In Your Words: Advice and Stories from 2022’s Featured Installers

In Your Words: Advice and Stories from 2022’s Featured Installers

This industry is filled with hardworking, talented individuals who are proud of our industry, and we enjoy sharing their work with you.

Every month installers share their best advice, industry insights, the craziest questions homeowners ask them, and the challenges they face on the job. We hope you enjoy reading these stories, to learn from others in the industry and glean tips and tricks to implement in your own business. 

We rounded up some of the more memorable stories and quotes to share with you again.

A gentleman who taught me a lot when I first got into the industry, Dave Austin, told us to take 100-plus pictures of every septic system we did so if there was any question we had documentation. I also took the advice of my ex-business partner who said don’t try to compete with other installers, just set your price and get what you feel you’re worth. 
– Jason Guarino, Jason Guarino Excavating and Septic Services, Millsboro, Delaware

I don’t do any ads anywhere. I sponsor my son’s Little League team and try to do things in the community — when there’s a community event and they ask for sponsors. I sponsor a couple of race cars of friends just to get my name out there. Other than that, I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t needed to do anything else. 
– Matt Dow, Dow Excavating, Hollis, Maine

It was January or February when a customer called and wanted us to pump his tank. I had to jackhammer through the frost to get to it. I asked the gentleman if there was a problem, why he had us there that day. He said, “I thought wintertime was the best time to pump because you wouldn’t smell it.” I enlightened him.
– Larry Maznek, Maznek Septic Service, Bedford, New Hampshire

We started out very small and niche-oriented. We basically started from scratch — an unknown company in a competitive market. It was just me, my brother, Pedro and a used pump truck. We didn’t impose a trip charge to do estimates for customers, which I believed helped us get business because more established companies charged minimum fees just to show up. So that put us in front of other companies when customers shopped around.

It was my brother’s idea to start out with pumping because there was a strong need for it. Plus it was a good way to get our name out there in front of as many people as possible. It was a little bit of a different approach, but it was a good way to gain entry into the installation market, once we had the equipment and the expertise. Installations are my favorite thing to do.
– Orlando Godinez, Godinez Septics Inc., Austin, Texas

I received this advice from my father when I was a young man. He said, “Make sure there is always a live voice on your end of the phone. You will lose customers if you automate or have a message system.” That’s why we offer emergency service 24/7 and you will either get a live voice right away or you will get a call back with a live voice ASAP.
– Chris Rhodaback, A&B Septic Service, Albany, Oregon

We spend a lot of time with customers. We walk them through and show them exactly what amount of space they have available, to see if we can fit a system in. We do everything we can to get a standard system into their property. One problem is just the sizing of the lots. Many lots are only 40 or 50 feet wide. If somebody on one of those lots has a shallow well (less than 50 feet), it becomes challenging to figure out what we can put in. We have to be at least 100 feet away from a shallow well. So if they or their neighbor has a shallow well, it puts them out of luck for getting a system other than a holding tank. 
– Chris Ohm, Ohm Excavating, Audubon, Minnesota

Treat your customers how you would want to be treated. And: When you’re on the job, go that extra mile. Believe me, they’ll tell their friends, their neighbors. We don’t advertise and we stay extremely busy. 
– Darius E. Melton, 2M Pumping Service, Hot Springs, Arkansas

It’s very important to us to take time to explain to customers why you’re doing what you’re doing. It also helps because we’re not the cheapest company around and I’m not going to be that guy (who lowers prices to sell jobs). We prefer to concentrate on quality instead of quantity.
– James Stiksma, Canadian Septic Inc., Langley, British Columbia

You’ve got to take care of your employees. They are what this company is today. I started the company with a backhoe and dump truck as a one-man show but when you make the transition to having employees, you must trust them. They are the key to a successful business. Another bit of advice — before you walk away from a job, whether you made money or lost money, make sure it was done to the best of your ability and find employees that will do that. If you stand behind your work and do a good job, you’ll be successful. 
– Rick Maguire, Maguire Wastewater Solutions, Virden, Illinois

We showed up to pump a tank and it was full of large fish heads. Apparently the husband cleaned fish and the wife didn’t know what to do with them so she opened the tank and threw them in.
– Jason Birdsong, JT Septic Co., Claremore, Oklahoma

My dad said, “Watch what everybody else does and find one thing to do above that mark.” One thing I’ve done that goes along with that is created an album of photos showing everything from how wiring should be done on a mechanical pump and how the floats are set, to what a yard looks like before, during and after a repair. If a customer asks a question, they get a visual explanation, and because they can see it, they understand it.
– Dwayne Crocker, Crocker Septic Tank Service, Kathleen, Georgia

I got on the board of health in my town (Templeton) and was involved in onsite from that side. We just made it our niche. There are quite a few companies here that do septic systems, but most of them do it as part of their other work; they don’t specialize in that side. Being a soil evaluator really gives me a leg up because most installers don’t have that license. It puts me in a position to be involved from the very beginning to the actual installation.
– Luke Rotti, Rotti and Son, Templeton, Massachusetts. 

We were awarded a contract to install (expand) a system for a large dog kennel in a rural area in Watkins, Colorado. The system was designed to be installed next to the outside play yard which was about 1 acre and fenced. The OWTS was a large timed-dose, dual pump, pressure system with 12 125-foot trenches with an additional 2,500-gallon tank and a new automatic distribution valve. When I bid the job, there were no dogs in sight. I could hear dogs barking in the large kennel building, but it was a muffled bark. Upon arrival on the first day, there were still no dogs in the yard. But the second my backhoe teeth touched the soil, she released the hounds and now there were 75-plus dogs barking, jumping and snarling at us. We couldn’t even hear each other. We had to use sign language (which we don’t know). Our heads started throbbing on day two. By day three, all we heard was dogs barking in our heads on the drive home. And by day five, it was 24 hours of barking — in our sleep, eating, in the shower. I don’t know how kennel owners do it.

– Clint Britt, TBC Septic, Elizabeth, Colorado


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