New Services Spur Company’s Growth

San Diego County cleaning contractor moves into plumbing to meet demands of his loyal customer base
New Services Spur Company’s Growth
Lane Post (center) with his sons Kevin (left) and Casey Post (right) co-own and manage Pacific Drain Service in Vista, California, serving the greater San Diego area. Photography by Collin Chappelle

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Basic drain cleaning is a pretty standard service for most residential plumbing contractors, but not too many drain cleaning contractors make the leap into full-service plumbing. Pacific Drain Service is an exception to that rule.

Lane Post established his Vista, California-based drain cleaning business in 1975, taking care of residential and small commercial clients. For years, he referred customers to a network of plumbing contractors whenever a plumber was required. In return, those professionals sent their drain work to Post, but the exchange was lopsided and Pacific Drain was on the short side.

The company’s loyal customer base had been requesting plumbing services for years, and Post and his team finally decided it was time to make the leap.

Post was not averse to branching out in other directions when opportunities presented themselves. His son, Kevin, joined the firm in 1995, and his younger son, Casey, came on board in 2001. 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.”

A new course
Post 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.

Over the next few 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.”

By 2008, Post had engaged Tom Holland as a consultant in marketing and business development and hired Roy Gallegos as general manager. His sons became vice presidents.

In 2012, the new venture became Pacific Drain & Plumbing. Starting with one service van and one plumber, the 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 service, and drain cleaning is the responsibility of a separate group of seven drain technicians. In addition, Arrow Pipeline has another 14 vehicles serving their 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, and 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 Angelou, 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.”

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 from Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota. 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 pipe bursting equipment, along with several other distributors for relining materials. High-speed robotic cutting and reinstatement cutters are from Innovative Sewer Technologies, including the PC 150 and PC 200.

The plumbing division has paired up with a national supplier that provides inventory on a consignment basis. Gallegos estimates the value of the consigned inventory, which is kept at the 10,000-square-foot office and warehouse facility, 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 to also educate the customer,” Gallegos says. “We are not there to sell, but to serve.”

Timing and communication
The plumbing division has been driven by good communication through social media and through Angelou’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.”

Post is particularly proud that the company grew from nine employees in 2001 to 48 in 2014.

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


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