Septic System Education Grows Business

Septic System Education Grows Business
Jerry Scarborough stands next to an old metal tank that failed inspection and was removed. He uses photos to teach real estate agents the ins and outs of onsite systems.

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Two decades ago when I was new to the septic pumping business, I knew I wanted to grow the company. I just didn’t know how. The first step was to get some education and training. 

I attended NAWT’s Inspector Training & Certification seminar and received a certificate of completion. The certification made me more marketable compared to other septic professionals because I was certified to inspect a septic system for a home transfer (selling a house). Word spread quickly through our local real estate community that I was one of the first certified inspectors in the area so they gave me a chance. This was 21 years ago when haulers would hand-write receipts when they pumped a septic tank. We needed a transaction process that was more reliable and we needed all those involved in the inspection process to be educated. 

Learning all around 

Many real estate agents don’t have the knowledge of how a septic system works. They don’t need to; that’s what we’re here for. 

As I would make professional greetings with the buyers and explain what my role was as the inspector, the real estate agents would pay attention. Taking the time to explain to homebuyers what a septic system is has helped me and my business in many ways. 

When I returned in two years to begin the routine pumping, the tank was usually easier to clean because they followed my maintenance advice. They also would tell their neighbors about me, which created more customers via word-of-mouth advertising. Honesty and good work goes a long way in this industry. 

More jobs meant more money, so I was able to buy a larger diesel truck within the first two years of starting the business. This saved time and money, and the business continued to grow. 

Movin’ on up 

Eventually, a real estate firm asked me to come and explain to a group of agents what a septic system is, how it functions and what causes system failure. Real estate agents want to make sales. When a septic system fails inspection, their paycheck vanishes and they’re not happy. If they understand why a system fails and know it can be repaired, they’re less likely to be upset. 

As a former Maryland State Trooper (an injury in the line of duty ended my 15-year career in law enforcement), I gave many classes on drug and alcohol abuse to high school students, college classes and church groups. To begin organizing regular real estate agent classes, all I had to do was change the subject to septic pumping and I was back in the saddle again. 

My first Septic 101 class, as we called it, included 12 real estate agents. I had a blackboard and I drew pictures of septic tanks, drainfields and drywells. The hour-long class included a Q-and-A session at the end. It was very successful, but seeing is believing. I wanted to help the agents understand how septic systems work, so we decided to show them. 

My wife Kathy helped out with the classes too. We started taking photos of all our job sites, especially septic system failures so I could explain to my classes what caused them. Kathy created a PowerPoint presentation with the photos, which has been a very helpful teaching tool. For example, we show an old corroded metal tank and explain how it is unsafe and will not pass inspection. 

A photo of a new 1,250-gallon concrete septic tank installation shows real estate agents what is actually underground. We also show photos of deteriorated baffles, terminal drainfields and the repairs that follow the inspections. 

Education creates experts 

I now have real estate agents telling me what is wrong with a septic system over the phone while they’re booking inspections. I call them “Junior Poopers” and they are so proud to have gained the knowledge. A real estate agent who has taken the class can now answer homebuyers’ questions about septic systems, which puts the agent a notch above other agents who don’t understand onsite systems. 

Two real estate agents who have attended Septic 101 were present on one of my recent inspections. At the 25-year-old residence someone had planted a small shrub near the 6-inch clean-out to hide it. Twenty-five years later the bush is about 6-feet tall and just as wide across the entire septic tank. I could see the clean-out through the shrub but couldn’t access it. The homeowner claimed he had the tank pumped out six months earlier. 

Both real estate agents knew it could not have been cleaned in the current condition. We all agreed that the shrub would need to be cut back so the center manhole cover would be exposed for a thorough cleaning and inspection. Because the real estate agents had the knowledge and photos they received in the Septic 101 class, they were not upset that the home sale might have to be pushed back. 

Educating real estate agents gives homebuyers peace of mind. It also creates a broad network of educated professionals we can rely on as pumpers and onsite system inspectors. There’s no such thing as too much education; our industry depends on a constant learning process. Pass on your knowledge.     

About the Author
Jerry Scarborough owns Hall’s Septic Services in Street, Md. The company includes eight service trucks, 300 portable restrooms and seven employees, including his wife, Kathy. Jerry can be reached at 410/808-8888 or by email at hallshoneypots@aol.com. 



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