Would You Accept Eggs, Chickens and a Hog for Payment?

Iowa’s Rob Brown has some interesting stories to tell about his customers, his favorite equipment, and his hopes for a more professional industry
Would You Accept Eggs, Chickens and a Hog for Payment?
Rob Brown

In States Snapshot, we visit with a member of a state, provincial or national trade association in the decentralized wastewater industry. This time, we learn about a member of the Iowa Onsite Waste Water Association.

Name: Rob Brown

Business: Brown Concrete & Backhoe Inc., Ely, Iowa

Age: 49

Years in the industry: 25

Association involvement:

Member for more than 20 years

Benefits of belonging to the association:

This association allows me to keep up to date on new products as well as any new technology. It is also helpful to stay current on any rule changes and stay on top of what direction the industry is moving. It also allows me the opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns with other contractors, engineers, the Department of Natural Resources, etc.

Biggest issue facing your association right now:

Displaying professionalism, staying knowledgeable and getting everyone educated.

Our crew includes:

My foreman, Curt Christopherson, who oversees and manages ongoing jobs, as well as seven full-time and eight part-time employees: Michele Brown, Justin Marks, Jim Woods, Marshall Thorp, Matt Whitters, Jeff Happel, Drew Pond, Heather Nekola, Helen Mihal, Brittany Brown, Ashley Johnson, Tom Brown Jr., Larry Brown, Kyle Purcell and Brooke Ralston

Typical day on the job:

I meet with customers throughout the day, making sure we are showing up promptly to jobs, accurately assessing problems, performing the work in a professional manner, and handling any other issues as they arise. I strive to do the best I can with accommodating all of the various needs of our customers.

Helping hands — indispensable crew member:

Christopherson has been with me since the day I started the business, and he plays a vital role in managing the various projects we take on. I would not be able to accomplish all that I do without him. I feel very strongly that all of our employees play an important role in our day-to-day operations, and we would not be in business without them.

The job I’ll never forget:

The strangest thing that has happened was the time a customer asked if I would accept eggs, chickens and a hog for payment.

My favorite piece of equipment:

Our excavators, a Link-Belt 210 X2 and Caterpillar 316EL. I find these machines to be very impressive. They do all you ask of them, and I am continually surprised at their capability.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on:

We had a customer who was an engineer in need of a septic replacement. He insisted we use concrete tanks, so we had to use a 100-ton crane — which was set up in his driveway — to lift the concrete septic tanks over the top of his house to the backyard. We then had to use a conveyor belt to place the material in the sand filter bed in the backyard. This particular job required a lot of extra planning to complete the installation.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer:

I had a customer call me after finding a worm in his toilet. He stated he had been to visit his doctor and had “extensive testing done” only to find out that he does not have worms. He was concerned that a worm had possibly come up through his septic and ended up in his toilet.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be:

I would like to see the state of Iowa require all septic system installers be certified.

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard:

To treat people the way you would like to be treated, and to be an honest, fair, and decent person. This was advice given to me by my dad.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would:

Spend a lot more time with my wife and kids, use my fishing boat that I have not been able to use in 10 years, hunt more often than I do, and continue to do some of my farming (except in daylight rather than in the dark).

This is my outlook for the wastewater industry:

I believe there will be a very big upswing in the industry with all of the cider mills, wineries, distillers, bars, convenience stores, and other new businesses in rural areas. This may create some onsite system challenges.


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