Spotlight: Dave’s Septic Service

We’ve all known of unlikely marriages between dissimilar individuals that grew into immensely loving, supportive, and successful partnerships—proving the doubters wrong and proving that they were probably short-sighted and misguided as well. Those spouses were clearly able to look deeper and see strengths and advantages to the union that others couldn’t. 

We can imagine a similar series of reactions from observers, starting sixteen years ago, when City Fuel Company in Manchester, New Hampshire, purchased Dave’s Septic Service from the original Dave.

At the time, City Fuel was a relatively large company, providing heating oil services to residential customers. Dave’s Septic—a considerably smaller, mostly seasonal business—rented about 150 portable restroom facilities, handled 3,000 residential pumping accounts, and had $400,000 in annual revenues. 

“We were looking for a way to keep our rural [City Fuel oil truck] drivers busy in the off-season,” explains George Winslow, General Manager of both companies. “Along came this opportunity.”

About the only thing they had in common, to the casual observer, was that both served residential customers. But that actually was the key to the relationship’s success.

“Both are homeowner services, so the transition between heating oil and septic customers was pretty easy for marketing and for our straightforward, professional approach.”

From a business angle, the proof is in the figures: in this marriage with City Fuel, Dave’s Septic has grown to 3,400 portable restroom units and twelve restroom trailers, sixteen thousand residential pumping accounts—and some light-commercial customers—for annual revenues of between $4 million and $4.5 million. (In case you’re wondering, City Fuel has continued to prosper as well. This is a mutual-benefit marriage, after all.)

Dave’s Septic offers residential pumping in a twenty-mile radius around Manchester, while the portable restroom business covers an area from central and northeast Massachusetts into southern Maine and all of southern New Hampshire. The restroom trailers have a broader range, taking in all of New England and some of New York.

“We’ll go almost anywhere a customers desires with our portable trailers, most of which are containment trailers,” says Winslow. 

Winslow, who works for City Fuel and for Dave’s Septic, finds himself responsible for “basically everything” having to do with the operations and daily management of both companies. “So I’m pretty busy.”

He continues, “Most of the satisfaction we have here has come from the growth and success of the business. It’s fun for us. What had been a three- or four-person operation is up to about forty-two people now. About eighty percent are longtime employees, and there’s not much turnover.”

By cross-using some staff when and where needed, the two companies have eliminated most of their dependence on part-time seasonal help. They’ve combined other resources, too. While Dave’s Septic has its own operations’ headquarters in a 14,000-square-foot garage and truck dispatching center in Manchester, all office support functions for both companies are at the Willow Street corporate headquarters.

The advantages don’t stop there. The companies have practiced cross-selling right from the start.
“If a customer is not on city sewerage, it seems natural to cross-sell them for septic pumping or to rent a couple toilets for parties.”

Dave’s Septic, like so many other companies, has built other partnerships to its advantage as well, such as with party coordinators and tent rental companies for the portable restroom facilities. “We do a lot of work in the Boston market and a lot of big events. From a marketing standpoint, we’ve done pretty well.”

“We take the job very seriously,” Winslow is quick to say. “All our [field] employees wear uniforms; we don’t use funny slogans; all our trucks are white and very clean. We call ourselves ‘the cleanliness leader’ and portray ourselves as a performance service. We just go out and do our job professionally. That’s perhaps a little different than some other companies, but we’re pretty straight up. We consider that ours is a service that a person wants and requires, so we are going to be respectful about it.” 

Dave’s Septic now offers ecologically safer products—deodorizers, paper products, and cleaning products—for its portable restroom business in consideration of those customers who are especially environmentally concerned.

When the economy tumbled, the downturn was felt throughout this industry, especially where it was touched by the construction business.  “Also,” Winslow observes, “people now are a little more frugal when it comes to home maintenance issues. Homeowners stretch a little more time between regular pumping of septic tanks, and we’ll now send out a couple or three notices for cleaning before we get a call.

“We have expanded our service area a tad more and become more aggressive on some bids for municipalities,” in order to get contracts. “We’ve done a good job keeping our customer base.”

George Winslow takes a lot of pride in Dave’s Septic’s rapid expansion and its continued growth and success. At the same time, he employs that familiar “knock on wood” phrase so many contented married couples use: “So far, so good.”

It looks very good indeed for Dave’s Septic.


To learn more about Dave’s Septic Service at 67 Willow Street, Manchester, New Hampshire, call 603.668.3402, 800.672.3402, or visit


By Anne Biggs

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