Best of 2021: Pumpers Offer Their Top Strategies and Advice

Best of 2021: Pumpers Offer Their Top Strategies and Advice

One of the best things about the septic services industry is people's willingness to share stories, advice, know-how and new technologies with their fellow pumpers. There's a genuine interest in helping one another out. Whether you're networking at trade shows, participating in educational events, meeting up online, or reading and contributing to trade magazines like Pumper, you're all helping set a high standard for the industry.

In that same spirit of sharing, we've compiled some of the best stories and advice we heard from our featured pumpers in 2021.

You’re only as good as your help. I’m a firm believer in that. I can’t do it all any more. There was a day I could, but it comes to a point when you get a company this size, you cannot do it yourself. That’s very important.
—Bruce Bopst, Freedom Septic Service,
Eldersburg, Maryland

We’re trying to pay a little more to keep drivers. Our big problem is people leaving for benefits. A lot of the commercial driving places are bigger companies that are able to offer benefits. We try to combat that by being easy to work for. We make sure they’re not just a number. Mike and I are here every day. We talk to the drivers. We know their families. We try to make it a hard decision for them to leave.
—Brian McMullen, McMullen Septic Service, Sussex County, Delaware

To me, it’s all about the people. You can’t have a great business without great people. I certainly can’t run a business by myself. So to recruit and retain quality employees, you have to treat them with respect and pay them enough to enjoy a good livelihood ... The way I see it, we don’t have any bosses. We just try to respect everyone’s job. Everyone plays a key role. They’ve been very appreciative. And if they’re happy, then I’m happy.
—Darin Gross, Turner Sanitation, Lake Orion, Michigan

I hate saying no to jobs. So we need the manpower, the trucks and the technology and equipment to get jobs done. This mentality comes from Russ and I being in the construction field for so long. You realize pretty quick that if you meet customers’ needs that first time, they’re going to become repeat customers.
—Adam Bartels,
Sweet Pea Sewer and Septic, Missoula, Montana

You pull in with clean equipment and uniforms and you try your best to leave everything like you found it. We have a soil conditioner on our skid-steer that grinds up the topsoil. We skim that off, pile it in a corner, put the septic system in, then put that topsoil back on. People are happy. It levels their yard off and it looks better than when we got there.
—Terry Kiel, West Michigan Septic Sewer & Drain Service, Muskegon, Michigan

I don’t do inspections on systems, and it worked out better. We do pumping for three septic inspection companies now. I’m actually getting more work by taking less work, and I don’t get Realtors calling me asking why this failed or that failed. You always get three phone calls from every inspection, one from the Realtor on each side and one from the current homeowner. Now all I do is send those guys a bill at the end of the month. I get a check, and I don’t have any grief at all.
—Glenn Parent, Parent Sanitation, Dayville, Connecticut

I don’t know if it’s a generation thing of when certain systems were installed, but we have a lot of repairs going on right now for tanks that have outlet or inlet issues due to tanks that had the cast iron baffles. They’re restricting down and causing issues because of the types of pipes they had 20 years ago.
—Travis Gates, Above All Sanitation, Eugene, Oregon

What I know now with how it has helped with efficiency of running the business, I should have bought (the 2020 Peterbilt 348) in 2012. It’s a huge investment, but now I would not go backwards (with a smaller tank). The vacuum blower on that truck is a whole lot better and doesn’t use oil all the time. I’m very happy with it, and it pumps faster.
—Chad Sims, On-Site Sanitation, Mount Vernon, Ohio

Our business model is built on selling the value of our safety programs, plus the training we provide for our employees and the quality of our equipment. All these things combine to create better productivity and significantly less safety risks.
—Josh Chambers, Thompson Industrial Services, Sumter, South Carolina

We definitely advertise that we’re veteran-owned and family-operated. I think a lot of people are in a mindset these days to shop small — support small businesses.
—Mathew Deines, All-American Septic Pumping & Services, Valley Center, California

We’ve got an in-house unofficial motto. Whether we’re the first call or the last call, we’re the last call. We like a challenge, and we want to find a solution. We don’t walk away from a job undone.
—Jeff Zielinski, Adirondack Septic Tank, Amsterdam, New York

For all those years of pumping through three generations, we were giving away all of the installation business. I recall telling (my son) Collin when he was about 16 that he might as well get his install license right now. Instead of giving away all the money, we decided to do it ourselves.
—Mark Smith, Smith Septic, Rochester, Illinois


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