While You Are At The Show…

By Jim VonMeier

I remember the first time I went to the Pumper Show.  People kept telling me about it and I thought another trade show…big deal.  But eventually I figured I may as well give it a shot and to say I was blown away would be an understatement. 

When I drove up to the Opryland I thought I was on the set of Gone with the Wind half expecting to see Clark Gable and Maureen O’Hara walking out the Grand Entrance.  Then I began exploring the exhibits going from one booth to the next.  Of course being a man I was like a kid in a candy store looking at and drooling over the tools, toys and equipment. 

That night I strolled the walkways through the atriums marveling at the waterfalls, streams and restaurants.  I had a hard time correlating a liquid waste convention in such a magnificent setting.  On the second day I was talking to another attendee about how much stuff there was to see and he asked what I thought of the big displays downstairs. 

What, you mean there is more!!!  When I found my way to the lower level and walked into the hall I went weak in the knees, started shaking and nearly lost control.  At that point I began to understand what happened to my wife when she went to the mall and lost her ability to control her spending. 
I was lucky I had flown in on a round-trip ticket because if I had driven I would have been driving back home in a big-rig towing my vehicle (packed full of stuff) behind it.    

Of course I attended a few of the educational programs, the first one being my friend Roger Machmeier.  I was amazed at the number of people in his seminar and how the crowd responded to him.  It was obvious he was well respected in the industry. 

I hit other sessions as well and I was amazed at the knowledge being offered.  Between the location and atmosphere, the toys, the education opportunities and the professional way the entire program was put together and run, this “show” was a truly phenomenal experience.  I went back several times and even had the privilege to be a speaker at several sessions on customer service.       

I will admit it has been a few years since I’ve been back.  For one thing I haven’t “worked in the dirt” in years and I don’t need the temptation to buy things I don’t need (I was so enthralled with those inspection cameras I came close to getting one to play with in my own pipes).  Also today I do educational programs primarily for citizen groups helping them deal with their wastewater issues, like why they need proper onsite systems, how to fight the pipe, etc.  I also have a good friend that lives in Nashville and visiting his family was a great excuse for hitting the show, but I don’t know anyone in Louisville so I can’t sell that one to my wife anymore.        

The economy has had a factor as well; I no longer schedule trips unless I can justify the expense, but money has affected many of us.   
With the exception of a few areas of the country, the economy has hit most of us in this trade hard, particularly for designers and installers because building has dropped off to nothing.  I have seen long-term contractors operating on fumes with some of them pulling the plug completely, but that doesn’t mean things are over as we know it.  The housing/building market will rebound eventually, however this lag can give you an opportunity to expand your business into other areas.  

While You Are at the Show start looking for new methods, products and equipment that you can add to your list of services and offer your customers. 
I know a fair number of guys that install two types of systems; gravity systems or mounds, from one extreme to the other.  There are a lot of other solutions that can fit in-between, like aerobic systems. 

Now I know a lot of contractors and regulators have reservations on these types because of problems when they first came out, but most of those issues were communication errors per installation and usage.  Those problems have been addressed and with additional mechanical improvements and the added treatment these units provide, will become common use in the future.  Don’t wait until you are forced to start using them, get up to speed now so you are ready.  Take a few minutes to talk to the people at Delta and Norweco (to name a few) to get the lowdown on them.

Gravel is not the only route to go; look at chambers and the other trench/bed media systems available.  And when you start comparing costs make sure to factor in the time/cost of hauling that gravel, spreading it and the cleanup.  Often you will find they are the same, even cheaper.  Look at other dispersal methods like shallow drip irrigation and how it can fit on some of your sites.     

           
Some think a piece of equipment needs to run $100,000 to be effective, however there are far cheaper tools that won’t break the bank but can generate revenue, like inspection cameras and line jetters.  I can’t tell you how many times I could have used a camera or a jetter and today I know a lot of guys that pass that small job off to someone else that has the equipment.    

These are not high-ticket items anymore, you can get them for fairly cheap, and although you may not use them everyday they can turn a small plugged drain into a higher paying gig if you find bigger problems down the line. 

And look at the theme of some of the educational programs; it is more than just how to do it, it is also about the future.  Kevin Sherman is doing a session entitled, Decentralized Systems – The Next Wave in Our Industry.  Scott hunter is doing one on The Art of Customer Service. 

This industry and the roles that we play are changing.  Your customers are no longer Ma and Pa Kettle on the Farm looking for the cheapest, they are more inclined to do things right if presented to them properly, but that means using good customer service and providing education. 

And the need to educate your customers as to why expanding the use of proper onsites rather than building more treatment plants is proving itself on two very critical fronts:

  • Our water quality is suffering.  The damages to our shore and coast lines has gone up dramatically in the areas where treatment plants have been built over the last 20 years because contrary to popular opinion these plants are not perfect, they reduce, not eliminate contaminates in wastewater.  Factor in the numerous breakdowns (that we seldom hear about) and we are all looking at widespread and serious damage.  
  • Our water supplies are dwindling to critical levels.  America pulls water out of local aquifers and flushes it down river to the oceans to the tune of two trillion gallons every week and now those aquifers are starting to run dry (35 states are looking at major water shortages in the next five years).  By expanding the use of onsite systems we can help protect and replenish those supplies.     

You can be a part of the solution (and get paid for it) but that means you are going to have to put your shoulder into it; learn what is available and how to sell it to your customers…and the Pumper Show is a great place to start.   

Jim vonMeier performs educational programs directed at homeowners teaching them the health and environmental need for proper septic systems and how to find a certified septic professional to inspect/design/install/maintain their systems.  He has also represented homeowners in their fight against public sewer projects and speaks at contractor programs around the country on the subject of customer service. 
1-763-856-3800  jvonmeier@septicprotector.com          

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