California’s Pacific Drain & Plumbing Takes on Plumbing to Become a One-Stop Shop

Addition of plumbing and underground utility services spurs big growth for California drain cleaning company.

California’s Pacific Drain & Plumbing Takes on Plumbing to Become a One-Stop Shop

The leadership staff at Pacific Drain & Plumbing in their shop in San Diego are (from left) Kevin Post, vice president; Roy Gallegos, general manager; David Angelo, plumbing manager; Lane Post, founder and president; and Casey Post, vice president.

Lane Post, Pacific Drain & Plumbing founder and president, had been working in conjunction with local plumbing contractors for years when he and his staff realized the situation was more than lopsided.

In 1975, Post established his drain cleaning business, taking care of residential and small commercial clients. When there was a need for a plumber, he referred the customer to a network of plumbing contractors. In return, those professionals sent their drain work to Pacific Drain & Plumbing. Too often, the business exchange generated a 4-to-1 or greater referral rate with Post’s company on the short side. The management team soon realized it was time to include plumbing on their growing menu of services.

It made sense since the company’s loyal customer base had been requesting plumbing services for years.

Post was not averse to branching out in other directions when opportunities presented themselves. His son, Kevin Post, joined the firm in 1995, and his younger son, Casey Post, came on board in 2001. Lane Post had been a drain cleaner for 27 years, but the business had to expand in order to support three families. At that time, there were nine on the staff, and they were doing up to 70 drain jobs per day.

“I wanted to secure the future for all of our people,” Post says. “Over the years in the business, we would see problems, often minor, that needed to be fixed — a need for someone to dig down a few feet and make a repair. It wasn’t always easy to find the right company to call on for our customer. I saw that as an opportunity for us. We needed to do more.”

EXPANDING SERVICES

The company — with several divisions providing drain cleaning, relining, pipe bursting, jetting, CCTV inspection, lateral cutting, sewer and septic, service lateral connection dig and replace — made the wise decision to include plumbing in 2012. The result has proven to be an astounding success and put the company in a dominant position in a major market.

“All those years when I was providing drain service to my customers, they couldn’t understand why I would call in a plumber to fix the faucet or install a water heater,” Post says. “I was constantly explaining, ‘Gosh, we don’t do that. I’m not a plumber.’ So we kept giving that business away.

“Adding plumbing has been a fantastic opportunity, and we have seen this phenomenal growth.”

Starting with one service van and one plumber, the plumbing division grew to nine service and repair vans within 18 months, traversing a 50-mile radius with more than 20 cities and small towns and a combined population of approximately 1 million.

The company’s nine journeyman plumbers handle all plumbing-related services, and drain cleaning is the responsibility of a separate group of seven drain technicians. In addition, Arrow Pipeline Repair — the division that handles underground utility work, including jetting and pipe rehabilitation — has another 14 vehicles serving its diverse clientele. 

“This turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for our company,” Post says. “Because of our reputation in the industry, we were able to find qualified technicians who wanted to be a part of our venture. We looked for personality as well as experience in our plumbers. We went to the local supply houses and began asking about people who would fit our profile. One name kept coming up. Eventually we were able to secure an interview with that individual, and we were so impressed we put an offer on the table that very day. This guy, Dave Angelo, who goes by the moniker ‘Boston Dave,’ has become our lead plumber, and we give him credit as being extremely valuable in the growth of our plumbing division. He knew and was in contact with other plumbers, and as word got out, we had qualified people knocking on our door.”

He says that they have a policy that all field technicians and plumbers are familiar with all the equipment and processes used in all departments. This has proven helpful in better serving the client, but also in promoting the company and the many facets they are equipped to address.

He says that over the years, he often considered adding plumbing before finally taking the leap. “I never imagined this would happen to this degree,” says Post, who adds he is not a plumber but still a drain cleaner. “Now I know I am in the market that wanted me. The opportunity was there all the time.”

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Post is particularly proud that the company has grown from nine employees in 2001 to 48 today. During those years, the company continued to expand, adding new people and equipment despite the down economy. Emergency work became a focus. 

“We came to believe that we were where the market wanted us to be,” Post says. “We saw more and more opportunities that we just could not pass up. We hired a pipeline foreman who had experience. It just seemed like natural growth for us.”

The growth continued as Post hired Tom Holland as a consultant in marketing and business development and hired Roy Gallegos as general manager. His sons took on vice president posts. Post credits Holland for his wisdom in realizing their best potential plumbing customers would come from their existing client list. These were people who had been requesting their services for years.

“They knew us and liked us,” Holland says. “We had the key to finding plumbers who could represent the company and solve the problems. We like to refer to employees as business partners — associates. We want them to have an allegiance to the company and the customer.

“We did not do mailings. We turned to social media, added a website and kept it enhanced. We encouraged clients to put up a comment on Yelp. This was a tremendous asset. This site is not just for restaurant reviews, but plumbing companies and other service-oriented providers. This became a powerful source of outreach for us.”

Holland says they also did a database/customer analysis that was helpful as they expanded into plumbing. They wanted to gain a better understanding of their customer base and marketplace. With 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial, including property management and apartment complexes, it was important to understand their particular region and possibilities for outreach.

INVENTORY AT HAND

The plumbing division operates with a fleet of nine 12-foot box vans. Each van carries from $20,000 to $30,000 of equipment and inventory, which allows technicians to handle many home emergencies and general repairs without running to a supply house. This includes a full complement of drain cleaning equipment, for which there are frequent calls.

Drain cleaning tools include trailer jetters from US Jetting (4,000 psi/18 gpm) and Harben (4,000 psi/18 gpm) and one truck-mounted unit from Harben (4,000 psi/14 gpm). Cable machines are from Spartan Tool and Gorlitz Sewer & Drain.

On the rehabilitation side, the company uses HammerHead Trenchless pipe bursting equipment, along with several other distributors for relining materials. High-speed robotic cutting and reinstatement cutters are from I.S.T. Services, including the PC 150 and PC 200.

The company is headquartered in Vista, California, where they have a 10,000-square-foot office and warehouse facility. The plumbing division has paired up with a national supplier and has inventory on a consignment basis to draw from at home base.

Gallegos estimates the value of the consigned inventory, which is primarily for plumbing, at a six-digit figure. The plumbing division’s sales represent a multimillion-dollar figure, and double-digit growth is projected.

Having these materials at hand has been an asset for Pacific Drain & Plumbing, as they have the inventory available without the initial investment. Service technicians are responsible for the equipment on their service vans and for maintaining an inventory track.

At their weekly meetings, they stress to plumbers the importance of their role in maintaining their equipment and the responsibility they are given. And even more importantly, that the customer is always king.

“We want them to be personable, but also to educate the customer,” Gallegos says. “We are not there to sell, but to serve. We want and need those good reviews on social media.

“We also stress safety at every opportunity.”         

TIMING AND COMMUNICATION 

The plumbing division has been driven by good communication through social media and through Angelo’s efforts to get the word out and represent the team in the field.

“He is the guy who comes to us and says ‘I need more plumbers. I need another service van,’” Post says. “This is the way it has been for us in this division. The plumbing opportunities have been sitting there, just waiting for the taking.”   

Post believes his years in the industry have been extremely helpful in guiding the company’s growth, but he also finds himself at a bit of a crossroads.

“I believed it was important to listen to the ‘Young Turks’ — my sons, Roy Gallegos, and of course Tom Holland. I saw that I had taken things about as far as I was capable of and needed help both with the technical side and with the social media — the internet and computer. I’m old school, but I wanted fresh ideas. I didn’t want to come across as having all this experience and not needing additional eyes on what we were going to be doing.

“Our bottom line has increased tenfold in 10 years,” he says.

Post finds the growth on the plumbing side to be very satisfying. “Look what we’ve done in such a short period of time. I have always felt there were opportunities out there, and this proves that you have to move forward when the time seems right. Still, you must do things wisely. I like to think that the past 40 years in business have not been in vain and that we’ve built a strong name that is recognized in the region. That we stand for honesty and good service and ethical treatment of customers. It all comes together and is apparent in the rapid growth of the plumbing division. It was not something we had to sell. It was like a fast passenger train coming out of the terminal. We honestly had trouble keeping up with the demand from our customer base.”

Holland describes his view in terms of opportunity for growth, which he claims never stops.

“This company has been and will continue to be involved in mergers and acquisitions,” he says. “Arrow Pipeline has over the last several years acquired several related companies that have experienced problems, but their addition for us has complemented the Arrow Pipeline position. So in terms of looking at where things are going to occur, we want to be ahead of the curve when we are looking at investing in another company.”


Never settle for less

Lane Post, owner of Pacific Drain & Plumbing, took the first important step toward expansion in 2002 by creating a new division, Arrow Pipeline Repair.

He acquired his C-36 plumbing license and Class A General Engineering Contractor license, which allowed the company to move into underground utility work, including jetting and pipe rehabilitation.

The collections systems in Pacific Drain & Plumbing’s service area were built primarily with cast iron, clay and Orangeburg pipe. They have their share of roots, offsets, corrosion and bellies.

Many of the neighborhoods are comprised of housing tracks with as many as 200 homes that are basically identical in terms of water and sewer lines, which are the responsibility of the property owner. So for repair and maintenance, the resident or small-business owner foots the bill all the way out to the sewer connection in the middle of the street. Pipe bursting and relining have become the trend over dig-and-replace jobs.

Post notes that his company is the only San Diego operator that holds the C-36 and active Class A license, which gives them far greater capacity than the average plumber or contractor to handle this type of work.

With so much capability, Arrow Pipeline Repair is also serving many of the smaller municipalities for emergency repairs, such as water main and sewer line breaks, and removing blockages. They can take care of concrete, rebar, roots, tar and protruding laterals and can also handle reinstatement.

“Our goal in the industry is to be the go-to professional,” Post says.



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