Robby’s Septic Tank Service An Interview with Owner Beverly McLaughlin

Robbys Septic Tank ServiceHow did you get into the septic business?

Robby’s father worked for a septic tank company, so as the oldest of six kids, he started working in the business with his father at an early age. After graduating from high school, he began working at a grocery warehouse. He was not satisfied with this and missed the work he had been doing, so in 1984 he started his own business.

Robby says that the best addition to the business was when their son, Cody, joined the team. Cody earned his plumbing license, which allows the business to provide more services to customers Cody has become a major part of the business, taking on more responsibility and leadership as the years have passed.

Recently Robby took his grandsons (Landen, 8 and Clayton, 5) with him on a job, he said it was one of the best days he has ever had. It has been his dream to build a business that he can leave to his son and grandsons.

What does your business model look like and how does this help you service your customers?

Since Robby had worked for a septic tank business prior to starting his own business, he used that company as an example. Robby then added the emphasis of “doing it right the first time.” The business model also requires taking the time to educate customers on how a septic tank system works and how to maintain it. Robby says that he is amazed at how many customers thank us for taking the time to explain how their system operates.

How do you go about finding and purchasing your trucks and equipment?

Robby and Cody are always looking at trucks and equipment. Robby has a keen sense of vision and is open to new technology and ideas. Cody tends to look at things a little differently, and between the two of them they are able to make the best decisions for our business.

What are the main services you offer at your septic company?

The primary focus of the business is pumping and drain field repair. The team also installs new systems, replaces pumps and water jet lines, and performs septic tank inspections. Robby’s Septic is a full-service tank company.

What makes Robby’s Septic different from other companies in your area that do septic work?

Since we are a small business, our customers have an owner on the jobsite. This is very reassuring to our customers since many times they are working when we provide service and don’t have to worry about who will be at their home. By having an owner onsite, we are able to maintain a high quality of service.

Another advantage is we offer an alternative to conventional drain field repair, the Terralift machine. We saw this machine probably 20 years ago at a trade show. Robby was intrigued at the possibilities it offered but since no one in our area was using the technology he was hesitant to make such a large investment. After looking at it for several years, he decided to purchase the machine, one of the best additions we have made in the history of the business.

In finding your groove as a company, have you run into any challenges along the way?

We have found over the years that bigger is not necessarily better. Limiting the number of employees allows us to maintain an extremely high quality of service. We want to keep our business operating profitably and continue to provide excellent service to our customers.

How many people in general do you employ at your company and what’s the breakdown of office and field staff?

We are a small, family operated business. Robby, Cody and a couple of technicians complete the work in the field. An office manager takes calls, schedules jobs and handles paperwork while I assist in the evenings and weekends. Starting in June, I will be joining the business full time when I retire after 36 years as an educator. I have a Master Septic Tank Contractor license as well as a Class A CDL and will be working with Robby and Cody both in the field as well as in the office.

How do you get your employees motivated to do the best job they can for you?

Robby and Cody work with the employees we have, making sure that all jobs are done in the most efficient manner possible while maintaining the quality we require.

Tell us a little about the equipment you use on a regular basis?

We have the usual equipment you would expect a septic tank company to operate: pump trucks, tanker trailers, excavator, backhoe, loader, trailers, service trucks, water jetter, etc. In addition, we do have one piece of equipment most other contractors do not have, the Terralift machine.

What contracts are your clients mostly made up of? Commercial or residential?

The majority of our customers are residential, we do service a few commercial accounts.

What hurdles do you encounter most often in your line of work on the job everyday?

Treatment and land application along with the public perception of our industry. “Not in my backyard” has never been a truer statement. The fact that Polk County does not provide a place for pumpers to offload is becoming a major issue due to the ban on land application of septage. The Florida Onsite Wastewater Association has been working with legislators and government officials to come up with a solution that requires current land appliers to convert from Department of Health to DEP permitting of our treatment facilities and land application sites.

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