Speedy Septic- An Interview with Nicole Schwartz

Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background and how you got into the septic business as the office manager?
I come from a construction background, and came to Speedy Septic in 2012 as their Inside Sales Representative, scheduling service work and helping our customers. I have worked for Speedy in various capacities since I have been here, including on the construction and permitting side, and am now their Office/HR Manager.

How was Speedy Septic started?
Speedy Septic was started in 2008 by our two owners, Jeff Phelps and Brandon Mauck. Jeff got his start driving a pump truck for the previous owner of Speedy Septic and then went to work for Infiltrator Water Technologies. Brandon comes from a long line of family who has owned septic companies. He went to work for Infiltrator as well and after meeting Jeff, they decided to partner up on their own company. They had an idea that the septic business could be better than it was – that a company could focus on great service, education of both the employees and their customers and a full-service operation that handles everything from inspections, repairs and maintenance, to tank and secondary treatment replacements and large commercial installations.

How is your company structured in terms of services, equipment, and employee base?
We are a full-service septic provider. That includes residential and commercial repairs, installation, maintenance, service, and inspections. We believe in having a well-rounded crew of certified technicians and an educated administrative staff. Every technician or Project Manager that visits a customer’s location has the appropriate certifications to perform the work they are doing, on top of additional licenses and education that we believe is helpful. We also have an Apprenticeship program where we train our future technicians to be septic geniuses and we also pay for their CDL licenses, so they can operate our trucks. We operate a large fleet of pump trucks and service trucks in each of our locations to make sure we can answer every emergency that comes our way. Each pump truck is equipped with a water jetter, an electronic locator and common repair parts to ensure we fix an issue the first time. We also have our own land application plant, that we operate, which allows us to handle amounts of septage that our competitors might not be able to manage because we process everything ourselves.

How did you decide on what types of trucks and equipment to invested in?
Our decisions have been made mostly on what trucks and equipment will allow us to do two main things, handle emergencies quickly and efficiently. The other is to be properly outfitted to take care of a customer’s issue on the first visit, without having to return another day.

What are the different services you offer?
We perform all maintenance on residential and commercial systems, including many types of alternative treatment systems. This includes regular O&M service, sand filter maintenance, drainfield and line cleaning, pumping and pump system maintenance. We do a lot of septic inspections and we also perform tank replacements, secondary treatment system replacements like drainfields, sand filters and ATT units for a number of smaller repairs like riser installations and pump replacements.

Which service do you do most often?
Septic pumping and inspections. With the advent of the internet, homeowners and buyers are realizing that a septic system is an important (and expensive!) part of owning a home. The increase we have seen with inspections reflects that.

What are some of the distinguishing features and services of your company that are unique to you, which allow you to be successful?
Being extremely responsive for a customer with an emergency and having 24-hour emergency service, performing full system checks at every maintenance and on every part of their system so a customer knows how their system is operating and has a good record of it Being professional in behavior and appearance by genuinely caring about the communities we serve and live in is important.

How did you arrive at creating this image or identity for your company, and how does this make your company stand out from your competition?
When our company was founded, the owners believed the septic industry could be elevated, both for the septic providers and for the regulators. Everything Speedy Septic does is in an effort to reflect that ideal. A lot of our competitors are doing business the way it’s always been done, and there is still a lot of value to that model. We just believe you can take the old school approach of friendliness with being a local company the community knows and trusts, and still put a solid, professional, tech savvy foot forward.

What is your target growth percentage, and what are your challenges along the way?
I think a lot of growing companies face similar challenges to the ones we have faced and they mostly involve getting your processes and operations in place, while thinking like a company that is larger than you currently are. One day that’s exactly where you’ll be by handling the operational side of being a busy, fast growing company while keeping profits steady.

Who works at the company, and how many people are employed? Describe a little bit about your office staff and crews.
We operate in three geographic locations in the Pacific Northwest and we currently have about 40 full time employees. Most our employees love the outdoors and care about the environment in which we live, and coming from the Northwest, that’s a pretty typical set of values. The type of employee who is successful at Speedy Septic is a passionate, lifelong learner who can work hard and have fun, which some people assume is a hard find for a septic company, but our culture has managed to do that about 40 times over!

How do you boost efficiency in your jobs and your workers and, similarly, boost morale amongst your employees?
We focus on profits, which means we have a culture of being efficient and smart about how we get things done. Having this focus means we have a lot of perks for a small business. This summer, we had a contest where each employee got a chance to be entered into a drawing for a luxury trip to Mazatlán, and we recently started a profit sharing program on top of the traditional benefits one would normally see.

How do you handle training your work crews?
We have an Apprenticeship program here that pairs a new employee with a more experienced one, who has been with us for a long time, during this time they will learn the ropes of our industry. They learn to drive the trucks we need to get the job done. We will rotate these pairings so that Apprentices can have training on both the service and construction side of the company. We also start sending Apprentices to classes to obtain their certifications at about the one year mark of their employment, and then have them learn about the specifics behind the types of systems we work on most.

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