Adding Septic Pumping to Your Service Offerings

Three plumbing contractors discuss their experiences getting into the septic pumping game

Adding Septic Pumping to Your Service Offerings

Timothy A. Giard & Son Plumbing & Heating of North Andover, Massachusetts, added septic pumping to its service offerings in 2018.

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For years, people calling Timothy A. Giard & Son Plumbing & Heating for septic pumping were referred to other local contractors. That practice ended when the company decided to purchase a used vacuum truck in August 2018.

“It always was in the back of my mind — something I always wanted to do,” says Jeremy Giard, the company’s vice president and co-owner with his father, Timothy Giard. “My dad and I had been spitballing the idea for a few years. And other competitors in the area were getting older. So I figured it was a good time to offer this service to our clients. We already have a foot in the door with our hydronic and general plumbing services, and people ask periodically if we know anyone who pumps out tanks. Instead of referring them to other companies, I said I’d find an inexpensive truck and start doing it ourselves.”

The vast majority of local towns in the company’s service area (North Andover, Massachusetts, about 30 miles north of Boston) primarily employ septic systems to handle waste, so there was no lack of potential customers for the company. Giard’s interest intersected with opportunity when he came across a classified ad for a used vacuum truck nearby.

“So I drove up to Maine to take a look at the truck and fell in love with it,” Giard says. “And that’s how we got started. But I’m not in this to take out anybody or ruffle any feathers. I just saw a need that will emerge in the near future and figured rather than let someone else take it, why not me?”

To gain septic customers, the company relies on word-of-mouth referrals, as well as direct mail flyers and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. But Giard says the company is not interested in generating an explosive influx of customers, which would make it more difficult to provide good customer service and to continue tending to plumbing customers.

“We’re in this for the long game, not exponential growth,” he says.

It made sense for the company to buy a used truck for a new business venture. By avoiding a large monthly payment on a truck loan, the company is under less pressure to build business faster than desired. 

“It’s not costing us anything if it sits for, say, a week,” Giard says. “By not overextending ourselves financially, we’re in a better position to succeed.”

Pumping septic tanks currently accounts for about 20% of the company’s business volume. Giard would like to see that rise to 30% or even 40% in the years ahead. Ideally, he envisions adding another vacuum truck within five years to have enough capacity to handle any additional customers the company might pick up as other area pumpers retire. As of now, he spends an average of two days a week pumping septic tanks with a driver the company hired specifically to handle pumping. The duo pumps out anywhere from four to six tanks a day.

“We’ll soon get to a point where our driver will do it full time and take it from there,” Giard says. “Right now he’s the only one with a commercial driver’s license, so he drives and we both do the pumping.

“You’re going to get some bumps and bruises along the way. But if growing a business like this is your goal, you’ve got to stick with it. At times, your truck might break down and the phone might not ring as much as you want it to. But all you can do is get your name out there and tell people why they should use you.”

Kurt Bohmer’s Professional Plumbing & Drain Service added septic pumping to its service offerings in the mid-1990s. The Southern California-based business had focused on emergency plumbing repairs and septic system installations up to that point. Owner Kurt Bohmer says he became frustrated with pumping companies in the area that showed up late to empty tanks before his company could begin system replacement work. 

“I told them they were forcing me to get into the business because too many guys didn’t return phone calls, show up on time or take care of their customers,” Bohmer says. “So we went out and purchased our first septic truck. We wanted to do things differently and better control our installation schedules, too. We were profitable from the start, running our truck nonstop. We bought a second pump truck within a year. I wish I would’ve gotten into the pumping business when I started out, rather than waiting 10 years.” 

About 60% of the company’s gross revenue comes from emergency plumbing repairs, and the rest from septic system installation and service. 

“You have to pull your head out of the dirt and look around,” Bohmer says, referring to the importance of taking calculated risks to add new business. “Otherwise you miss chances to get new customers, learn about new technologies and find new ways to do things more efficiently.”

Meeks Plumbing of Vero Beach, Florida, added septic pumping and repair services to the company’s offerings in 2003.

“So many of our customers were using our company for plumbing services and they were on septic systems. We were missing that part of the business,” says Kyle Meeks, vice president of the company. “We were having customers call with a stoppage and when we got to the home it was a septic issue. Instead of having them call someone else, it was decided that we needed to get the equipment. It just made sense.”

The septic side is about 20% of the business. Meeks Plumbing has also seen a lot of spin-off business from offering septic tank pumping, such as grease trap pumping.

“Everything kind of complements each other,” Meeks says. “There is definitely a lot to it. There is a lot of overhead, and then the costs of equipment, which can seem hard to justify. However, including septic service in our region, where there are a substantial number of residential customers on these systems, has been a very positive move.”



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