Pumper Rewind: Master Rooter Expands to Three Businesses

Pumper Rewind: Master Rooter Expands to Three Businesses
Today, Master Rooter's fleet includes box vans, vacuum and pump trucks and combination sewer cleaners to meet the expanded services the company offers. (Photos courtesy of Master Rooter)

Interested in Plumbing?

Get Plumbing articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Plumbing + Get Alerts

We celebrate the continued dedication and hard work of septic service contractors by revisiting companies profiled 10 years ago in Pumper magazine. Check out the original story on the Master Rooter septic and drain cleaning company we featured in the May 2003 issue: “Our Generation.” 

Ten years ago when Master Rooter of Meridian, Idaho, was featured in Pumper magazine, the company was under second-generation ownership and had recently added plumbing services. Owners Lance Rackham and Chris Hayes recognized the plumbing license could grow the business to sustain two families. And it did. But Rackham, who recently bought out Hayes, admits he didn’t anticipate how big it would grow. Besides Master Rooter Plumbing, he owns two offshoot businesses. 

The property where Rackham’s father, Larry Rackham, started Master Rooter in 1985 was upgraded to a 1 1/2-acre lot with a two-story office building and a large four-bay shop owned by the business. The staff has tripled to 27 for the septic/plumbing portion of the business. Altogether Rackham has 35 employees on the payroll including Master Excavation and Master Environmental staff. 

An expanded fleet with the red, white and blue Master Rooter Plumbing logo now covers much of southern Idaho with the addition of a satellite office in Twin Falls. Business has greatly increased from $1 million in annual sales a decade ago, with revenue fairly equal between pumping, drain cleaning and plumbing. 

“We’re a one-stop shop for all plumbing needs,” Rackham says. “Once that customer is in front of us, we want to take care of all their needs.” 

Top-notch technicians 

“What’s really helped us over the years is we’ve got some of the best employees in the valley working for us,” Rackham says. “We can focus on growing the business instead of focusing on managing people.” 

The economic downturn actually benefited the company. Skilled plumbers whose previous employers cut wages or benefits came to Master Rooter Plumbing, ready to sign on to its commission-based model, which works well when properly managed, Rackham says. Each technician has a company price book so there are no surprises, and customers sign an agreement before work begins. Office staff reviews invoices two or three times to ensure fairness and accuracy. 

“We train our technicians to take care of what the customer called us for, and then make them aware of other potential issues they might have in their house,” Rackham says. Technicians offer free inspections and a full line of products from enzymes for the septic tank to tankless water heaters. About half of the technicians are cross-trained for both plumbing and drain cleaning services. 

After losing a skilled employee many years ago, Rackham made changes to keep good workers. Health insurance, Simple IRA contributions, access to supplemental insurances, vacation time, meals and gift cards for clean trucks, sales of products and random contests are all positive incentives for workers. Another popular benefit is paying for education and providing apprenticeships for workers seeking plumbing licenses.

In addition to technicians, office workers and three salesmen cover different market segments. 

“The word on the street is we take care of our people here,” Rackham says. “Our employees have come to us. It’s a blessing and says a lot about the company we have and the good employees we have working for us.” 

Communication & technology 

From the beginning, Rackham emphasized the importance of having a handbook, which is updated as times change. For example, when wasted time on personal social media sites became an issue, a policy banning it was added to the handbook. 

“I think it’s important your employees know your perspective, and if it’s in writing they know you are good for it,” he says. 

Customers know more about the company too through a Facebook page, websites and videos that answer questions, explain services and offer special deals. Marketing has changed drastically from a decade ago, with less focus on telephone book ads and more money spent on websites and search engine optimization. Each type of marketing is coded to determine what nets the best results. 

GPS and other technology have replaced pen and paper maps and directions. But Rackham notes there is plenty of room for improvement to get GPS, tablets and dispatchers on the same page. Finding a better system is a priority for his office manager. 

Communicating with staff at weekly meetings continues to be important to Rackham. The meetings have become better organized over the years and keep staff up to date on safety, sales, products, skills and personal development with motivational speakers. 

Upgraded equipment 

The Master Rooter vans from a decade ago have been replaced by a dozen box vans from GMC, Ford and Isuzu. They are more efficient, carry more equipment, and technicians can walk inside to find what they need. 

The business carries standard plumbing parts and has six RIDGID SeeSnake camera systems, a CUES CCTV van, three 4,000 psi US Jetting trailer jetters, an Aquatech truck jetter (Hi-Vac Corp.), a Sewer Equipment Co. of America truck jetter, a Juggler vacuum truck (Labrie Environmental Group), and a Vactor combination sewer cleaner. 

The vacuum fleet includes Freightliners and Kenworths — three 3,500-gallon septic pump trucks and two 3,500-gallon sump pump trucks, as well as miscellaneous support vehicles. 

Maintaining a reputation 

These days Rackham spends most of his time behind his desk working on the growth of the business. He has the time because he has managers for each of the businesses. Master Excavation was added eight years ago to install septic and water systems, and provide other excavation services. Master Environmental came on board six years ago when workers came to Rackham with a proposal to provide hazardous and non-hazardous waste disposal services. 

Rackham oversees the businesses with the goal to maintain the honest, ethical company his father started. A portion of every invoice goes to one of four charities that help children, the needy and senior citizens in the area. 

“My father developed a good brand, and we’ve expanded that brand and ran with it,” he says. 

He can’t predict what will happen in the next 10 years, but he expects growth. “If opportunity is there, we will continually change,” he says. “I’m not happy to be complacent.” 


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.