JT’s Septic, An Interview With Owner, Brenda Taulbee

JT’s Septic is a family owned and operated company located in Arizona. In this interview, Brenda talks about being the second generation owners, along with her husband, Jesse. They love what they do and their sincerity about their company truly shines through.

Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background and how you got into the septic business?
Jay and his wife Julie, son’s Jesse and Zeb just arrived from Florida to 80 miles north of Phoenix in the Yavapai County area and were looking to come back home to the west. Jay grew up in California and was in the wastewater industry at a very early age. He was installing and pumping septic tanks in California and Florida. The family all worked with Jay and learned the trade quickly by pure hands-on experience. JT’s Septic was founded in 1994 to install and repair septic tanks and serves the surrounding Yavapai County and adjacent areas still today. Now the company has over 60+ years of combined experience.

What is your business model? How is your company structured in terms of services, equipment, and employee base?
JT’s Septic has always been structured on the basis of honesty, integrity, and customer service. We started out with a full structured (one-stop) septic company including – precast, installation, pumping, inspections, repairs and portable toilets. After the Arizona housing bust in 2006, we concentrated on what would keep us going and went into survival mode. We are currently pumping, inspecting and doing repairs. We are sticking to the basics and what we know best about the equipment and employee base that stuck with us during the bust.

How did you decide on what types of trucks and equipment to invest in?
JT’s already owned a 1989 Ford L-8000 pumper with a 2300 gallon carbon steel tank, a 1996 Peterbilt also with a carbon steel tank and a 3,600 gallon capacity and a 2006 Kenworth with a 2,500 gal. carbon steel tank. When Jay stepped back in 2015 to let Jesse and Zeb run the business Jesse began to research the options for updating our equipment and to handle the mountain terrain and the increase in pumping. We have been very happy with Tank World Corp. in El Mirage, AZ and Jerry Kirkpatrick’s knowledge and experience in the past so Jesse purchased the new Mack trucks with automatic transmissions and Tank World started building the carbon steel tanks varying from 2,400 to 3,600-gallon waste capacity and 200-gallon fresh water capacity. Jesse and Jerry worked closely together to outfit the new trucks to be efficient for our crews. Each truck is equipped with a generator, at least 200ft of pumping hose and sewer cameras were recently added.

What are the different services you offer?
Commercial and residential septic pumping, Transfer of Ownership Inspections and repairs.

Which service do you perform most often?
The majority of our business derives from residential pumping in conjunction with the Transfer of Ownership Inspections required by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality since 2006 during the sale of a home. Obviously, the housing market is on an upswing in Arizona and it is keeping us very busy!

What are some of the distinguishing features and services of your company that make it stand out?
Once again our company is structured on honesty, integrity, and customer service. We do not have a specialized service that is out of the ordinary in our industry or area, however, our employees are well trained, wear a clean uniform, and believe in our company’s mission. Our clean and well-maintained equipment and our knowledgeable employees are what make us successful in the field and in the office. Each of our crew members is cross-trained also so that they are efficient in all aspects of our company.

How did you arrive at creating this image of excellence for your company?
From the very beginning, Jay Taulbee has always structured his business ethics on how he would want to be treated as a customer. The satisfied customer keeps us in business by word of mouth. We live in a small town and if they are not treated well, then the word gets around quickly. This philosophy has carried through the family and employees. Also, our fleet of clean and well-maintained trucks act as rolling billboards.
We try to stay educated and ahead of our competitors by attending the annual WWETT Show in Indianapolis and bring back the info we learn to bridge the gap between the industry and the homeowners and realtors. Homeowner and realtor education classes are a main goal for JT’s now and in the future.

What is your target growth percentage, and what are your challenges along the way?
Our growth target is 25% sales growth for 2018. Marketing is our biggest challenge to keep our newest addition to the fleet of Mack trucks busy.
Also developing ways to meet the needs of the current customer base that relies on the web and social media is a daily challenge. The typical customer today does not use the local phone book!

Who works at the company, and how many people are employed?
We currently have 17 employees, including Jesse and his wife Brenda, and Zeb Taulbee. We have 5 clerical employees that keep the office running, 3 pumping crews,1 repair crew, and a full-time mechanic for maintaining the new fleet of trucks and keeping the older equipment in tip-top shape.

How do you boost efficiency in your jobs and your workers and, similarly, boost morale amongst your employees?
Communication is key! The office procedures were created and set up by Julie Taulbee (Jay’s wife) from the very beginning – our well-trained office staff still handles the customer from the very first phone call or email to land the job to the communication to the dispatch supervisor and onto the field crews. This allows the best customer service in our area.
The field crews continue to go through industry training, NAWT classes and internal training to be efficient. A knowledgeable worker can handle the customer more effectively. We recently added business cards for all of our crew leaders – this was a morale booster.
Jesse outfits the equipment with the latest technology, an abundance of supplies and well-maintained equipment which seems to keep our crews happy. JT’s Septic prides itself on the longevity of its employees. Our longest tenured employee has been with the company for 17 years!

How do you handle training your work crews?
We have a good basis of men and women experienced in the wastewater industry that mentor and pass along their knowledge to the new employee. Our new employees usually are second man on the trucks with Jesse Taulbee or one of our senior inspector/technicians to learn the trade for at least 90 days before going solo. In our area, we usually don’t have anyone knocking at our door with experience so Jesse Taulbee and his field supervisor Kyle Parkins make sure that all employees are up to date on maintaining and operating the equipment, following company policies and procedures and are well trained in customer service before being on their own.
The office staff is required to go visit jobs in the field to better understand the basis of a septic system and understand the field crew responsibility – this allows them to communicate with the customer with more confidence and knowledge and better communication between the office and field. The office is still running on the basic procedures designed by Julie Taulbee and with the help of Jesse’s wife, Brenda Taulbee, and her daughter Ashley has the office running very efficiently. If you call JT’s Septic we have 4 phone lines coming in and you will be guaranteed to speak to a knowledgeable office employee. A new employee in the office will have to go through an extensive training and understand septic systems, before they are allowed to answer the phones.

How many clients would you say you serviced or pumped per month? Who are some of your bigger clients?
We live in a rural county in Arizona so city sewer systems are not in every neighborhood and the communities are spread out across the service area, so driving represents a big part of our service. Our clients range from mountain cabins to the typical homeowner with a wastewater treatment facility in the yard. We pump an average of 150 septic tanks a month owned by a homeowner or landlord and our commercial pumping consists of a 5-year contract through the Bradshaw Ranger District of the Prescott National Forest to pump restrooms and pit toilets along with various schools, restaurants, and mobile home parks in the Yavapai County region.

What are the most challenging aspects of your business and industry?
The biggest challenge we have in our industry from coast to coast is waste disposal. Many pumpers travel miles to dispose of the gallons they pump daily and this is hard for equipment and profits. In our state, it is frustrating to see the lack of ruling, training, and regulation. If you own a pump truck and obtain a Septage Hauler license you are good to start a company or if you want to start installing wastewater treatment facilities (septic systems) in your local area you do not have to go thru any training.
Our industry is also judged on the old image of a septic pumper – we hear all of the septic jokes! Our industry is represented by well educated, self-motivated, and hardworking men and women that are the key to the future of the wastewater treatment solutions.

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