Creating a Symbiotic Relationship With the Competition

With plenty of work to go around in their Green Bay, Wisconsin, service area, two companies have developed a mutually beneficial bond rather than seeing one another as foes

Creating a Symbiotic Relationship With the Competition

Matthew Sadler and Mark Joski

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About six years ago, Matthew Sadler, owner of Sadler Sewer & Drain Cleaning in Green Bay, Wisconsin, chatted with master plumber Richard Sinclair. The plumber periodically channeled work to Sadler Sewer & Drain Cleaning as well as to other sewer companies in the Green Bay area. One of the other companies was Joski Sewer Services, operated by Mark Joski.

“Do you know Mark?” Sinclair asked Sadler. Turns out Sadler didn’t, so Sinclair suggested they get to know one another. “He sometimes needs someone to do this or that,” he told Sadler, who called up Joski. He suggested they meet for breakfast and conversation. It was the start of a mutually beneficial working relationship.

For two ostensibly competing companies to help out one another might seem foolhardy. Either a customer is loyal to one sewer company or the other, right? This is business, after all, where one company gets ahead by providing better service than another company.

But as Sadler explains it, “There is more than enough work to go around for everyone. There is more work than we all can do.”

The cooperative approach to doing business produces mutual benefits. One company or the other is better equipped to do certain kinds of jobs and both companies are blessed with sufficient business to afford referring calls to each other. Cooperation seems to work.

“It’s turned out to be a really good relationship,” Joski says.

How they swap jetter services is a good example. Sadler Sewer employs a Spartan Soldier jetter that runs 12 gpm at 3,000 psi, whereas Joski Sewer rolls out a jetting system with an integrated boiler. When a line is frozen or otherwise unresponsive to Sadler’s jetter he calls Joski, who shows up with his heated solution. But Sadler’s jetting unit is more powerful and produces more gallons per minute, so when Joski can’t break through a jam, he calls on Sadler to do the job.

Another example: Sadler Sewer currently doesn’t offer pipe lining, but Joski does. When Sadler suggests to a customer that lining a pipe makes more sense, he recommends Joski for the job.

“And Mark sometimes calls me when one of his lining jobs has a separation and I’ll go do the repair. We know what the other does and turn over jobs as needed,” Sadler says.

“In the summer especially, when I get busy with extra excavation work, I’ll send drain cleaning service calls over to Matthew,” Joski says.

And if a service call is notably close to the home or office of either company owner, the businessman farther away often will refer the would-be customer to the nearer office of his rival.

“He leaves his customers to me when he goes on vacation and I leave my customers to him when I go on vacation,” Sadler says. “We get him out of binds, and he gets us out of binds.”

Sometimes they undertake jobs together because of complementary expertise or equipment. Sadler, for example, is a certified scuba diver.

“We just did a job together under Lake Michigan, clearing a drainline for a plant,” says Sadler, who donned his scuba gear to direct the underwater operation. “It is so convenient to have friendships in the industry.”

“If I send Matthew one of my customers, the customer usually reassures me I am his guy. Matt’s customers do the same thing,” Joski says. “But there is so much drain cleaning work out there, no one gets mad if a customer strays. I don’t ask around, but I think a lot of companies work with each other. It probably happens more often than you think.”


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