Company Maintains Success By Cutting Back Service Offerings

California’s Sewer Line Video Inspection has eliminated one of the service offerings highlighted when the company was featured in Cleaner magazine in 2009. But that has been a positive for the company, rather than a negative.

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After using pipe lining for nearly a decade, Farrell Brown dropped it completely from his roster of services a couple of years ago.

While many contractors will take any revenue stream they can get, Brown decided to prioritize honesty and workmanship over the growing technology, which he was personally struggling with.

That’s not to say he or his company — Sewer Line Video Inspection in Woodland Hills, California, first profiled in Cleaner magazine in 2009 — are opposed to technology in general, or even trenchless methods.

“We repair sewer line with the pipe bursting method; we find that to be the best method for us,” Brown says. “Pipe bursting and regular excavation is the way I install my sewer lines these days.

“We were always led to believe that (pipe lining) was going to be the silver bullet to excavation.” 

But after receiving numerous complaints of recurring root intrusion from lining customers, Brown reconsidered if it was a service he wanted to keep offering. He was having problems with the lining not adhering to the host pipe, and root growth continued between the lining and the pipe. Brown says he decided to simply get out of the pipe lining game all together.

“We had a lot of people calling us that there’s still roots in the sewer line,” Brown says. “And people, they trust me. For me, there was no way I was going to live my life always worrying about that, so I just stopped pipe lining completely.”

By being upfront about his own misgivings in using the pipe lining system, customers appreciated Brown’s candor and stayed with him despite one less service option. Customers depend on contractors’ knowledge and savvy — promoting a service they don’t believe in, whether a technology or method, is detrimental to both parties, Brown says.

“I believe the honesty that I brought to customers in that situation got me more work,” Brown says. 

It is often said that diversification is key to growth, which makes dropping an entire service and potential revenue stream a surprising move, but Brown says he is satisfied with where his company is.

Sewer Line Video Inspection was last featured in the magazine in March 2009.
Sewer Line Video Inspection was last featured in the magazine in March 2009.

“I like to keep full control over what I’m doing. I’ve always believed in being just a small company with a few employees. I keep a much better eye on it. I can give my customers a much better service, because we’re a small company, and I think I can keep the prices down because we’re a small company,” Brown says. “I believe in having a very good name for myself, and that’s the way I operate.”

That approach of maintaining a small and sustainable operation helped Brown’s company weather the economic downturn that occurred right around the time it was last featured in Cleaner magazine.

“It was tough for several years, but we always kept above water, and recently we’ve started getting very busy again,” Brown says. 

Brown, who was a service plumber before branching into offerings like camera inspection, used to rely heavily on serving as a subcontractor for plumbing companies. But as more plumbers have purchased their own cameras, he’s had to consider different niche markets to take advantage of. He found one, but he declined to share specific details about it for fear of losing his edge over others in the highly competitive Los Angeles area.

“I have a very good niche that keeps me very busy, but I can’t splash it all over. It is working out very well for me,” Brown says.

Otherwise, Sewer Line Video Inspection is in many ways the same business featured in Cleaner magazine nearly a decade ago.

“We have five employees. We’ve tried to stay pretty steady with our work,” Brown says. “I think we’re very happy the way we are. We do a very good job, we’re very honest in our workmanship, we don’t go out lying to people. I believe honesty is the best policy.”

Farrell Brown (far left) with his crew back in 2009, when Sewer Line Video Inspection was last featured in the magazine.
Farrell Brown (far left) with his crew back in 2009, when Sewer Line Video Inspection was last featured in the magazine.

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

Contractor Adapts to Changing Demands of Service Area


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