Septic Pumping Offers Growth Opportunities

Some plumbers find a lot of success expanding their offerings to customers by adding septic service

Septic Pumping Offers Growth Opportunities

Julius Voss

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Several years after Julius Voss established Julius Voss Plumbing & Construction in Cleveland, Mississippi, the entrepreneur noticed that few companies in the rural area wanted to pump out septic tanks.

So he quickly embraced a time-honored business strategy: Capitalize on under-served markets that competitors ignore. Around 2003, he became a licensed septic tank pumper as well as a licensed septic installer. There were high barriers to entry that were keeping other businesses away — like the licensing requirements and the cost of liability insurance and a vacuum truck — but that limited competition is also what allowed Voss to gain a solid foothold in the market once he made the move.

To sidestep a major capital startup cost, Voss opted for a trailer-mounted, slide-in pump-and-tank unit. Made by Best Enterprises, the skid-mounted unit cost about $20,000 and features a 550-gallon stainless steel waste tank and a Conde vacuum pump made by Westmoor Ltd. While $20,000 is a lot of money for a small business, it’s still significantly less than the price of a new or even used vacuum truck. And Voss says he felt comfortable making the investment because he knew it was lucrative market.

“A lot of plumbers don’t want to pump out septic tanks, but it’s a very profitable business. There are at least 10 other plumbers in this town, but only two pump out septic tanks. If you can’t get the quality, top-shelf jobs, you have to take the back-shelf jobs,” he says. “But there’s thousands of dollars’ worth of work out there, so I just put on some gloves and make good money.”

As Voss expected, the unit quickly paid for itself.

“It’s one of the most profitable machines you could ever buy,” he says.

Many other plumbing companies over the years have realized that and chosen to become more diversified and all-encompassing with their service offerings.

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?”

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.”

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.

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.”

Meeks Plumbing has also seen a lot of spinoff 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 positive move.”



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