Best of 2021: Cleaners Offer Advice and Insight

Here’s a look back on some of what contractors shared in the pages of Cleaner magazine in the past year

Best of 2021: Cleaners Offer Advice and Insight

Pronto Plumbing & Drains, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

It’s again that time of year that is typically reserved for some reflection. Here we reflect on some of the industry knowledge that has appeared in Cleaner magazine in 2021. A lot of contractors are featured in the magazine over the course of a year, and whether they have decades of experience or are still fairly new to the industry, there is often something to learn from their experiences:

“I think it’s nuts to charge customers extra for inspections. You’re doing a service for clients, plus it gives you more opportunities to get inside their homes. It gives us about 35% more [drain] business — and we’re not waiting for the phone to ring when someone has a backed-up drain. You have to maintain a full call board and keep revenue flowing in as well. So we proactively call customers to see if they want an inspection.”

— John Gribble, Pronto Plumbing & Drains, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

“We have an owner who benchmarks his success on how many of his employees own a home, a car and are able to provide all the best for their children. And this stakeholder model is also extended to the firm’s clients and network of vendors.”

— Nick DeGraff, The Trenchless Company, Sacramento, California

“We pride ourselves on being first to market with new technology. It keeps competitors at bay who don’t want to or can’t afford to make those kinds of investments. In fact, we end up doing a fair amount of UV-curing for other companies because they also realize it’s the best technology for their customer, but they just can’t pull the trigger on such a significant investment. Instead of going after competitive, low-bid projects, we try to focus on negotiated projects for customers that are looking for a good, long-term solution, not just putting a Band-Aid on a repair.”

— Don Arch, Engineered Lining Systems, Jacksonville, Florida

“I work with a lot of [Realtors], helping protect a real estate client’s investment. You buy a $500,000 home, you want to make sure the pipes are clean. I give the Realtors a special package, a discount rate when a property is in escrow. I walk it through with them and explain everything I found. Most of them refer me to other people. Believe it or not, 75% of my business is through referral and word-of-mouth. The way I look at it, as long as you take care of your client, your phone always is going to ring.”

— Daniel Fanti, Jetters N Drains, Fullerton, California

American Trenchless Technologies, DeKalb, Illinois
American Trenchless Technologies, DeKalb, Illinois

“Nothing satisfied me like the lining business. First of all, it’s a necessary service. When people have sewage coming into their home or business, they need it taken care of quickly. And when you show up and take care of their problems without any disruption — no tearing up their house, basement, patio, yard, driveway or whatever — you’re their hero. You become instant friends with people. It’s very satisfying.”

— Mark Carpenter, American Trenchless Technologies, DeKalb, Illinois

“I was burned out so bad before, I want to make it comfortable for my guys. We answer calls five days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and don’t work Sundays. If someone wants to, they can work Saturdays. We get calls at night but usually refer them to [another company]. There is so much work out there.”

— Billy Teeter, Drain Mob, San Diego, California

“If you have only one tool in the box, you’re just not as useful to customers. We invest in different kinds of equipment that can play multiple roles in multiple markets. [For example] we can use a vac truck to clean everything from a sewer mainline to a chemical tank to a sludge lagoon.”

— Ian Stewart, ESP&P Industrial Services, Jonesborough, Tennessee

“Our training program is extremely complex. We spend an inordinate amount of time and expense looking for the right people and training them. We make a tremendous effort to ensure that a person will fit our philosophy of company service and fit our culture. A bad apple can ruin a company.”

— Colby Phillips, Northstar Environmental Group, Gallatin, Tennessee

Sewer Experts (a division of Mustard Seed Construction), Commerce City, Colorado
Sewer Experts (a division of Mustard Seed Construction), Commerce City, Colorado

“The main reason I’m in business is word-of-mouth referrals and our customer service. I’m on my phone 24/7. I’m always accessible and available to explain things to customers. And I go to every single job site in person and meet customers face to face. It’s all about building relationships.”

— Marisa Beaver, Sewer Experts (a division of Mustard Seed Construction), Commerce City, Colorado

“After the pandemic, we are going to keep [virtual service calls] as an offered service. Not everyone can afford a service call. Some people don’t even know where a shut-off valve is and we can help them find it. And they don’t have to wait for a tech in a truck to arrive to do that.”

— Diego Lujan, Alphalete Plumbing, Heating & Air, Colorado Springs, Colorado

“Customers don’t know what you did under the cabinet. But what they’re going to look at is the finished product, so it better look really professional. And I always bring a mop, a broom, a dustpan and some bleach. The walls and floors where I work are going to look and smell really nice. I often get thank-you notes from customers who say they never had a plumber do things like that before.”

— Julius Voss, Julius Voss Plumbing & Construction, Cleveland, Mississippi

“You can invest in all the good equipment you want, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the technicians who operate it. We’re a small company, so we’re not big enough to handle every emergency call. That’s just not who we are. But if a customer is experiencing repetitive emergencies, that’s where we shine and can show our capabilities. We’re always up for a challenge and we don’t leave a job until we find a way to repair it. That’s one thing that separates us from our competitors — we do not tell customers no. Every trenchless technology has limitations, so it’s all about trying to give every customer an option. The more technologies we add, we more we reduce the odds of ever saying no to a customer.”

— Jason Koran, Pipe Masters, Honolulu, Hawaii

Pro Service Plumbing, Cleveland, Ohio
Pro Service Plumbing, Cleveland, Ohio

“I pride myself on being capable enough to teach the trades. I’ve had five or six employees leave and form their own businesses. I’m never going to knock someone who leaves my company and uses the skills I taught them to better themselves. I’m proud of that, and that they’re doing work at a high level. Teaching the trades the right way — emphasizing the need to take pride in their work — is very important. It’s disrespectful to the trades to do sloppy work, so it’s important to instill those values.”

— Chris Sbrocco, Pro Service Plumbing, Cleveland, Ohio

“We do our very best to keep our guys safe on the job, keeping them hydrated in our desert climate, making sure that they are properly trained on how to use equipment correctly and safely — but also feel safe that they are in a healthy working environment as far as emotional and mental stress because our industry can be stressful at times. We are really focused on having a good mojo and bringing on the right people that have the right personality, are respectful and professional in their language. Even though we work with sewers we don’t talk like we do.” 

— Eric Eaves, Nu Flow Phoenix and Tucson (Arizona)

“Our services work hand in hand. If we didn’t video pipelines, for instance, we wouldn’t get as much jet-vac work. And if we didn’t do jet-vac work, we wouldn’t get as much video work. It’s all about offering logical extensions of services.”

— Rick Fender, Cloud 9 Services, Orlando, Florida 


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