A Family Builds a Successful Business Together: Russ’s Septic Service

Russ’s Septic Service, home base in Riverton, CT, brings to the table 56 years of quality septic tank and other services to northern and northwest Connecticut.

A Bit of History
Russ’s grandfather, Russell Louis Neher started the company in New Hartford, CT. He was a local postal worker and so he knew everyone in the town. “It was an automatic success,” says Kristeen Neher, the wife of Russell Neher III, who together bought the business back in 2007 from Russ’s father, Russell Neher II. Russ grew up in the business explains Kristeen. “Neher and Sons, still seen on their pumper trucks, refers to the three generation of Nehers who have served the septic tank service needs of the region” say Kristeen, continuing “Russ’s father and his brother, together with their father, Russ’s grandfather, made up the company reflected in the original name.” “Both Russ and I grew up in family run businesses and so it seemed just natural and right for us to continue the traditions and go into business for ourselves,” Kristeen says.

It’s All About Customer Service
Even though Russ’s Septic Service is a relatively small operation, with four long-term employees working for the company, their customer relations is admirably full-service. Too many small companies hire and have work for them of course good-intentioned office workers but, as everyone knows, businesses in the liquid waste industry has a strong technical component, which requires a high-level knowledge of some of the more complex technologies and what they can do for customers who need one of the many services offered by companies like Russ’s. The problem is compounded when customers who call in with technical questions or want to know what the company can do for them, office staff are very good at receiving the information by dutifully and quickly answering any calls. However, if they are not that well versed in the technology, they often have to have the customer “call back” when someone in the office can answer their questions fully and informatively. This creates an issue because the people in the business who most likely know all about the technology are those in the field. For example, like many owners, Russ is the unqualified expert when it comes to full and complete knowledge of the company’s array of technologies—trucks, weights, powers, equipment, jetters, cameras, pump strengths, etc. Russ is obviously also the field expert—it is he and his small but dedicated team that are out there actually doing all of the work. Honestly speaking, when do the field experts, spending all of their time out working, have time to answer the technical questions many customers want to know about? The obvious answer is little to no time. Even hard workers like Russ would have to, in addition to being in the field all day, respond to all of the questions during over time, most likely when it is probably too late. This is a real issue as you can imagine because too much business simply slips through the fingers of hard working companies that could use that business for sure.
As we said, Russ’s customer service is different. It has a solution to this dire problem, and the credit for the excellent customer service must go to Kristeen Neher. The Neher’s solution was that Kristeen felt it important to work hard to become a qualified expert. She accomplished this by receiving her Subsurface Sewage Disposal System Cleaner License, issued by the State of Connecticut’s Department of Public Health. According to the Official Registration Permit and Condition published by Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Permit authorizes its holder to be qualified in the following functions: “The discharges of domestic sewage from subsurface sewage disposal systems serving existing facilities, as defined in this general permit, to groundwater, or to a holding tank that meets the requirements of Section 5(a)(4) of this general permit.”

Waste Water Technologies
When it comes to choosing the finest, most effective technologies that contractors think will work best for their own unique business, the best way to go about it is to customize the technology to conform to one’s own standards of excellence based on decades of experience in the septic tank/waste water industry. This is exactly how the Neher’s approached the situation. When it came to deciding which new pumper trucks to purchase, for the Neher’s there was only one choice—go to one of the largest expos in the industry, speak directly to product managers, and provide them with exactly what you want and know will make a difference. So, a few years back the Neher’s traveled to the Expo with Russ having definite ideas in mind for what he wanted. Their truck manufacturer of choice was Kenworth. Their newest addition was is a fully-customized 2015 Kenworth T880, “the first of its kind for that particular model” Kristeen Neher tells us. It was a wise choice.
In 2015 The T880 was named the American Truck Dealers (ATD) Truck of the Year. The ATD, in tandem with the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), includes the participation of more than 2,000 medium and heavy duty truck dealers. To confer the Award a panel of expert judges conducted test drives and “evaluated each truck entry in key categories, which included innovation, design, safety, driver ergonomics and comfort.” According to Kenworth’s General Manager, “The Kenworth T880 establishes a new standard of excellence and builds upon Kenworth’s heritage of quality, innovation and technology to produce industry-leading, rugged and reliable vocational trucks.”
The Russ’s Septic Service’s new customized Kenworth is powered by a PACCAR MX-13 engine’s common rail system, which maintains injection pressures of 2,500 bar, and helps achieve the lowest possible fuel consumption, emission and noise levels. The PACCAR MX-13 engine is designed to meet the demands of both line haul and vocational heavy-duty truck applications. The Neher’s T880 is equipped with a Pasccar MX-13 445 rated hp and 1850 lb-ft. of torque engine, an Eaton Fuller 9-speed transmission with 16,000 lb front axle and a combined double rear air suspension axle with 46,000 lb weight capacity.
Sitting atop the T880 chassis is a 4,000 gallon National-made tank, outfitted with a 580 cm Jurop LC 580pd pump. The Kenworth T880 day cab also features “a panoramic windshield for enhanced visibility, quiet cab with triple-sealed and robust doors, 5-piece Metton® hood for easier repairs, air-assisted hydraulic clutch, complex reflector headlamps, excellent maneuverability, and new lightweight, factory-installed lift axles. The T880’s 2.1-meter wide, stamped aluminum cab has a comfortable 23 inches of room between the seats” states the Kenworth website.
The second Russ’s Septic Service pumper truck is a 2000 Kenworth T800 equipped with a Caterpillar 370 engine, an Eaton Fuller 9-speed transmission with a 10,000 lb front axle rating and a twin rear axle 46,000 lb weight capacity rating. The tank is a national 3,600 steel construction outfitted with a Utile Engineering L320T 350csm rotary pump. Rounding out Russ’s fleet of trucks is a huge 1985 Kenworth W900 tanker puller running on a 425hp Caterpillar diesel engine and an Eaton Fuller Road Ranger 18-speed transmission.

Jetting and Camera Inspection Services
Two ways Russ’s Septic Service has diversified since the days of the exclusive focus on Neher and Sons is to now offer jetting services and camera inspection to the portfolio of services the company provides.
As you are aware, one way a company in the liquid waste industry expands their business is becoming involved in offering high-pressure drainage, septic tank outlet and sewer piping cleaning. Russ’s now offers jetting services and so makes good use of their GX 390 Commercial Honda High-Pressure Water Jetter, powered by a 390 well-proven Honda GX 390 engine that is packed with concentrated power and can blast through the toughest jobs with ease, equipped with 4.0 GPM water flow output and a full 4000 psi of pressure . The GX90s innovative remote control allows the operator to easily change pressure from its wand, removing the time-consuming necessity of returning to the machine itself any time the operator wants to adjust the pressure. Some of the other unique features of this high-pressure water cleaner are its 50 feet of highly-durable hosing, easy nozzle connections, stainless steel spray wand, direct drive sturdily built brass heading, an AAA industrial triplex plunger pump with ceramic pistons and adjustable unloader for controlled pressure engine, a solid steel axle with pneumatic tires, and finally it has a chip-resistant crinkle finish.
Russ Neher’s inspection camera of choice is the state-of-the-art Viztrac AM100-100 model equipped with a 1.3/8 in diameter super-slick easy-push locator camera head.
The medical quality high-resolution color camera with water-proof head comes with numerous great features, including stainless steel camera body with sapphire lens, vision angle up to 60 degrees and 9 lens protected white LED lights with dimmer. The Viztrac AM100-100 operates on a single 120 volt electric plug and comes with a built-in SD card recorder with remote monitor 7in flat screen LCD viewing capacity in an ABS case for durable and rugged protection. Kristeen avows that “the camera is great and functions amazingly. It can locate exactly where the blockage is and so we can have a definite sense of where it is.”

Portable Toilet Rentals
Russ’s Septic Service also offers a small number of Portable Toilet rentals, for short-term or long-term purposes. For the 7 portables in use Neher chose Five Peaks Technology’s Aspen model. Five Peaks offers a full line of models, but their Aspen is their number one selling unit and is the go to staple of their line. According the website of Five Peaks, their line or portables all feature “revolutionary portable toilet designs” in addition to “the many standard features common in the industry.” One aspect of the Aspen is its unique design that takes looks and aesthetics in mind. Rather than sticking to the typical Portable restrooms that are “normally bland” focusing exclusively on functionality, the Aspen and other models “take outdoor restroom experiences to the next level” in exuding an uncommon flare,” which, in addition to utilitarian functionality, offers a “pleasant ambience” that better fits in any events surroundings.
When asked why they made the conscious decision to choose the Five Peaks Aspen, Kristeen Neher said that they were definitely attracted to the unique and pleasing “look” of the Aspen, its rugged durability, and size. The Nehers also happily discovered that Five Peaks offers great customer service, and immediately responded to a damaged unit by repairing it and returning it in a timely manner, a small but important feature, especially when you work with a small number of units and one out of action can reduce the business end and lessen the number of units that can be rented, decreasing the company’s profits from their Portables flowing.
“We having been using Walex brand chemicals since the beginning” says Kristeen Neher continuing “their Bio-Paks are so convenient, and easy to use. You just drop the packet into the holding tanks and it does all of the rest.” “We like the fact that the Bio-Paks pods are fully bio-degradable, using natural enzymes that act as both wonderful tank deodorizers as well as very effective waste digesters all in one.” The Walex website states that: “Representing years of intensive development by the Walex R&D Group, our revolutionary WAVE 2 Technology™(Walex Advanced Volumetric Effectiveness) sets a new standard of excellence in portable sanitation products. Now our entire best-selling line of Exodor® deodorizer products is powered by this advanced formula, giving you better performance without higher cost!” Kristeen is excited because they will soon be adding citronella-scented Paks to their line.

Giving Back to the Community
With the focus on environmental issues (finally) beginning to kick in gear in most American industries, the liquid waste water management industry has certainly been contributing its share of “giving back” to the environment. For Russ’s Septic Service environmental consciousness is conjoined with “giving back” to the community. As Kristeen explains, “we are animal lovers, and have four double-dog rescue animal friends that have become part of the family. If anyone in the community adopts a canine friend, Russ’s Septic Service will pump their septic tank for free!” In fact, Russ’s has found a creative and interesting way to contribute to environmental issues, give back to their local community and participate in a creative and fun way to contribute to developing-world problems who have difficulties receiving fresh water, which has become a real problem for poor communities all of the developing world. “After each service job we hand out a roll of toilet paper sponsored by Who Gives a Crap, from Crowdfunded Toilet Paper Company who donates 50% of all profits from the sale of their rolls to improve sanitation in third-world countries” explains Kristeen. The Who Give a Crap website explains “Who Gives a Crap‘s simple proposal offers a superior consumable product that pretty much all of us have to stock up on, and the potential for consumers to support a thoroughly worthwhile cause while doing so. The donated funds will go to WaterAid, a non-profit with a mission to bring clean water and sanitation to the world’s poorest countries.” “It’s an amazing triple win-win situation” Kristeen tells us, going on, “We generate good will in our community and bring awareness to the dire state of sanitation and fresh water around many parts of the world, while actually helping poor people who live in such terrible conditions.” “Russ’s also benefits by being recognized as a company who cares” says Kristeen. “We decided long ago that what we would normally spend on typical advertising, where only we might benefit, we instead channel that money into causes that bring awareness and also actually helps the disadvantaged, while at the same time showing our customers that ours is a company that gives back. With environmental consciousness in the minds of many concerned citizens, that is enough to bring business our way from our community and customers who feel the same way,” Kristeen proudly lets us know.
Community awareness and giving back doesn’t stop there for Russ’s Septic Service. As Kristeen Neher explains “When we had to decide that it was time to retire one of our older pumper trucks, our 1995 Kenworth T800, our two young boys became upset.” Our trucks mean so much to them. Every little boy loves trucks.” “Their concern actually drove our decision and we ended up donating the Kenworth to the local fire department. They re-worked it; painted it fire-truck red, and now they use it. The kids are thrilled. They can still see their truck anytime they want, and what little boy isn’t in love with fire trucks” Kristeen said beaming. If you are interested in learning more about Russ’s Septic Service, visit their website at:
www.russessepticservice.com

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

RESOURCES:
www.atd.org
www.kenworth.com

http://www.ct.gov

http://www.walex.com

http://au.whogivesacrap.org

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