ACE Enterprise Septic Service, An Interview with Charles Foreman

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the septic industry?
Basically what I do is maintenance on systems and my background is in all those areas of septic management. I used to be a former school teacher, and the joke with that is I used to “teach the little sh*#^ and now I deal with sh*#^.” I have a communication degree, so I know how to talk to customers and deal with that part. I also work at a place where we do video conferences and build computers to make our products work, so that translates to what I do now, like working with components and things, dealing with the customers. I own Ace Enterprise Septic Systems.

What is the structure in terms of services for your company, including equipment and number of employees?
Basically, when compared to others, we are a bit of a skeleton crew. Luckily the people I have are really good at what they do. We do maintenance and repair on all types of septic systems, and maintain contracts on certain customers, and pumping services. We pump out systems, repair, and install, so it’s kind of four different components of what we do.
I have one person that takes care of billing and collecting and getting contracts, one that does specs, because we have 15 customers that we service a few times a year on inspection.
There is also a service tech that does troubleshooting and repairs, and I also sub out some work, when we become overloaded. So we kind of work around the maintainence contracts. My website is great for getting calls from people that have something wrong with their septic system, and we pretty much take care of it.

What types of trucks and equipment do you use?
We have service vehicles that are vans. I like the panel vans where I can lock everything up. Basically I have three vans and they are all outfitted the same, so in case I hire someone new or one van goes down, they can use the next van and it has the same equipment on it. The same stuff to handle the pumps and any of the parts that we might need for the job, that kind of thing.
I do have a pump truck, but I have other backup people that I use more. I stay away from the big heavy equipment for insurance reasons, and also the storage issues with larger trucks. For backhoe duties I have some people I use, so they have their own equipment.

What are the main services you offer?
We replace a lot of pumps and basically service eroded systems. That’s the main thing, but within that we have pumps we replace and air compressors that we replace. Floats and filters, are the most of what we do. Some of the other systems we fix are broken lines, clogged drains, and other things that need repaired.

What are some of features that make your company stand out from your competition?
Each customer is treated like they are the only one I have. We offer a fair price. We show up when we plan to and when we’re supposed to. We aren’t scared of the customer. I won’t waste their time, if I can’t figure something out, I call the manufacturer directly to help me walk through something. I’m upfront with them and I won’t waste their time. I do my best to figure out what they need and get answers for them.
We have a 24-point inspection list that helps us do our inspections. My pricing in contracts and repairs is fair. That’s the bread and butter we make money on. You can also make the money on the service part. I charge a low trip charge fee for repairs of $35. In my area other people charge way more to just show up—$85 and up. People are sometimes surprised when I tell them it’s $35, because I don’t rake people over the coals. In our rules we have to be on site within 48 hours when someone calls; we try to make it in two hours. People like that we come out so fast and that creates customers for life.

What are your challenges along the way in growing your business?
I’ve been in the business for 12 years, and on my own for about 7 years. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with idiots! Customers sometimes want to tell you what’s wrong with something, and they may be right in some instances, but because there are so many components, it could be something completely different. So the problem I have now is we’re doing such a good job that handling all the calls is a problem when they want me to. The main problem is making sure all the need is satisfied that’s out there. It’s not a bad problem to have!

How do you boost efficiency in your crews and keep your employees on track?
Pay them a fair wage and give them raises. Many times I’ll get feedback from the customers. They know I’m the owner, so they say “hey, so-and-so is very good, so I just wanted to let you know.” I give my crew the positive feedback when I hear about them from customers, that kind of thing. It’s not like a manufacturing setting where you work on something like a car all day and you do one thing. With our industry, everything is different everyday. Granted it’s all septic, but there are different issues from system to system. Everyday is absolutely different so you don’t get in a rut doing the same thing everyday. The more stuff we see it cuts down on our diagnostic time, since we’ve seen stuff before. We’re always learning and growing.

How many clients do you service?
My first year, we had about 144 per month, getting 12 new ones each month. I would say we get over 200 new ones each month now. In total it’s about 1500 customers each year, depending on the new contracts. The website brings in a lot of new calls. I would say we touch 200-300 people per month.

What hurdles do you have in your industry?
In Georgetown, Texas there are about six to seven counties that need work. Even with a small crew, some of the rules are different in each county, as far as installation and repair and different things, so some of the rules don’t jive in other counties. That can be challenging.
We tell people not to do certain things, like don’t put grease down the drain—that’s a big deal. They still do it. The water use too. I was on a house that I was doing an inspection and the people were there with the family in a three-bedroom home and they have eight people. They were asking about an overloaded system and the potential for that.
They were overloaded when they moved in! You have laundry, eight people all the time, 24 hours a day. Those kids were homeschooled! Most people leave and go to work, but this family was there all day long, so there wasn’t anything preventing them from using the water and bathroom all day long. They were using more than 300 gallons per day from day one. They bought the house anyway, so they will have problems. It’s a risk they are willing to take, even though I guaranteed there would be septic problems.

Anything else you’d like us to know about your company?
My website is pretty creative, it’s There is a good tutorial on there. We also have a link to environment stuff, a manufacturer page that I work on, and a contract example. It’s another reason we’re different, our website is more comprehensive and interactive than other septic companies with information people can really use. We get 200-400 hits per month.

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