Treat Customers Right and Enjoy Success For Generations

“If this industry is truly about protecting the environment, why do we have to wait so long to put in technology that allows us to clean things up to the clean water standards?”

Treat Customers Right and Enjoy Success For Generations

Front row, from left, Rick Miklos, Cole Micsky and Brian Smith; back row, Joe Micsky, Paul Micsky, Dan Micsky, Lawrence Micsky and Coltin Hoover.

Interested in Business?

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

Business + Get Alerts

Name and title or job description: Dan Micsky, supervisor

Business name and location: Micsky Excavating and Septic Systems, Greenville, Pennsylvania

Services we offer: Septic design, installation and servicing for everything from standard in-ground leach beds to trenches, sand mounds, at-grade beds, spray systems, drip irrigation, aerobic systems. Also excavation services for residential customers.

Age: 57

Years in the industry: My dad and uncle started in the plumbing business in the 1960s. In 1964 my father started L.V. Micsky Excavating. They did what they had to do to survive — put in driveways, foundations, utility work, septic systems, land clearing. When regulations became more stringent for onsite systems, it opened the door for specializing in septic systems to the point that we are now almost exclusively an onsite systems business. I joke that I’ve been in business since I was born. I heard about it around the dinner table and have worked since I could pick up a shovel. By 1988, I was a full-time employee of my dad.

Association involvement: Our company has been a member of the Pennsylvania Land Improvement Contractors of America since 1985. I stepped up as an active member in 2003 and have served as vice president, president, and am currently chairman of the board. I’m also chairman of the onsite waste committee at the national level (LICA). My father has also served as vice president, president and chairman of the board. And my wife Joanie Micsky is currently the executive director.

Benefits of belonging to the association: The exchange of information among contractors is one of the biggest benefits. We are a diverse group across the country and the rules for each state are different. Although the process for handling onsite waste is pretty much the same biologically, there are different approaches to setting up and laying out systems and we share that information. Another benefit is that it gives us a voice at the legislative level. And there are financial benefits, as well, such as discounts on insurance plans and various products, help with legacy planning and time-tracking tools.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: With modern technology, younger contractors tend to go to Google for everything. They don’t join associations. As a result, they don’t get the social interaction and discussions with fellow contractors that could help them resolve issues. It’s also a challenge to get members to attend classes and meetings. But we have found that if we can get them to come to the annual convention and see all that is offered over the course of two days, they continue to attend year after year and become more engaged in the association. We allow new members to attend their first convention free of charge as an added incentive to join PALICA.

Our crew includes: My father, Lawrence Micsky, just turned 86 and is still the No. 1 decision-maker. His brother, Paul Micsky, used to be one of the best machine operators in the country but at 81 now jumps in a ditch and works as a laborer. My brother Joe Micsky does most of the design and pricing of jobs and runs the service and maintenance programs. Brian Smith leads the installation crew and is a great operator and forward thinker for seeing and fixing problems that arise in the field. Rick Miklos came to us as a laborer and has developed into an asset in all aspects of the business. Joe’s son Cole Micsky is studying business management at college but does service calls around his schedule and is growing into the business from the ground up. We hired Coltin Hoover, 17, in 2022 to help me out as a pumper and service assistant and he’s taken to it quite well. Our secretary/office manager is Joe’s wife Dedra Micsky who fields calls, schedules pumping work and does the bookkeeping. If a customer is having an emergency, she’ll let us know right away and we try to get them serviced the same day.

Typical day on the job: I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and get to the office by 7:45 a.m. I look at the calls that came in and put the schedule together (which often gets changed as emergency calls come in). Coltin and I typically pump four to six systems a day. I try to be done by 5 p.m. but there are days I may not get home until 7:30 or 8 p.m.

The job I’ll never forget: We spent two years working with an engineer developing a septic system for a tavern/restaurant. The state said it needed to be a 30,000 gpd system because of the size of the building. We were able to get it down to 8,000 gallons based on comparative businesses and similar flows. It was memorable because of the size and what we learned in working through the design process.

My favorite piece of equipment: My pump truck — a 2007 International 7600 with a 3,100-gallon Amthor International steel tank and a Battioni 720 pump. I’ve done things with that truck it was never designed to do, like sucking out sewer lines when I didn’t have a snake, or vacuuming lateral lines.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: That would be the tavern project — it was the wettest site I’d ever seen. It became a discharge system because there was less than 10 inches of permeable soil, which made it unsuitable for any conventional onsite system. We used our track truck (Morooka 1500) to haul materials to place the sand and gravel in the alternating sand filters and ended up ripping the track off of it because it tore in half. We were able to wire it back together to finish the job and then had to buy new tracks.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: “Why do I need to pump my septic tank when I went 40 years without any issues?” I explain to people how a septic tank works and why they need to pump it every two to five years, depending on usage. Generally, they seem to understand what I’m saying. I compare pumping a tank to changing the oil in your car — you’ve got to get rid of the old oil and the sludge. I think one of the most important aspects of this job is educating the public, which I end up doing nearly every day.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: The biggest obstacle in Pennsylvania is the bureaucracy to get permits. We used to be able to dig soil profiles, do a perc test to size the system and design the system, all within two weeks. Today, we wait months for permitting. If this industry is truly about protecting the environment, why do we have to wait so long to put in technology that allows us to clean things up to the clean water standards?

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: Ever since I was little I’ve seen my dad do extra things for customers that I knew he wasn’t going to charge for. One day I asked him why he did that because he couldn’t make money if he didn’t charge people, and I’ve never forgotten what he said. “It isn’t always about the money. People don’t forget the small things you do for them, especially in a small town. I do it so there will still be a business for you to run in 50 years.” And here we are, 50 years later, and I’m glad my dad is still around to see that I believe in and live by those words, as well.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: Be a soil scientist. I like predicting how soils are going to work and then seeing that play out.

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: It appears the federal and state governments have realized the onsite and wastewater industry is here to stay — that big pipes aren’t going to go to every corner of the country. They consider it “infrastructure” and are now considering funding onsite systems as well as municipal systems. Technology has evolved exponentially over the years and continues to do so. If you’re willing to evolve with it you will be very successful and have a thriving business. I predict maintenance agreements will become a nationwide trend required by local municipalities to ensure systems are functioning properly and being replaced/repaired as needed.


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.