Contractor Offers Many Services, Including Plumbing, for Area Communities

Septic service provider keeps up with plumbing side of operation with dedicated employees.
Contractor Offers Many Services, Including Plumbing, for Area Communities
Darrel Gressel, owner of Big D’s Septic Service in Watson, Illinois, stands with one of his plumbing service trucks. The company offers plumbing, septic and drain cleaning services. (Photo courtesy of Big D’s Septic Service)

With a staff of only eight, Big D’s Septic Service not only finds time to work on septic systems, but also offers typical plumbing and drain cleaning services every day of the week, all day long.

Darrel Gressel, owner of Big D’s, has been operating the company based in Watson, Illinois, for the past 6 1/2 years. He took over the company from his father, Farrel, who started it in 1955. The company serves Effingham County with a population of approximately 34,000.

Q: This company was originally a septic service provider. How did you come to offer plumbing and drain cleaning?

DARREL: My father did offer plumbing at one time. After I took over the company, I had an opportunity to bring in two licensed plumbers, and I also decided to include drain cleaning, which expanded what we could offer our customers. They had been asking for these additional services. We also bought a small jetter, which we paid for within a short period of time. It was a good addition to our supply of tools.

Q: Can you describe what your customer base is?

DARREL: We have the residential customers and also commercial, such as small restaurant chains and gas stations. We also provide service to many small communities and municipalities in our area. For the towns we get called out for emergency services. Some of these towns have very small budgets to take care of problems they have with their lift stations. There are also problems with utility lines that are broken and need repair. This business has become very important to our company.
Recently, we had three communities with these kinds of issues in just seven days. It usually doesn’t happen all at once, but you have to be ready to respond.

With all of our commercial and municipal customers we have a policy that we will never take more than two hours to be on site to take care of an emergency situation. We are a 24/7 operation and we will have two of our employees available to respond quickly when we get a frantic call.

Q: How is the work sorted out among your employees?

DARREL: We have two licensed plumbers, three licensed septic installers, and two licensed pumper operators. About 40 percent of our business falls into plumbing/drain cleaning and that’s split half and half between residential work and commercial and municipal work. Our plumbers will cross over, but usually they just deal with plumbing issues.

We have two service vans, three service trucks, plus a pump truck.

Q: What sort of inventory do you carry? Do you carry a lot of plumbing supplies, such as water heaters or fixtures and faucets?

DARREL: We have a small inventory for plumbing, but we have plenty of access to things like water heaters or other requirements. What we do carry a lot of is a supply of pipes. That is what is important. You don’t find a hardware store open at 2 a.m., and we have to be able to respond when a customer needs some piping redone on the spot.

Q: Describe the pipe inventory that is important to your operation.

DARREL: Our pipe inventory, which includes substantial amounts of SDR 35 PVC, 3-inch and 4-inch, and Schedule 40 3/4-inch up to 4-inch, can be as high as $100,000 down to $50,000. And we carry all the fittings: metal, plastic and clay tile fittings.
This is very important for us to have on hand. Especially on weekends and nights when the guys can come to the shop and pick up what they need. On our service trucks we do carry a lot of 4-inch and 3-inch fittings as well.

Q: What have you experienced in terms of finding employees to work in the field?

DARREL: I do find it hard to find people who will work in the industry and be willing to put in the necessary hours.

Q: How does the weather impact your business?

DARREL: When we have 4 to 6 inches of rain in a week, we will have a lot of emergency calls, such as basements flooded, systems flooded, and we have to be there within two hours to take care of our customers.

In the winter with a lot of snow we are called on to help thaw frozen lines and address other situations.

Q: Do you ever turn down a job?

DARREL: We recently opted out of a job where the waterline was broken underneath the river. We decided we did not want to deal with that one. You have to realize when you are not prepared to do something.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a boss?

DARREL: I would never ask my technicians or plumbers to do anything I would not do. I want to keep the customers happy and my employees happy. I want a good relationship. If there is ever a problem on a job, I want the employee to let me handle any issues or problems, and to feel free to call on me. Often when we get those late night calls, I am the one to answer and go. 



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