What Winter Slowdown? February Can Be Go Time!

If you’re not digging in the ground these days, you can spend time with your trade association, shopping for new equipment and looking for good workers

What Winter Slowdown? February Can Be Go Time!

One way to check out new industry innovations and network with other wastewater professionals is to attend the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show in Indianapolis later this month. Education days are Feb. 21-23, and exhibits are open Feb. 22-24. (File photo)

It’s always the darkest just before dawn, and that’s what I say when the calendar rolls around to February. The days are short, and the weather is cold (at least up north in Wisconsin). Trying to reach installers is a mixed bag this time of year. On one hand, I might catch a voicemail message saying they’re on a Caribbean cruise to get away from the office. On the other hand, they may pick up on the first ring and have plenty of time to chat.

For most installers I know, this is the slowest time of year. Sure, there may be some emergencies to respond to as systems in the coldest climate can freeze and cause a lot of heartache for customers. But on the whole, February is a time to hibernate — catch up on some sleep, organize the accounts receivable file, and spend a little quality time with the family.

Even if it’s not too cold to work, the phone tends to remain silent as homeowners aren’t thinking about outside maintenance this time of year. They’re still recovering from the holidays and have more pressing bills to pay.

So you may have the rare opportunity to focus on something other than scrambling to respond to a long list of jobs in front of you. If you have some free time this month, don’t just squander it opening the mail, drinking coffee, and staring out the window all afternoon … unless you really need more time to recuperate from the last busy season.

Rather, turn on the computer, fire up the phone, and get out the door and keep moving to improve your business. The work you do now might not put money in your pocket this month, but it will pay off down the road in building a bigger customer base and handling the future workload more efficiently.

As the furnace chugs along and I watch the snow falling outside my window, I’ll pass along a few suggestions for fun and productive February activities for all my friends in the Onsite Installer community:

Attend the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show

Can you believe another year has passed and it’s time once again for the biggest show in the wastewater industry? The WWETT Show returns to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis with education days (Feb. 21-23) and exhibits (Feb. 22-24). Installing contractors attend the show for many reasons including seeing the latest equipment and technologies on display, obtaining continuing education credits required by their states, watching live demos, networking with other installers, and just basically cutting loose and having a good time with all that downtown Indy has to offer. For more details on the show or to register, go to www.wwettshow.com.

Catch up with your trade association

Most of our state or provincial wastewater trade groups hold conferences this time of year. To learn about winter activities planned by your regional group, turn inside to our Associations List, find your state or province listing, and check out their websites. If you are already a member of a trade association, good for you. If you haven’t looked into joining a state group or the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association or National Association of Wastewater Technicians, I’ll make an argument for you to consider it. Industry trade associations can offer many benefits that are well worth the cost of membership.

First, associations care about promoting best practices in the profession. They offer certified training opportunities that will keep your technicians abreast of the latest techniques and innovations that will help your customers. You can’t put a price on staying on top of service standards when competing for great customers with your competitors.

In addition to necessary education, trade associations offer important networking opportunities … chances for you to get to know other related businesses in your region. Networking can lead to business alliances that improve your bottom line and allow you to better serve your customers. You might find a pumping contractor in your area who would be happy to refer repair business to you, and you might get to know a pumper who you would refer your customers to when they need pumping.

An often-overlooked benefit to trade groups is their ability to lobby with regional and state officials for improved rules and regulations over the industry. When done effectively, you can help your industry get out in front of issues, such as licensing requirements and mandated pumping, and advocate for the best interests of installers and your customers. This is critical as states and the federal government grapple with pollution issues like groundwater contamination and water reuse. The more installers who join your state or national trade group, the stronger the industry voice in steering some of these important decisions.

Perform an equipment inventory

Like they always say about a thoroughbred horse, your trucks and tools were rode hard and put away wet last fall. When your technicians are working sunup to sundown, proper maintenance can get lost in the shuffle. Take this month to prepare for the coming busy season. Develop an equipment readiness list that includes checking on the condition of your excavators, jetters, cameras and safety equipment. Fix everything now, and you may avoid that costly surprise breakdown when you’re running full-throttle in the summer.

You may find it’s time to replace a workhorse truck or machine. If so, that’s where my advice returns to the WWETT Show. There is no other place where you can see, touch, and climb on the latest and greatest equipment at the same time. The best way to compare what the industry has to offer is looking at equipment side by side and having a serious talk with the vendors who build and sell it. And if you find something you like, you may be able to buy it right off the show floor and take it home. I hear many stories of contractors doing just that, and these purchases usually are icing on the cake of a successful WWETT Show. 

Recruit a new worker

Many installers have been running lean and mean going back to the recession that hit about a decade ago. Maybe you’ve been putting off adding to your crew and the time has long since passed. Or maybe you’ve been trying to add a few good technicians … but you’ve learned that a good man (or woman) is hard to find. Well, now you might have some time to rectify your slim staffing situation.

Take time to think about the skills you want your next installer to possess. Take the time to write a job description that covers all the bases. Starting with a good job description will help you find not just an average worker who will just get by, but a great employee who will help you grow the company. Take that job description and start an exhaustive search for the right person. Ask your crew if they have someone to recommend for the job. Call your friends and family, and get the word out that you have an opening. Post the job on social media sites, and broadcast your needs any way you can think of.

When you get some good candidates, be sure to make an offer that will make prospective employees think of your company as not just a place to have a job, but as a place to make a career. Hire someone who you think can grow in the position and take on new responsibilities down the road.


Do you have other thoughts about how installers can take advantage of slower winter days? Send your suggestions to editor@onsiteinstaller.com, and I’ll share them with the installer community. And if you just want to kick up your feet in front of the wood stove for a few days and relax, well, I understand that, too. I hear from enough of you to know you earned a few days of rest and relaxation.


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.