Reinvesting for Better ROI

Investing in their company’s growth has paid off for Michael and Carol Messick, who started Michael J. Messick Plumbing & Heating in 1992. Since then, the company has produced three spin off companies: Amazon Heating & Cooling, Mr. Well Pump, and Stinky’s Septic Tank Pumping, resulting in more than 6,000 clients in their database.
“We put a lot of our money back into the company rather than taking it,” says Michael Messick, vice president. “We believe in building a company for the next generation.” The company has expanded approximately every five years growing to 15 employees, who provide a wealth of services, such as plumbing, heating and air conditioning repair and installation, septic pumping, grease trap cleaning, jetting and more.

Stinky’s Septic Tank Pumping

“When we looked at expanding into the septic pumping business, we wanted an unusual name,” says Messick. “I did a lot of research throughout the country and travelled to see other businesses.”
People frequently call just because of the name. They also have a skunk costume which serves as their mascot which they send out to 5K runs, parades, concerts and other local events to help raise awareness for their business. The company also gives out coupons at the events and donates a residential septic cleaning to local school fundraisers and charities.
Using their two trucks built by Vacuum Sales in New Jersey, Stinky’s evaluates and repairs failing septic systems; cleans and backflushes septic tanks, holding tanks, and cesspools; installs and replaces sewer ejector pumps and sand mound pumps; cleans sewers and drains; cleans grease traps; and performs high pressure pipe jetting and video tape inspections.
“We look to find the cause of a backup or break in the line with our Spartan cameras,” says Messick. “It provides recordable TV feedback and location capability. We’ve been pretty happy with those.”

Jetting

“On average, we have 20 calls per week,” says Messick. “We have a number of jetters—electric, gas and a large trailer. The gas seems to work the best. Everything that we buy is Spartan equipment. We have a lot of guys and the equipment gets beat up. Spartan provides excellent service by quickly sending out parts, and we’ve had technicians come out and make repairs.”
One of their toughest jobs has been solved with jetting. “About six months ago, we spent a week at a strip mall that had one 8″ main line, with a 2″ clearing through the center,” said Messick. “The rest was grease. We thought we would have to dig up the main, but we finally got it out. We just jetted the whole thing using our large trailer jetter and a Spartan cable machine that broke up a lot of the grease. Then we had to capture the grease at the manhole.”

Getting Down To Business

“We pride ourselves on good work,” says Messick. “We are polite to our customers and explain what we are doing before we start so that they know what they are getting into. The plumbing industry can get costly, and I’ve been in restaurants where we’ve spent a couple of days getting lines clear. When the economy is good, you see a lot of maintenance, now they only call you when there is a major problem.
“Maintenance works if they let you do it right, but a lot of companies are looking for a quick fix. When you get involved with drains and anything underground, you have to do a good job. All of our people are skilled. They all go to school and are trained.”
“Customers like us, because we do it all,” says Messick. “We do everything in their house: wells, plumbing and septic. We can take care of multiple things for them—it makes their life easier and we get a lot of thank you letters.”
“We also believe in same-day service,” says Messick. “We stand behind what we do. For instance, we had a problem with a hot water heater’s pilot light going out. We replaced it and the pilot still went out. So, tomorrow, we are putting in a different brand with no charge to the customer.”
One of their customers once had several different plumbers out over a number of years to find the source of sewer flies that inundated their home. “We did a smoke test 4-5 times and finally found smoke coming from a small crack underneath the kitchen sink,” says Messick. “The pipe under the slab had disintegrated leaving all of the kitchen wastewater to go into the ground for years. We had to chop up her kitchen floor to fix it.

Eyes On The Future

“My concern in the pumping industry is cost,” says Messick. “There is very little profit once you pay for dumping fees and pay a man a decent wage. Here, you have to make $50,000 to survive. The cost of tires, insurance, tags, and truck repairs keeps going up. It’s tough to get people to raise their prices so you can be competitive. When you are paying $150,000 for a rig today, and the average is $295 for pumping, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to see there is very little profit. But, if we were all to raise our prices to where they should be, I think the industry would grow leaps and bounds with safe equipment on the road and it would make a huge difference.”
Messick plans to continue to grow his company. “This year, we hired two new guys. We’ve struggled, and had to send some people home early, but I didn’t downsize or throw in the towel. We do work a lot harder than we did before, but it’s starting to pay off and the economy is starting to turn. Whether it’s because people have neglected things for so many years or it’s the older generation taking care of things and getting ready for their retirement years, we’ve seen an increase.”
One of the ways they are continuing their growth is through advertising. “Paper is going away, but we are stuck between different generations,” says Messick. “Some are still using paper, but the newer generations use their iPhones.
Each division of the business has it’s own website. They are all user-friendly and maintained in-house. “We like to keep up with the times and keep our employees moving in the right direction,” says Messick. His marketing strategy includes search engine optimization and pay-per-click ads.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

For more information, visit:
Stinky’s Septic Services, at www.stinkysseptic.com
Spartan, at www.spartantool.com
Vacuum Sales, at www.vacuumsalesinc.com

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