Contractor Adapts to Changing Demands of Service Area

When EcoClean was profiled in Cleaner magazine in 2008, it was focused on developing a niche using off-road vehicles to tackle remote cleaning and inspection jobs. Since then, the company has shifted course.

Contractor Adapts to Changing Demands of Service Area

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A decade ago, Greg Goan decided that working the hard contracts would help him best build a reputation that would propel his young business forward. He carved out a niche as a sewer and drain contractor who would take on the toughest, most remote, off-road jobs that came his way.

As an off-road vehicle driver himself, he was anxious to tackle the challenges of his service area around Portland, Maine — rugged mountains mixed with beach coastline and interspersed with otherwise untraveled terrain.

“This was a niche nobody was exploiting, going into places that didn’t even have roads. In many cases, there were no maps, and GPS information and aerial photos had to be used to determine manhole locations,” says Goan, whose company EcoClean was profiled in the September 2008 issue of Cleaner magazine.

His tricked-out off-road vehicles, a Jeep Wrangler and a Jeep Grand Cherokee, crashed through the wilderness hauling inspection, jetting, and spot-repair lining equipment along with necessary support tools like a compressor and a welder. For a niche, the off-road services made up a significant part of the business back in 2008 — about 25 percent of EcoClean’s total revenue.

Maine borders New Hampshire, with Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut nearby, offering opportunities to grow off-road services. Because word-of-mouth is often the best form of communication in small New England communities, Goan notified surrounding municipalities of his capabilities.

“Have equipment, will travel,” he advised.

The opportunity for growth in the off-road niche looked promising for a few years, and then municipal funding dried up. The work was still there, but there was no money to pay for it.

“It was a downhill slide,” Goan says. “Our off-road work went away, and our focus went to on-road jobs. We updated our vehicles and equipment necessary to concentrate on the new diversified game plan, and today we’re doing a good mix of residential and municipal sewer lines. Residential work is our bread and butter.”

Greg Goan and his company EcoClean were last featured in the magazine in September 2008.
Greg Goan and his company EcoClean were last featured in the magazine in September 2008.

EcoClean has five employees, one dealing with administrative duties, with the other four out in the field offering 24/7 service. Because of geography, weather has to be factored in when the phone rings. 

“It happens often and, despite the frosty temperatures and a couple of feet of snow on the ground, you bounce out of bed and suit up. When people have a backup in the basement, they want you there quick,” Goan says.

So, in addition to doing a job quickly, correctly, and at a fair price, customer service is ingrained in the company philosophy, adapted from the family drain-cleaning business Goan’s father started in Detroit in the 1940s.

“We’re not plumbers; we only do sewer and drain work, and we do that the right way. We don’t just provide technical service, we provide customer service. We don’t upsell, and our customers’ ratings reflect that. We’re still rated A+ everywhere.”

Goan says equipment additions over the years have been key to allowing his crews to move more quickly, with precision, and often at a lower cost.

“We’re running three service vans, a mainline CCTV inspection van, and we have three trailer setups: one for lining, one for pipe patches and milling equipment, and one for pipe bursting,” he says.

More recent additions are a Picote Solutions milling machine and a new lining system. Those two items have helped “change the course and direction of the company,” Goan says, noting it will cut down on excavating costs and bring more revenue into the company.

“The Picote equipment, although expensive at the onset, will allow us to descale cast iron. It will make the final cleaning of the line better than anything else on the market,” he says. “And our new lining trailer will help make replacement of sewer lines easier. It’s a system where we go right through the clean-out and line it out to the city main — 100 percent structural without the need of a host pipe.

“If I had any suggestion to make to fellow industry members, I’d suggest not overextending yourself. Don’t spend more money than you have to on things you don’t actually need. I’ve seen a lot of companies in our area go out of business because they bought equipment they didn’t have an immediate need for with no way to pay for it. Figure out the pluses and minuses of major expenditures before taking that step forward. I always make sure I have a job committed before I buy the gear. Some companies are willing to do demos, so use those demos to get the work, and once you have the work, then buy the equipment.”

This philosophy appears to be working for EcoClean as revenue continues to climb.

“We’re now doing about $1.2 million gross, about double where we were when our 2008 story was written, and we’re increasing those revenue figures at a rate of about 8 to 10 percent per year,” Goan says.

Playing Catch-up

Cleaner has been revisiting companies profiled in the past to see what has happened to them since they last graced the pages of the magazine. Check out these other update stories about past Cleaner contractors:

Company Looks at Fine-Tuning Operations Following Rapid Growth

Sticking to Key Business Principles Drives Company's Growth

Young Plumber Continues to Grow Longtime LA Firm

Company Doubles Revenue By Sticking to Its Customer Service Principles


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