 

Two of the company’s five Ford drain cleaning vans carry push-pull cameras, one black and white and one color. If technicians are cleaning a line that has a rough spot in it, they invite the customer to have it TV inspected. If the customer declines, that notation goes right on the job invoice. 

“If a customer call comes in later to say that line is plugged up again, we can show that they declined TV inspection that would have visually shown the problem,” Lance says. 

After acquiring Master Rooter, the partners moved it to a new facility in a light industrial park. “We are the first tenants in this new facility, which has 3,500 square feet of office and warehouse space,” says Lance. “We also have about 3,000 feet of fenced outside yard space.” The company also upgraded its business computing software and dispatching system. 

With gross annual sales running over $1 million, Lance and Chris are confident that the new procedures and goals they’ve put in place will help Master Rooter continue growing in the coming years. 

“I really feel that having good organization is the key to success,” says Chris. “If we can be well organized within ourselves and are doing everything according to proper procedures, we will do well.”


When Lance Rackham and Chris Hayes bought Master Rooter, Inc., in 2001 they had two basic ideas about the future of their new pumping and drain cleaning company: expand the company’s good public image, and expand to a full-service operation. 

“I always felt it was important to portray a clean and sharp image,” Lance says. “So Chris and I agreed that if we could find a way to pay for a full uniform service program, we would go for it.” 

Brainstorming ways to finance the program, they decided to do it through product sales. “We had always sold different additives for septic tanks and systems, and although these help keep septic tanks working, we had never pushed them while at service job sites,” says Lance. 

“So we ran the numbers and saw that if each of our technicians could sell at least one of these products every week, then that would pay for the uniform rentals and cleaning. We came up with a commission incentive plan to interest them in selling customers products while making service calls. As a result, product sales just for bacteria additives went from maybe five sales a month to almost 100 last month alone.” 

The partners even extended their additive sales effort to the testing of various products. On a table in a locked room in their shop area were about 10 covered mason jars, each almost filled with a septage sample, to which the partners had added a measured amount of a manufacturer’s product. The partners wanted to see the effect each product would have and so feel confident recommending the best product to customers.


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