THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH

CDS JetvacIt seems some of that old Disney magic has rubbed off on Rick Fender and his various businesses in Orlando, Florida throughout the last four decades.

As a project manager, Fender cut his teeth on underground utilities with a $3.2 million infrastructure project that spanned six blocks of Orange Avenue through downtown Orlando. The project included replacing the entire infrastructure through the section–sewer, storm, telephone and cable.

After that, he and his brother Pat started Pat’s Pump & Blower in 1984. Rick worked in marketing and sales and helped grow the company to $2 million per year. Pat’s Pump & Blower is now the largest distributor for Aquatech jetvac trucks in the United States.

“My brother Pat was the brains and the mechanical side of the business,” says Rick. “It is a great company and a real success today. They display at the Pumper show and also sell vacuum trucks, street sweepers and other large trucks. Many family members have worked there: my brothers Mike, Kevin and Dave, my nieces, nephews and my mom. After working there for five years, I was offered an opportunity with ABC Liquor that I couldn’t pass up.”

After building stores for ABC Liquor for about a year, Rick decided to start selling commercial real estate and lake front properties. “I love to live on the lake and I like boat docks. In my fifth year of selling properties, I sold a house to a guy that was having a problem with his partner who was the general contractor for the company. I bought into the company and assumed the old partner’s logistical, management and estimating work for marine construction. In our first year, we made $1 million. By the time I left, we were making $6 million per year.

ON CLOUD 9

“In 2001, a couple of the partners bought my share of the company and I went back to utility repairs with my brother Mike. Our other brothers at Pat’s Pump & Blower suggested that we get a jetvac truck and video camera to start doing inspections and pipe repair. Cloud 9 Services was born. At one point, we had three jetvacs and bought pumper trucks to start doing septic. I also got my plumbing license. We took out a double-page yellow pages ad and got calls day and night.”

Shortly thereafter, they added grease trap pumping to their already long list of services: sewer repair, drain cleaning, pipe repair, foundation repair, lift station cleaning and repair, hydro-excavation and video pipe inspection using a CUES camera.

One of the biggest issues Cloud 9 Services encounters with grease trap is the lack of proper cleaning. “Sometimes, we get to a job and see that whoever pumped before, wasn’t actually pumping. They would just pump water through the trap and leave the grease, which would build up like a rock. We had to bring in a jetvac to blast it out before we can pump. When we clean a grease trap, we jet it inside and out and vacuum all of the grease out. We also recommend to jet the inbound and outbound lines as a maintenance item. We explain that they can pay to do it as maintenance now or pay more later when it’s an emergency.”

Like many other grease trap pumpers, disposal can be an issue. “We have a limited number of sites for grease disposal. Sometimes when we arrive, there is a waiting line, which is a lot of wasted time. The closest disposal site is also a 25-30 minute drive.” This creates a lot of down time for the truck which could otherwise work and make money.

However, disposal costs in Orlando aren’t a big issue, ranging from just 9 to 12 cents per gallon. “Some of our competitors will end up pumping a grease trap for just 10 cents a gallon because they also take the restaurant’s brown grease and use the profit from that to reduce their grease trap pumping pricing.”

Despite that, Cloud 9 Services are able to work some magic of their own. One of the things that sets their business apart is underground work. This experience has allowed them to contract with heavy construction contractors, road builders, commercial property owners and property managers, which has led their company in whole new direction.

BEHIND THE MAGIC

The recession hit Fender and his family just like the rest of the country leading them to make some tough decisions. “About 5 years ago, in the depths of the recession, things were really bad. There was no profit. It was horrible. We were making payments on some new equipment, but not getting a bunch of work.”

“I understood that my leadership as president was not as good as it could be. My wife Xi Lu (called Lucy) was the head CPA for the pipeline construction department of the largest oil company in China and had great management skills. She took over as president of Cloud 9 Services and began making the monetary decisions–figuring out where our profit margins are, wages, equipment sales, etc. Thanks to her leadership, we were able to make some tough decisions about selling new equipment and downsizing to make it through the recession.

“My job is quality control and estimating. I made a commitment to her to double down and work Saturdays and Sundays. We kept working and for the third year in a row we are showing profits again and doing well. I owe our success to her leadership.”

MAGICAL SERVICE

Getting customers takes marketing savvy, but retaining customers is all about service. “One of the keys to keeping customers happy is responsiveness. We are a 24-hour company and I’m the 24-hour guy. Even when I go on vacation this summer, I have two guys that will take turns answering the calls.

“We also quote up front whether it is an hourly job or a lump sum project. Before we mobilize, we break down our pricing for our customer so that everyone is on the same page. We’ve heard of some competitors who do a lot of change orders and the customers don’t like that.

“If we get a call back on a job, we immediately go back and remedy the situation no matter how big the job is. We also honor all warranties and work that we do.

“We want to make our money honestly and strive to give the customer more than they expect. Sometimes we even put that in the bid. For example, when a property manager asks for a variety of services, I’ll throw in cleaning a sewer line that was not originally included, for free.”

“We are always learning, growing and improving so that we can provide the best service.”

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!