Quality human resources and technology spells success for L.A. Hydro-Jet & Rooter Service, Inc.®
By Lynn Tilton
One of the marks of a successful person is his ability to learn from the mistakes of others rather than having to make those same mistakes on his own. A good example of this is Dan Baldwin of Los Angeles. His company, L.A. Hydro-Jet & Rooter Service, Inc.®, had nearly $1 million in billings during its fourth year.
“We specialize in hydrojetting, but also have a whole line of rooting equipment as well as cameras and electronic line locating,” Baldwin says.
Dan then explained that before he began L.A. Hydro-Jet & Rooter Service, Inc.® he worked as operations manager four years for a large line cleaning company in the L.A. metro area. “But when we went from 82 service techs down to 33 within a six-month period, I knew it was time to make a change.” This was after he’d gone from being a member of management to taking on a franchise with the same firm. “ The quality of service deteriorated, so I decided to go fully on my own.”
As he looks back on his corporate and franchise experience, Baldwin notes that he learned some valuable lessons at that time. “First, you and your service staff must take care of your customers. After all, without customers there is no business.” Dan pauses, then adds, “At the same time, you must take care of your service staff. That company had a constant turnover, with the better techs finding other opportunities.”
This employee flight sent up a big red flag for Dan. He notes that management and staff grew more and more into adversarial positions, making it more and more of a chore to report to work each day. But, thanks to his experience with that firm, he also believed that the best possible opportunity in jetting lay in focusing on commercial and industrial clients, rather than going after the residential market, or trying to stretch enough to get into municipality work.
“I realized that if I were to start my own business, that the commercial/industrial segments held the most promise. I specifically targeted hydrojetting services for hotels, hospitals, and shopping centers. I did my first year as a one-man shop.” This helped him keep debt at a level he could handle. (Continued...)
Dan says that he targeted those specific markets because he felt that was where the biggest amount of income could be made using his experience as a jetter. “ I knew how to use the technology. I could do the work myself.” The first year, thanks to a lot of door knocking, and providing the services promised, his billings totaled $100,000.
“This year we’re just under a million. I have eight servicemen out in the field, three office staffers, and my wife, Lorrie, who is my partner, started working full-time with me a year ago. Lorrie does sales, marketing, and some internal office management.”
As he looks back over his first year, Dan remembers his first job, which was to hydrojet the drain lines for an apartment building’s laundry room. That job took 45 minutes.
“I’d picked up my hydrojetting unit just 30 minutes before. In fact, I did the first job on my way home from the supply house. From then on I worked to keep that jetter busy.”
Dan also knew that he had to keep his rates profitable, yet competitive. Fortunately, working for the other company had helped prepare him for this particular challenge so there was no problem in setting his service rates. “ I knew what the other companies offered, and how to be competitive without giving away the shop. I also knew the level of service those companies charged, and determined to give my customers a better level of services.”
Seminars he’d attended while with the other company had taught him that friends buy from friends, and that relationship marketing was the real key to the fast-paced world of Los Angeles. “As far as the jetting goes, I make sure each account is serviced by the same jetting technician call after call. The tech builds rapport with the customer, works more efficiently, and can better respond to any new problems because he knows that customer’s service history.
Dan also decided to do his best to keep his customer informed about the tech’s progress, from the first phone call until he’s presented the invoice upon completion of the job.
His office staff calls their customers to let them know when they’re arriving. If there’s a delay, they’ll call again to reassure the customer that they will be taking care of his problem as quickly as possible.
If there’s bad news, they get it to the customer quickly so he can decide what to do next. “ Whenever a service tech finds an extra problem, such as a collapsed, broken, or offset pipe we immediately call the manager. We don’t do any repairs because we’re drain cleaners only. Our job is to locate the problem, identify it, and offer the best repair strategy.”
“I believe a drain cleaning company that also repairs lines has a conflict of interest. Since we focus on cleaning, the serviceman’s work is to clear the ...