I’ve had many conversations with businesses who are trying to decide whether or not they should get into sewer lining. I’ve noticed that there seem to be three distinct groups who I’ve spoken with.
- The first group are either drain cleaning or plumbers who perform drain cleaning operations as a regular part of their business model. They have teams that respond to drain service calls and replace failed sewers, usually after a collapse or exhausted cleaning options.
- The second group also respond to drain service calls but refer rehabilitation or replacement to other contractors either as a subbie or direct referral.
- The final group who are entrepreneurs who have heard about the lateral lining and want to get into the business. They are interested in setting up a business model that takes advantage of lateral lining and feel they can carve out a niche market working as a subbie to the regular businesses who choose to stay out of the lining market.
The first group is usually the most successful and the easiest to transition. They have been replacing sewers, know the costs involved in that work and the drawbacks caused by some site conditions. They tend to be the ones that do all of their own work and rely very little on others. Often, they own some equipment that is needed for lining and have competent people. For this group, now is the time to get into the lateral sewer lining. Why? As more and more consumers become savvy to the lateral lining market, they opt out of the mess excavations make to their yards and their landscapes. Many contractors are losing business when asked by their customers if they do this type of work, and they say no, this then gives them the incentive to start.
The second group, are familiar with lateral lining and the replacement/rehabilitation end of the business but may not be ready to jump into doing the work themselves. Some operate as general contractors regarding plumbing and drain cleaning and arrange the work to be done by others. Their piece of the market is to sell, bill, collect and direct the subcontractor work. Several companies have been very successful in operating in this market. They dip their toes into the lateral lining business when a circumstance changes their direction – like a new employee who has experience in lining or their subcontractors let them down on a job. These folks usually stay with a subbie as long as the subbie treat them well, but in time often start a successful relining business.
The last group and the riskiest are the entrepreneurs who want to start a business model. This group is looking to start a business enterprise that caters to the industry usually through other plumbing and drain cleaning contractors as a subcontractor. Occasionally they will purchase a drain cleaning business and blend lateral lining into the existing business. Setting up this model takes a lot of planning, market research, and finding qualified people to perform the work and have experience. The experienced people need drain cleaning experience and previous lateral lining experience, although both can be trained. Without experienced people, the entrepreneur will spend extra money getting his staff up to speed and may change staff trying to find the right people.
If you find yourself thinking about getting into the lateral lining business, weigh up where you fit into the categories I’ve listed above. For those of you who already respond to drain cleaning calls, the transition is pretty straightforward. If you find yourself subbing out your work now, what parts will you continue to sub and which elements will you do? This is the process you must go through to decide. And finally, if you are starting a business model from scratch, this action plan may help you fix a path to success.