Plumbing Company Takes on Septic and Portable Restrooms to Keep Growing

Missouri contractor continues with septic and portable restroom operations after adding those in 2008 to keep the company going.
Plumbing Company Takes on Septic and Portable Restrooms to Keep Growing
The leadership staff of Reliable Plumbing & Septic, from left, Shane Lane, Mike Bruno and Nick Nolting, stand near their vehicles at the company yard in Hermann, Missouri.

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When Shane Lane opened his plumbing business 20 years ago, he focus on the typical plumbing service, repair and new construction work, but that changed in 2008 when the recession hit.

Now, the company, based in Hermann, Missouri, offers services in the septic and portable restroom industry. That side of the operation now accounts for 10 percent of the revenue for Reliable Plumbing & Septic.

The customer base is about 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial. Lane and Mike Bruno own the company that operates with two plumbers and two apprentices.

Q: What is the general area that you serve?

Shane: We are in a small town that’s about 2,500 in population, and we travel a radius of about 40 miles. The total population as a whole is 80,000 to 100,000.  

Q: What was involved in opening the septic portion of your business?

Shane: I had to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars in equipment. I had to buy trucks and toilets. It’s just a supplement to my main business.

Q: What other services have you offered?

Shane: We do offer jetting as we do sewer cleaning and repair. In our commercial work, we are dealing with and serving multiple bed-and-breakfast establishments, car dealerships, gas stations, public works buildings, restaurants and multiple hotels in our area by providing all our services.

Q: New construction is an important element in your company. What does this involve?

Shane: In addition to plumbing and fixtures, we also do gas piping and fire sprinkler installations. Generally we work with the homeowner, and occasionally we are a subcontractor. The custom homes we work on are generally 4,000 to 4,500 square feet.

Q: How do you promote Reliable Plumbing & Septic?

Shane: Most of the work we get comes from word-of-mouth. I still use the telephone directory because older people in our area still frequently go there. When we added other services, we advertised quite heavily. Today, I have a good multiplier for my advertising that I negotiated a while ago, so it doesn’t cost a whole lot, relatively speaking.

Q: Can you tell us about the sewer work your company offers?

Shane: We do lateral lines, water service lines and municipal mains. We are not afraid to take on any challenge. We just recently ran 1,800 feet of 6-inch waterlines to part of the city. In our region, there are a lot of lead lines and galvanized pipe that are 70 to 80 years old, and they need to be replaced. We also have a lot of cast-iron pipe, and we can take care of these issues.

Q: What opportunity is there to grow the septic end of the business?

Shane: There is potential to grow this business, but I don’t have the time it would take to develop new customers any further than we are. There are a lot of regulations involved in the septic business that complicate things, and I am not anxious to take it that much further. We will take care of the customers we have.

Q: What has been the key to your success?

Shane: I would say it is our work ethic. We go seven days a week if we have to. There is no such thing as a holiday or day off. It is all about our response time. People know that when they call, somebody will be here to answer. That pays off.

Q: How do you feel about what the business has accomplished so far?

Shane: I’m 53 years old, and I plan on doing this until I’m 65. I’m content with the volume of work we have and the rate that it comes in. The part of the business I absolutely enjoy is being part of a solution. But I don’t want to drive for an hour and a half to develop new work — to chase work — when I have plenty in my backyard. I don’t want to develop a six- or eight-person crew and have more to deal with. I’m trying to do less, not more.

With the good help I have now, I’m able to do well. I would as soon be in the truck as in the field. I enjoy that and physically doing the work considerably more than the paper work. When I’m in the office all day, I’m just not a pleasant person to be around. I don’t feel that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I get when I’m out in the field.


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