Scenic City Pumping: A Family Business Delivers on Its Promise of Customer Service

No one would call a family business a rarity in the septic pumping and portable restroom industries. By the same token, there are times when a family business includes a lot of people who aren’t related by blood, but by commitment, respect, trust and affection. When that happens, a company might just find itself in Scenic City Pumping’s shoes—and pleased with the results.

John and Corinne Clark established Scenic City Pumping in July 2000. Today, the multimillion-dollar business provides liquid waste management services, hydro-excavation, municipal and commercial infrastructure maintenance, residential and commercial septic pumping and portable restroom services to clients in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming from its base in Belgrade, Montana, located about eight miles from downtown Bozeman. The company is licensed in all 56 counties in Montana.

With Clark overseeing operations and his wife, Corinne, handling the office, they have two full-time drivers, D.J. Jones and Howard Triemstra, two part-time workers, and Wendy Nelson, who works in the office, as well as out in the field. Clark says his staff knows to just go out and get it done.

“Scenic City does an excellent job of responding quickly and efficiently,” says Clark. “We’re known as a ‘can-do company,’ so we get even more calls. Since we started this company, I don’t think we’ve ever let anyone down, even on a weekend. When our phone rings and people need immediate assistance, we’re right there,” he says, “So much of our work concerns issues that simply can’t wait, like backed-up septic lines or construction-site portables tipped over by high winds that must be placed back into service right away.”

Having loyal employees who have been with the company for years also makes a huge difference. “Most of our employees are self-managed and self-motivated,” says Clark, “and they’re pretty much hands-on.” Those who have been with Scenic City the longest are as significant and dedicated a part of the family enterprise as the Clark family members, themselves. Jones and Triemstra have been with the company for years, and Clark holds them in high regard. He feels lucky that his employees are so competent and says, “These people are so good around here that I can tell them what I want, and it gets done. They can figure it out.”

“My wife, Corinne, is a fifty percent partner. While I may be the one with the vision, Corinne makes sure our office and company can keep up with me. And that’s quite a job right there. I believe each of us uses our unique set of skills to build the business and handle the day-to-day complexities,” Clarke says.

A Careful Start
Clark has an entrepreneurial spirit. He came into the pumping business by taking careful notes and notice, and he’s been successful because he continues to pay attention to what’s going on around him, both in the industry and in his community.

“In the late 1990s, a guy came and pumped my septic,” Clark recalls, “He was there a very short time, and it cost me $125. I thought, ‘Wow, I could easily learn to do that and bring a higher level of customer service to the procedure.’ After all, this is about people’s homes—their most valuable asset—and they deserve a service that is more customer-centric with follow-ups and a sincere thank you.”

So Clark began to study the industry. He discovered that his start-up investment, while pretty substantial to him at the time, was not as substantial as that required for launching many other business enterprises. His ‘secret research’ came in the form of a subscription to an industry magazine, and his practice was to read the Business of the Month profile. He would then call the owner of the business featured in the article to chat and ask questions. After about a year, he was ready to take the plunge.

Getting into the Restroom Biz

The Yellowstone Club at the nearby Big Sky Montana resort, is an exclusive private golf and ski club for which Scenic City had done enough pumping work to build a solid relationship. They came to Clark in 2004 with an appealing proposition.

“They asked me if I’d be interested in placing and maintaining about 28 portable toilets for them. So I went to the Pumper Show, researched the idea, and decided to expand our business into portable restroom facilities starting with the Yellowstone Club as our initial customer,” he explains.

“We’re not a large operation, just 180 to 200 toilets total, with multiple hand-washing and handicapped units on top of that.” The majority of Scenic City’s toilets are in service at 7,000 to 8,000 feet, with their highest at 9,800 feet, located inside the Yellowstone Club.

Other clients include the typical construction sites and weddings, the less conventional extreme motocross events, race courses, mine reclamation projects and national parks pit toilets. With Old Man Winter running most of the show, Scenic City stages portable restrooms for ice-fishing shacks, cross-country ski sites and ski lifts. Then there are the special clients whose exclusive, high-end construction sites require Scenic City to deal with issues of privacy and trust in order to maintain the clients’ confidentiality.

Staying in Front
“It’s kind of a dirty job, so it can be hard to bring a good attitude to it, but we take it seriously and handle it professionally. All our employees wear uniforms while providing services in the field, and we keep our truck fleet very clean to further project our professionalism and personal pride in our work,” Clark says.

He also says that while the recent economic downturn slowed things down a little, it hasn’t impacted Scenic City dramatically, “Pricing overall is more competitive as people look to save money and contain costs. When our prices come in close to our competitors’, we make sure we stay ahead by delivering more value for the dollar with a greater degree of customer service and satisfaction.”

The Scenic City website is a marketing tool that Clark takes seriously, “Utilizing all the web tools that Google offers allows us to get more exposure on the Internet. The handshakes and newspaper advertising work, but I think expanding into the Internet is key to growth.”

Clark knows he is doing things right, and he has proof, “We are truly leading the way in the wastewater industry locally, because, no matter what change I make, our competition makes it right behind me. It’s better to be a leader than a follower.” 

To learn more about Scenic City Pumping call 406.388.8238 or visit their website at

Story by Anne Biggs

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