Adding Septic Service Sparks Growth For Drain Cleaning Company

Rooter-Man of Chattanooga had aspirations to get into septic pumping and installation the last time it was featured in Cleaner magazine. It followed through, and the move is paying off.

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Roger Milner sees himself as a problem solver for his customers. It’s the reason his company, which started solely as a drain cleaning venture, has branched out into septic service since the last time it was featured in Cleaner magazine.

“We don’t Band-Aid the problem. We fix the problem,” says Milner, owner of Rooter-Man of Chattanooga in Tennessee. “Customer service is No. 1. Growing into the septic side from drain cleaning was from us wanting to solve the homeowner’s problem in one call.”

Prior to adding septic service, this was a situation encountered far too often for Rooter-Man of Chattanooga technicians — responding to a call to clear a line only to discover that the septic tank is full and needs to be pumped.

“That meant that the homeowner had to call a septic pumping company,” Milner says. “I felt that the customer called us out, but we didn’t solve the problem and were letting them down. When a person has a backup, they are in panic mode and they don’t want to call several people to see who can solve their problem.”

Since March 2011, when the company was last profiled in the magazine, septic pumping and installation has grown to account for about 20 percent of Rooter-Man of Chattanooga’s total workload.

“Branching out has been phenomenal for us,” says Milner. “We stay very busy.”

Rooter-Man of Chattanooga was last featured in the magazine in March 2011.
Rooter-Man of Chattanooga was last featured in the magazine in March 2011.

That has meant a near doubling of the company’s workforce from seven to 13. Municipal and commercial jobs are also accounting for a significant portion of Rooter-Man’s work these days, complementing the residential jobs that still make up a majority of the workload. The split is about 70 percent residential and 30 percent municipal/commercial. At the time of the 2011 profile, the company was just beginning a long-term contract with the Hamilton County Water & Wastewater Treatment Authority pressure-testing and inspecting private service laterals.

“We are continuing to do work for the county,” says Milner. “We have had a continuing contract with them since 2011 and will be continuing for the next several years.”

More work and a larger crew has of course meant more equipment. Today Rooter-Man of Chattanooga has four Kubota excavators, two International Freightliner pumper trucks, a Freightliner dump truck, and a fleet of Dodge Pro Master, GMC and Ford service trucks. Milner also recently purchased two more RIDGID inspection cameras to add to the inventory, so that each service truck now has one. He says they are imperative to diagnosing issues and giving customers the right repair advice.

“We give them solutions, and we’re upfront with pricing,” Milner says.

Milner remains happy belonging to the Rooter-Man franchise. When Rooter-Man of Chattanooga was profiled in 2011, Milner had been involved with the franchise only two years.

“It’s a great network,” he says. “We bounce tips off each other. If I need answers for something I’ve run into, I’ll call Memphis or Tampa, and they’ll give me answers — and vice versa.”

Rooter-Man even maintains a special website where franchisees can communicate with one other, which bolsters everybody’s skill levels in both the technical and business aspects of running a successful company.

Rooter-Man also provides its own training on the business end of things.

“We’re learning about developing Google Ad Words and other web development,” says Milner. “Rooter-Man has proved to be a great network and franchise. We’re training constantly to improve our businesses.”

Milner does acknowledge one bump in the road for his growing firm.

“There’s definitely a shortage of skilled tradespeople in our field,” he says. “Getting and keeping employees for the right work is a challenge.”

Milner is trying a new tactic.

“We are finding people with no experience in the plumbing trade and training them,” he says. “We have hired three employees with little to no experience, and we place them with experienced employees for a couple of months while training them. We start off by teaching them about how sewer lines are installed beginning to end from the house to the main. They are taught how to install a septic tank, again from start to finish.”

Next comes service plumber training, including how to operate a jetter and cable a sewer line.

“After several months we look at each employee’s three strongest attributes and allow them to grow in their particular strength while constantly learning other parts of being a service technician,” Milner 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

Contractor Adapts to Changing Demands of Service Area

Company Maintains Success By Cutting Back Service Offerings

Company Finds Success Staying Small, Focusing on Niche Market

Franchise Route Proves Successful for Upstate New York Drain Cleaner

Recruiting Local Talent at Core of Company’s Growth Strategy

Plumbing Contractor Fully Embraces Trenchless Technologies

Company Thrives With Hydrodemolition Niche


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