If you’ve considered branching into lateral lining but haven’t made the move yet, first consider which of these three groups you are a part of.
Should I get into lateral lining? It’s a question I hear fairly frequently when talking to people, and they seem to fall into one of three distinct groups:
Successful contractors with an emphasis on drain cleaning — They may run a few trucks, have crews that respond to drain service calls, and use excavating equipment to replace failed sewers — usually after a collapse or when all cleaning options have been exhausted.
This group is usually the most receptive to the process and the easiest to transition. They have been replacing sewers, know the costs involved in that type of work, and know the drawbacks caused by certain site conditions. They tend to do all the work on their own and don’t often rely on subcontractors. Often, they already own some equipment that crosses over to lateral lining and they have employees who are mechanically inclined. For this group, now is the time to get into the lateral lining business. Why? As more and more consumers become savvy about the lateral lining market, they opt out of the mess that opencut excavations make to their yards and their landscapes. Many of these contractors are losing business when customers ask them if they do lining work and they have to say no.
Drain cleaning contractors who prefer to sub out rehab or replacement jobs — Like the first group, they heavily focus on drain service calls, but when a job calls for more than cleaning, and sewer line replacement comes into the picture, they call on another contractor — either as a sub or a direct referral.
This group is familiar with lateral lining and the replacement/rehabilitation end of the business, but they may not be ready to jump into doing the work themselves. Their piece of the market is to sell, bill, collect and direct the subcontractor work. There are many companies who have been successful operating in this manner. They dip their toes into the lateral lining business when circumstances change, such as bringing on a new employee who has past experience in lining or a subcontractor lets them down on a job. But these folks usually stick with subs as long as the subs treat them well and provide timely service.
Entrepreneurs — They have only heard about lateral lining, but they’re interested in getting into the business because of the potential for high profit margins. They feel they can carve out a niche market working as a sub to contractors who choose to stay out of the lining business. Occasionally they will purchase a drain cleaning business and blend lateral lining into the existing services.
Setting up this model takes a lot of planning, market research, and finding experienced, qualified people to perform the work. The entrepreneur will spend extra money getting his staff up to speed if necessary, and may have some staff turnover at first while trying to find the right people.
If you find yourself thinking about getting into the lateral lining business, consider where you fit within these categories. For those of you who already respond to drain cleaning calls and handle all the necessary work, the transition is pretty easy. If you find yourself subbing out some of your work now, you must decide how lateral lining will fit in. What work will you sub out and what work will you take on yourself? And finally, if you are starting a business model from scratch, lateral lining may help you find a path to success, but it won’t come without a little work up front.
About the author
John Heisler is the owner of Pipe Lining Supply and Quik-Lining Systems Inc. He has 20 years of experience in the CIPP lining industry and over 40 years in the underground construction industry.