The Next in Line

Massachusetts Rooter-Man contractor readies the reins for the next generation
The Next in Line
The Rooter-Man North team includes, from left, Jason Langlais, Mark Murphy, Mike Preneveau, Dave Tiney, Glenn Daigle, Jeff Marsland, Suzanne Daigle, Chris Daigle, Sarah Mamis and Matt Daigle.

Interested in Cleaning?

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

Cleaning + Get Alerts

Glenn and Suzanne Daigle spent nearly three decades running the successful Rooter-Man franchise serving the Merrimac Valley area of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, but now they’re getting ready to take some time off and turn over the reins. The best part? Their successors have been with the company their whole lives: They’re the next generation of Daigles.

Christopher and Matt Daigle grew up in the business. Between the two of them they know just about every aspect of its operation and are ready to build on what their parents started.

The challenges are bigger than ever.

“There’s a lot more to take care of – a lot more bills, a lot more customers,” Glenn Daigle says. But the younger generation is rising to the new demands. “They just sort of grew into it.”


Mechanic and welder

Glenn Daigle was working as a truck mechanic and welder when he and Suzanne decided they wanted to buy a franchise business of their own. They were 27 years old.

The Daigles wanted the independence of being their own bosses and the opportunity to make a good living. They’d considered various other types of businesses, like cleaning services, but a drain cleaning service was appealing because it allowed Glenn to make use of his mechanic’s training and knowledge.

After looking at various other drain cleaning franchises, they chose Rooter-Man. Although the Massachusetts-based company was founded in 1970, it only began franchising in 1981. The Daigles bought their franchise in 1982, just the fourth in the Rooter-Man system.


Knowing the territory

The Daigles kept the business focused on the communities of northeastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire, all within about a 20-mile radius of their home base, Lawrence, located about 30 miles north of Boston. In addition to residential customers, they do a lot of work with hospitals, shopping centers and municipalities. Rooter-Man North offers the full complement of sewer and related services: unclogging sinks, tubs and toilets; inspecting and cleaning sewers, laterals, catch basins and grease traps; pumping septic and holding tanks; locating pipes; and thawing frozen pipes. More recently, the Daigles have expanded the scope of the business to include trenchless pipelining, using the Nu Flow Technologies product line.

“We started out with a vacuum truck, a pickup truck with drain cleaning tools, and a rodding machine,” Glenn Daigle recalls.

The fleet has grown since then.

“My goal was to have all the particular tools – everything that you would need for anything you would run into. I now have most equipment and spares to minimize rentals and subcontractors, which gives us more of an edge to ensure quality workmanship.”

The business owns two 4,000-gallon pumpers, a 2002 Volvo and a 2005 International. There are two jet/vac trucks, a SafeVac and an Aquatech (Hi-Vac Corp.), a pair of GMC cleaning trucks (a 1987 GMC Brigadier and a 2000 GMC used for cleaning), and a half-dozen vans, all Ford, ranging from 1999 to 2008 model years. A truck-mounted Aries camera and six UEMSI cameras provide inspection support. For rodding and jetting, the business relies on a 1996 trailer rodder, a 1996 Sewer Equipment Co. of America trailer jetter, and a 2003 O’Brien (Hi-Vac Corp.) trailer jetter. Snaking equipment from Cobra Technologies and General Pipe Cleaners rounds out the inventory.


The next generation

The transition to the next generation wasn’t made overnight – and it was never something that the elder Daigles forced. The prospect of Chris and Matt moving into the driver’s seat “was there all the time,” Glenn Daigle says. “But you can’t push them.” Instead, he continues, “We sat down several times through the years and always touched base with them.”

With a father’s pride, the elder Daigle calls both Matt and Chris “great kids,” but adds that they’re as different as night and day.

Christopher, 30, is focused on the work in the field, having seen it firsthand since he was a young boy.

Glenn Daigle remembers buying his first pump truck.

“As soon as he was safe to come out on the job and be responsible, at 14 or 15, he was there. He never looked back and never complained. He was happy being on the job.”

It’s the only job Chris has ever had, even though he’s had offers elsewhere.

“I’m very hands-on,” Chris Daigle says. “I liked to go out and do the work instead of just staying back in the shop. I liked going out, being able to solve people’s problems.”

And growing up in the business has made it easier, he says – helping him earn the respect he needed in his management role.

Like his brother, Matt Daigle, 28, has worked for his parents part time in college and has been full time since. Yet there was nothing automatic about his joining the business. When he first enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, where Chris had gone as well, he had “no idea” what he would choose as a major or as a professional pursuit. Over time, however, he settled on a management major like his brother and came around to the idea of joining the family business – attracted, he says, by “the stability and working together with my family.”


Inside man

Matt’s role focuses on the office, where he’s taken on tasks such as setting up the computer system and keeping an eye on office efficiency. It’s a much more comfortable setting for him than being out on the road.

“Matt has always been Mr. Clean – more of the office-type person,” Glenn Daigle says.

When the business built and moved into a new building on the property in 2010, Matt Daigle managed the transition. The principal challenge was to set up a free-flowing office space that could run smoothly with all the different employees working in it and ensure that everyone had a comfortable work environment.

His college studies had exposed him to major companies and the way they were run, along with subjects such as business ethics. Working in the family business has been especially appealing because it’s been relatively free of the sort of workplace politics that draw complaints from so many workers.

“The trust in your family is much different than if you were to work in a larger office or a different style of company,” he says. “It’s very challenging working with your family. But the trust and camaraderie you have with your family is not like anything else.”

The brothers get along in part because each respects the other’s territory.

“We try not to step on each other’s toes,” says Chris Daigle, “and we do a pretty good job of it so far.”

Both sons matured on the job.

“They had to gain the respect of the people who work here,” Glenn Daigle says. And over time, “I could see their personalities changing,” he continues. “They were taking on the responsibility.”

And now Daigle, who is 57, says he’s ready to slow down.


Formula for success

The Daigle formula for success is a simple one: “Be there when people need you, and do the best that you can when you do it,” Glenn Daigle says. “Have the proper equipment to do the job and people that can do the job. And stay focused on what you’re doing; getting bigger is not always better.”

His advice for grooming a family member as your business successor is similarly straightforward. “Take time for them,” he says. “Work with them. Give them some slack – don’t be their bosses, be their friends.”

And if they aren’t sure they’re interested, accept that.

“They have to want it. Work with them so that they know you’re helping them, but don’t force them.”

That doesn’t mean they get any special breaks just because their parents own the business, though, Daigle says.

“We tell them all the time: You can’t be special. You have to pull the load just like (the other employees). I can’t favor you more than them.”

Indeed, to be a good boss he adds, “a lot of times you have to work harder than the other people.”


Building for tomorrow

The Daigles started the business on a 2-acre lot where they lived. In 1987, they moved the business to a new property they bought from a contractor. They expanded the existing building on that site twice, until it was 5,000 square feet. Two years ago, the Daigles built a second 5,000-square-foot building big enough to store about half of their 15-vehicle fleet on the same lot. It also houses offices, a conference room and a break room. Eight skylights allow the facility to be lit mainly by sunlight during the day, and waste oil heats it, saving on fuel costs.

The new building was a significant milestone in the growth of the business and marked a transition as well.

“It took us 25 years to do it,” Glenn Daigle says. “Now we’ve accomplished it, and the kids have taken over.”

With luck and more of the hard work that got them this far, they’ll have an opportunity to do it again – perhaps 25 or 30 years down the road.


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.