Envirotek Environmental Solutions

For this month’s Spotlight Editorial, we spoke to Alan Chapin, CEO and COO of Envirotek Environmental Solutions, operating out of Camano Island, WA.

Q: Can you tell me about the history of Envirotek.

Envirotek started in 2006 out of necessity for a new septic inspection law that was coming as well as for my family’s financial survival. After quitting my current job of over 11 years and a sales job for Infiltrator Systems that did not materialize, I realized I needed to now do something with the gifts and talents given to me to make a living. O&M (septic inspections) was the first service of Envirotek. It was helped by Chris Hanson of C&H Designs, who provided contacts and opportunities for service contracts. I saw early opportunity to develop this service business quickly and to lead the way since it was a new industry that was needed in our area. Chris Hanson supported Envirotek from the beginning, and later we teamed up to complement each other’s services. The next step in growth was the installation of new septic systems which was the scariest step since I bought a new truck, trailer and excavator to do the work and it was right before the big economy setback of 2008 that no one saw coming.
With a lot a lot of prayer, and at times doub,t I saw Envirotek growing even after the financial downturn, which only strengthened my faith and helped me realize that I am using the gifts God has given me and that He is providing the success Envirotek is having. There is one other component that helped Envirotek grow and ensure its success and that was my wife, Jen Chapin, who came onboard part-time in 2007 and quickly quite her job to manage the phones, payables, receivables, and anything else needed to nurture the new growing business. Jen began her new job with no real business experience and now, after 8 years, Jen is the biggest asset Envirotek has. Jen is now the CFO and manages 4 others in the office. Our next big move was to purchase a pump truck to support the growing O&M service and repair work. We continued to grow and add team members and service trucks, inspection camera, locators, and smoke test equipment to provide a complete line of services and be a truly “full service” company. There are now 10 of us and we are preparing to build our new commercial facility to support our growth.

Q. Can you tell me a little about your background, and how that has helped you develop a successful business.

My experience in the wastewater industry involves manufacturing, distribution, sales, designer, O&M service, installer, pumper and business owner. I graduated high school in 1990 and began working for Orenco Systems in Melrose, Oregon which is where I cut my teeth in wastewater. After 5 years working in manufacturing I moved to Washington as a salesman for a distributor selling the products I used to make, and quickly learned what else the wastewater market had to offer, and I became a licensed septic designer. I moved from sales to managing a distribution store for 3 years, and then back into sales, where I could continue to grow with the changing wastewater industry. I have been involved in the wastewater industry for over 25 years and I use this experience of the different aspects to add on to our list of services we offer. My passion is training others, and research and development of new products for the industry.

Q: Can you tell me a few prime keys to your success?

There are several things that we attribute to our success, and becoming leaders in our industry. The foundation of success comes from our faith and gratitude for the gifts we have been given to serve others. We build on this foundation by having the right people doing the right things at the right time. What a difference our team member attitudes can have on our customers and each other. Principles and values we live and work by are integrity, honesty, flexibility, compassion and respect. Other guiding values are support for each team member, recognition, team building and family time.

Q: Tell me about the work ethic, professionalism and core values that you support and instill in your team of workers

In the office or in the field we respect each other and our customers. We treat our customers’ property with care and consideration, never using their hose, protecting their landscaping and driveways. Owners and managers don’t ask team members to do things they would not do so we lead by example. We have a company policy manual that states our expectations at all levels and we routinely review each section for clarity and revision to maintain accountability. As we grow, there is a tendency to become inflexible with difficult customers, and thinking there are more new customers coming every day, but this way of thinking is foolish and contrary to one of our core values of flexibility, and requires discipline and balance. We believe in giving back to our community by volunteering as a team to serve good causes, the elderly, or others with life challenges. Our core values include integrity, honesty, a positive approach/attitude, respect, service, family and fun. Our target audience is mostly individual homeowners and this approach allows us to put into practice our values with each of the different services we offer. There is always room for growth in one area or another, as we are tested by challenging sites, regulations or challenging customers. We currently connect with our customers one on one at their location but soon we will have a central place to invite our customers and the community to take the journey with us as we teach, grow and learn how to be a winning team.

Q: Can you tell me about vision at Envirotek

Our vision is to leave a lasting legacy in our community for service, compassion and the highest level expertise in our field; to create the opportunity and work environment for our team to succeed; and, finally, to always strive to raise the bar on industry standards.

Q: How is your organization structured?

Our organizational structure has the Founder/CEO/COO/Field Tech (Alan Chapin), CFO/Office Manager/Scheduler (Jen Chapin), Executive Assistant/Scheduler (Mickey Holtum), HR/Records Management/Scheduler (Julie Dowis), Bookkeeper/Scheduler (Anna Odushkin), File Clerk (Anna Noel), Installation Lead/Field Technician (DelRay Webster), Pumper Lead (Monte Larsen), Licensed Designer (Chris Hanson), and Pump/Install laborer (Jared Murray). To boost job efficiency we have regular meetings to discuss areas needing improvement or clarification of company policies. We are currently working on improving our work flow by changing to a cloud work flow web-based service. This will change how we receive, log, track and dispatch our daily activities to streamline work so that we can retrieve information instantly for each job and to run reports for all of our field techs. We boost morale within the company by creating a fun and rewarding environment and yearly company events that feels more like family than a company. We expect our team to bring their best attitude to work and work on their personal and professional growth to make them the best they can be. Each person provides training in their area of expertise so we can better understand each position. We provide at no cost to all team members the opportunity for professional growth by attending Fred Pryor seminars.

Q: Tell me about the services offered by Envirotek

We offer all septic services, including pumping, complete installations, County inspections, designs, repairs, video inspections, leak tests for odors, emergency response services (ERS), and consulting for archeological sensitive sites that need septic systems. We have leads to perform specific job duties but are also cross-trained so we can cover when someone is sick, on vacation or addressing family needs. One of our newest developments is the ERS (emergency response service), which allows us to respond in true emergency situations by moving the emergencies ahead of the line, but at the same time asking more for the service to do so, while offering discounts when appropriate to other customers who may have had their service delayed. This is a popular option and will require adjustments in approaches to manage it successfully.

Q: Tell us about all your equipment

Our only pump truck is a 1992 4700 International with a 2300 gallon tank steel tank. We bought it used with a rebuilt motor and a new paint job. The vacuum pump is a Masport HXL15WV and we use a 3” Powerlift device with air assist to go beyond the 25 foot lift limitations typical vacuum pumps have. We operate three service trucks. They are: a 1991 Chevy with utility boxes equipped to handle any repair job, a 2007 Sierra 2500 crew cab with Allison transmission which is nearing 300,000 miles, a Ford F550 service truck with contractor body, fuel tank and custom tool holders, and a 2003 Honda civic for office errands and other business. Our excavators include a Kubota KX121-3S, a Kubota KX41-3V and a 21 foot PJ tilt bed trailer to haul equipment. Our smoke tester to check for leaks is a Superior Signal smoker model 5E-electric blower. Our video inspection camera is a Ridgid Compact See-snake with 200’ push cable and color monitor. Our locators are a Ridgid Scout and Prototek AR-1 receiver and flushable transmitters. Our jetters are small portable jetters by Amazing Machinery with 1/8” and 1/4” hose for smaller lines 3/4” – 4”. We use a variety of nozzles depending on the type of material we are trying to clear. We do mostly drainfield laterals and 4” mainline from the house to the tank. Soap cakes and grease typically are in mainlines and biological slime is in the drainfield laterals.

Q: Tell me about the day-to-day operations around Envirotek.

The phone rings and one of our knowledgeable office personnel will answer the call and schedule the work to be dispatched to the field crew. The field crew will show up for the service scheduled and complete it efficiently and safely. The incoming work is steady and at times stressful, with short deadlines to complete an inspection, a pumping, or repairs for home sales. One of the biggest challenges is too much work and not enough help. We use Iphones and Ipads to communicate with each other in the field and back at the office. We have GPS tracking so we always know where our field techs are and what time they will arrive to the job. Our field crew is managed by Alan who is also working in the field Tuesday through Thursday on the more technical jobs, and currently performs all the inspections. DelRay Webster is our lead safety member who provides monthly safety training for the field tech’s to ensure we are operating as safe as possible. Alan provides the technical and basic training for septic systems and business 101 classes. We want all of our members to understand how our business operates behind the scenes, and what the costs are to run our business, so they know why we do what we do.
We pump 2-3 tanks per day, install 1-2 systems per week, inspect 12 systems per week, troubleshoot and repair 4-6 systems per week and design all the systems we install. We talk to 150 customers per week on average. We are presently scheduled approximately 2-3 months out on septic inspections.

Q: Tell us about your business model.

Our business model is septic tanks and septic tanks only, with the goal of doing it better than anyone else. We had opportunities to branch out into site prep, foundations, drainage, and water treatment, but I felt this would reduce our effectiveness and expertise, and not allow us to focus on being the best. Building the full service septic business slowly was the key. Not buying all new equipment all at once, and paying off everything as quick as possible before moving into the next service. This has allowed us to grow through the winter months when things get slow because we were diversified. The business began with septic inspections and just a couple of contracts and grew exponentially each year because we were ahead of the competition and had an established operation before others had realized it was a legitimate business. We now have hundreds of contracts that we service each year. The pumping division is experiencing the most growth at this point because it’s still a fairly new service at 3 years old, and had the most potential. We used to pump 5 tanks a month in the beginning and now we do 60 tanks a month on average. The largest division is installation because of the costs associated with complete systems and this also has the potential to be the most profitable. Our design division has the lowest sales margin due to the low number of designs compared to the other services. Pumping is our second largest division, and then the O&M/Inspection division.

Q: Tell us how you have you uniquely positioned Envirotek.

The initial goal was to put together a company that offered all the services in one place and all the services that complement each service so we could control the quality and timing. We are unique in our local market because we are a full service company that can design, install, service, repair and pump. Our branding was important in terms of making our business name seen on all our vehicles and employees. We track all our calls and categorize them to know where they came from so our advertising dollars are spent wisely. Saturating the local market with our signs, flyers, local social events such as home and garden shows, chili chowder cook off, teaching classes for the local health department, etc. We educate our clients as to what their money is buying and the differences in services offered by the competition without badmouthing them. One of our biggest advantages will be coming when our new office is built on the main access road across from the local environmental health department.

Q: Tell us a little about your financials.

We started out around $25,000/year in gross sales which was just one person at the time. Now we are at one million dollars in gross sales. We are experiencing about a 30% growth per year on average, with a 48% peak growth from 2012-2013 due to increase trained personnel who could increase our work load.

Q: What are your waste dumping policies?

We currently dump at two different facilities depending on our pumping location. We use a sewage treatment facility for the majority of our sewage, and a dewatering treatment facility that is operated independently. The procedures are set up by each facility. One uses a meter flow to verify the volume and the other uses scales to weigh coming and going to determine volume. No grease hauling or handling yet. Currently only local regulations are followed to be a licensed pumper and then each facility has their own regulations for handling the sewage we bring in. The number of tanks we can pump is limited due to the distance to each of the facilities. The closest sewage treatment facility is 31 miles from our base of operations.

Q: Tell us about the environmental issues you are concerned with, and how do you deal with them.

We currently are in the process of expanding our business by utilizing some green technologies. We are building a new office and manufacturing building that will incorporate solar power for our offices and a large rain garden outside to help deal with surface water collection. Our new facilities property has one of the only salmon barring streams in the County, and we are taking great care to build responsibly. We will be using the rain garden, salmon stream and our solar system as opportunities to educate the public on how these can be used to help improve our surroundings when expanding. We are also moving from paper to electronics by going to a cloud work flow service that utilizes IPad’s and IPhone to eliminate our paper consumption by up to 55%. We feel that there always needs to be a balance when implementing new “green” ideas that benefits all the stakeholders. As new green technologies are developed they are generally too expensive, but overtime as the costs come down then incorporating green technologies to improve the environment begins to make financial sense. We want to be good stewards of what we have and will continue to introduce more green technologies in all aspects of our business.

Q: What issues do you see as challenges for the future?

Keeping our overhead down and expenses in check will help with unforeseen outside forces that could have a negative impact on the business. Our expansion to a highly visible and accessible location should increase our ability to continue positive growth. In addition to moving our facility we are branching out into sales and manufacturing, and that will bring in potential customers and allow us to develop improved products for the industry we serve. We will be manufacturing control panels, filters, sludge measuring device, float clips, etc. We enjoy being part of the changing environment, and being a voice to help the local agencies work through the changing regulations that help improve the environment and sustain our world.

For more information on Envirotek Environmental Solutions visit their website: www.envirotekwa.com

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