Staying Small and Specialized Works for This Installing Company

Florida’s Martin Septic Service says its biggest business risk was going big during a construction boom

Staying Small and Specialized Works for This Installing Company

At Martin Septic Service in North Port, Florida, the company’s biggest risk is summed up in a number.

“Sixty-three employees,” says Cindy Guffey, vice president and co-owner of the company with her husband, Martin. That was the number of employees they had when home construction overheated in Florida.

“We had seven crews that would install seven to 14 jobs a day, and our schedule was 14 weeks out.”

At the same time, Guffey says, Martin Septic was acting as a one-stop-shop for related construction work — land clearing, house pads, fill and culverts.

The company also made a substantial investment in equipment so all those people could work on all those jobs. They started investing in home-construction services about 2002.

“We had 11 excavators. We had two Peterbilt tractor-trailers that hauled land-clearing debris and two trailers that did nothing but haul rock because back then we still did many rock drainfields as well as alternative drainfields,” she says.

There was a third Peterbilt tractor with a 35-ton detachable low-boy trailer for equipment transport, nine Peterbilt dump trucks, two Case bulldozers, a Volvo payloader, Case payloader and Kawasaki payloader.

When the recession hit more than a decade ago, it all folded up. Now the building industry is back in southwestern Florida (housing starts in May 2019 were up 8% compared to 2018), but the Guffeys have not jumped back into the new boom. They kept their company small: 15 employees.

“On the land-clearing end of it, there is so much competition that you would almost have to give it away. And at the end of the day, that was not our claim to fame. We’re septic gurus,” she says.

“My husband and I laugh; we’ll be driving around and say, 'OK, there’s a new dump truck with a little mini-excavator; there’s a new dually with a skid-steer' — because everybody thinks being in business for themselves is so easy. It’s just a hugely competitive market in this area, so we chose to leave those other jobs to the guys who’ve been doing it for 30 years. And we’re just going to stick to what we’ve been doing for 30 years.”

Read more about Martin Septic Service in the February issue of Onsite Installer.


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