An Interview with Janice Witt of Rainbow Septic (winner of Austin Chronicle’s “Best Septic” Award)

Q: So tell us a little about yourself and your background. What kind of training and education do you have? What initially brought you to the septic business? Why did you pursue business in the septic industry? What were you doing before you entered the septic business? How did your previous work influence your current work in the septic industry?
Janice: I have been a licensed Texas Real Estate Broker since 1976. I am a TCEQ (Texas Commission for Environmental Quality) licensed OSSF Installer 2.
Seventeen years ago (when I was selling homes) there was a lack of available information about septic systems. Without good information, I could not advise my clients properly. The licensing authorities were providing minimal resale septic inspections that were only looking for health hazards. This was back when the internet barely existed.
In my opinion, these was insufficient from a buyer’s perspective, who was looking for actual needed repairs during the real estate transaction and potential future costs, etc. More often than not, the governing authorities created more liability and problems for the real estate transaction than they solved. In frustration, I exclaimed to my boyfriend one day “This is ridiculous, I could do a better job than this!” He replied “Why don’t you”..and I replied “I just think I will”.
The desire to gain more knowledge and provide better service to my clients pushed me into the resale septic inspection business. Then voila! Rainbow Septic was born.

Q: Let us know a little history about your business. When you initially started out, who worked with you? What kind of modifications or changes have you made since you joined the business?
J: Started in 1999, Rainbow Septic initially guided clients through the licensing authorities cumbersome inspection process. I spent a year following county inspectors around .playing the curious 2-year-old: “What’s this? How does this work? How do you fix it?”
I supplemented in the field knowledge by attending licensing course provided by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. I now hold TCEQ License Installer 2. This license allows me to install repairs and maintain any type of septic system in the state of Texas.
Within a few years I felt I had sufficient knowledge to compete with the licensing authorities for resale inspections. Five years later, the governing authorities discontinued septic resale inspection services, opening the door further for private inspection businesses like mine. My business grew to the point that by 2001 I bought my first septic truck to provide pumping and digging at the time of the inspection.

Q: So what is your current business model? How did you go about structuring your business? What kind of configurations, organizations, models, or plans did you use when you set up your business structure? To set up your business structure, what kind of market research did you do to get an understanding of the area you’re working in?
J: Three factors coalesced to incentivized me to focus on this entirely on this business:
1. TCEQ statistics showed Travis and surrounding counties had the largest percentage of septic per household anywhere in state of Texas and with exploding home building, this market would grow exponentially.
2. A friend of mine who worked for the Texas Real Estate Commission told me one day over coffee that the #1 lawsuit for realtors five years in a row centered around septic disputes.
3. Most Realtors little understood this ”out of site, out of mind” household component, and the importance of inspecting septic tanks at time of resale. If they were so inclined to inspect, vendors were relatively non-existent.
So, my focus became two pronged: 1) Educate the real estate community about septic tanks and the reasons to inspect, thus creating the market, and 2) Develop the service to meet the needs of the newly created market.
As a 20-year real estate veteran with long-term relationships in the industry, it was natural that sales managers would let me attend sales meetings for the purpose of education and marketing. Almost EVERY Tuesday of EVERY week for over 3 years I showed up to sales meetings. I even came in carrying donuts!
We discussed types of septic, disclosure issue, contract verbiage and why systems need a more thorough inspection than the licensing authorities were currently providing. I also developed and was approved by TREC to provide a 3-hour continuing education course which I provided through the Austin Board of Realtors and various title companies.
Simultaneously, I developed a well-defined scope of inspection and tailored inspection form. Through the years the scope and form have been refined as the industry matured and septic systems became more sophisticated. As a Realtor, I understood what level of inspection and disclosures was needed. The goal to provide thorough inspections, clear reporting with sufficient disclosure to inform the buyers and reduce liability for the Realtors.

Q: What kind of services does your business offer? What is your most successful division? Why do you think this division is the most successful? In terms of each division, what is the breakdown?
J: Since 1999, Rainbow Septic Services has expanded from the initial resale septic inspection to include pumping, repairs and installations. However, the most successful division (and core of the business) is still septic inspection with pumping. This services feeds the pumping, repairs and installation side.

Q: What are some of the services and features that set your company apart from the competition? How did you create these unique services and features to cater to your audiences?
J: I would say the driving force and what sets us apart is our willingness to take the time to educate each client/Realtor. We’ll answer their questions and guide them to resources if we cannot provide them. Our services and septic reports are well defined and we provide follow up to all parties in the transaction..

Q: How many employees do you have working for the company? What titles do they have? How do you organize and implement your employee and managerial structure.
J: I have an office manager/scheduler, two pumper and two septic inspectors. I also have a group of subcontractors that I work with for repairs and septic installations.

Q: How does your business boost efficiency and morale in your workers?
J: We provide financial incentive and constant open constructive communication, allowing input and direction from everyone. We’re practically family! One of my pumpers has been with me since 1999 and one of my inspectors has been here for over 10 years.

Q: What kind of trucks and equipment do you use?
J: Two Peterbilt septic trucks and lots of shovels and hoses!

Q: How many clients do you work with annually? What are some of your bigger clients?
J: We interact with at least 2,500 clients a years. Our biggest client are the Realtors who refer their clients.

Q: What are some of the more challenging aspects of your industry?
J: Few people are familiar with septic systems or the resale inspection process, so we often start from ground zero with each client. This is a challenge but our success lies in our willingness to take the time to explain and educate. This one factor has made Rainbow Septic the largest resale septic inspection provider in the Central Texas area.

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