Taking the High Road

“When my siblings and I were growing up, we were taught, by example, how to take the high road and seek what was righteous,” says FM Abrams, owner of Affordable Septic Tank Service in Kansas. “This very naturally and easily spills over into business. This business isn’t so much an opportunity to clean out septic tanks as it is an opportunity to help somebody, an individual, a person with a situation. After all, I have never had a septic tank write me a check.”

When on the job, Abrams likes to use Prototek electronic flushable sonde septic tank locators when necessary. His customers are split fairly evenly between residential and business. “Many times, customers call us with a problem,” says Abrams. “We like to solve the problem, not necessarily just pump the septic tank.”

They’ve had opportunities to solve a variety of problems too. “We had a customer call with a backed up septic system,” says Abrams. “We located the tank very quickly, uncovered it and pumped it. Then we wanted the customer to verify flow, but the bathroom was still clogged. The customer assumed it must have been the main line from the bathroom. After about 45 minutes of drain line chasing, our operator, Chris, found a second tank about 10′ from the original tank and about 18″ deeper. This tank had a serious scum buildup causing the backup. This time the septic pump-out solved the problem. I was really happy to be able to solve their problem and not just pump and go.

“Another time, we chased a small box turtle out of a 4″ PVC drain line between the house and the septic tank. The customer had hit the cap of his line cleanout with a lawn mower earlier in the year. While he delayed in fixing this, the turtle fell in the opening and caused a backup. We pumped the tank, but couldn’t get the flow to go. So, we snaked from the cleanout to the tank and out popped a turtle. We rescued him from the tank unharmed.”

When it comes to working with customers, Abrams uses that high road approach. “I am eternally optimistic and polite. This combination leads to very few difficult customers.”

“Most of our customers are ASAP customers,” says Abrams. “In other words, customers who want your service NOW, due to a backed up situation.” However, the company provides a variety of services such as pumping septic tanks, emptying car wash sand pits, renting and servicing portable toilets, and conducting system repairs and installations.

Abrams got into the industry in 2007 when he purchased a small company with an older truck. He has since upgraded to a 1,500 gallon truck, added the portable toilet line and an employee, and grown the business each year.

“I own a mobile home park with 10 septic tanks that need fairly frequent service,” says Abrams. “I hired a guy and it didn’t take long to figure out that his business had great promise. I offered to buy his business and had a deal in place two days later. My own needs were great enough to allow me to see the needs in our local area, and I said, ‘I can figure out a way to make this business thrive.’”

When it comes to portable toilet rentals, Affordable Septic Tank Service provides them to construction sites and weekend special events. “The oil field drilling industry is starting to pick up too,” says Abrams. “Of course, the special events rentals have a higher profit margin, but the construction and industry toilets are more consistent.”

Abrams got into the oil field industry because they contacted him from his website. “We have a pretty good oil boom going on in my county and the adjacent counties. Three oil field companies got into town, got out their smart phones and found me online. Portable toilets are like that, a lot of times you don’t get a call until the day of. They get out on the jobsite and realize they don’t have a place to go to the bathroom. Since these companies are from out of town, they don’t have a local phone book. Having an Internet presence has made a big difference.”

Abrams uses Google Ad Words and Bing to help promote his business online. “I considered many aspects when I settled on KansasPumper.com as my advertised website. My brother Carson and I came up with the following criteria for my final and advertised domain name: Is it available? Is it relevant to the business? Does it represent our business? Is it easy to spell? Is it easy to say? Does it look good when written out?

“My website offers an opportunity for customers to better understand the workings and problems with a septic tank system. We offer several pictures and explanations that can help educate visitors. I want my website to represent my professionalism and experience.

“For many different reasons, all generations are reaching to the Internet as a source of information. And regardless of the individual reason, I want my site to help their needs. Whether they are looking for a phone number, interested in the basic workings of septic system, or wondering if their problem is a septic problem, I want my website to be of service.

Abrams’ site consistently gets about 100 hits per month. For a niche industry in a small community, that’s a great number. “It’s not a CNN, but for its purpose, I’m very pleased with it,” says Abrams. “I’ve been able to specify my market area with Google so that my ads only show up in the areas where I can go. You can choose the amount you are willing to pay per click and it gives you the analytics of where you are expected to rank and how many clicks and views your ad gets. It’s been fun setting that up and making it work.”

He makes good use of available technology. “My smart phone is a lifeline,” says Abrams. “I use the digital camera on my Samsung Galaxy S2 to take pictures on the job. I also use Google calendars which syncs to my computer and phone. I also use it to process credit card payments via Intuit.”

Abrams ability to take advantage of today’s technology and his high road approach to customer service and life have helped Abrams put his company on the fast track to success.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

For more information:
Affordable Septic Tank Service, visit www.kansaspumper.com
Prototek, visit www.prototek.net

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