Septic work may seem like a peculiar startup business, especially if you’ve never done it a day in your life. But for Kari Walsh and Robert Wegner, they were looking for a new challenge and a little research and a lot of hard work turned this established business into a new entrepreneurial venture.
“Bob and I were working at the same company for a previous employer and decided we wanted to work for ourselves. We actively looked at different companies that were for sale in our community, taking into consideration many factors including, but not limited to the company’s growth potential” explained Walsh.
Thompson’s Porta Septic Service in Fort Bragg had a proven track record, providing portable sanitation and septic system services in the community for almost 50 years. Without having any prior experience in the industry, Walsh and Wagner decided to go for it, and spent the next two years learning everything they could about the industry and about running a successful business.
According to Walsh, one of the biggest struggles, having never owned a business before, was understanding the details around bookkeeping and accounting. And while she has a background in business management, she had never been directly responsible for employees. Wanting to make the most of their profit margin and gain some insight into employee management, they reached out to West Business Development Center for support in 2016.
West helped her understand basic accounting concepts, empowering her to better analyze financial statements and improve cash flow. By meeting with West’s specialist advisors, she gained a much keener understanding of how to run their business, giving her much more confidence in creating a plan for success in the process. “Understanding how to calculate margins allowed me to figure out how to structure pricing so that I could keep myself priced within the market, yet still make a profit,” explained Walsh. “I also now understand employee management, learning first how to be clear in what our expectations were and how to help employees take accountability for their performance,” she added.
With West’s support, Walsh and Wagner have invested in developing stronger relationships not only within the community but with customers outside the area. They built a new website and Facebook page, to attract local customers that may need septic pumping or portable sanitation, as well as potential customers from outside the county who may be coming into our community for an event. “Weddings are a big industry on the coast and we welcome working with our local venues as well as with couples from all over the country,” Walsh said.
Walsh notes the satisfaction that she and her partner get in providing great customer service and building solid working relationships with vendors that last. “We feel very fortunate to be able to do business with some great local companies and local organizations and along the way have met some really dedicated people,” Walsh added.
The future seems to be looking bright for the pair. They plan to expand their services beyond just septic tank pumping and port-a-potty rentals. They have invested in new equipment and a wide range of portable sanitation products to ensure they can meet the demands of a variety of customers on the Mendocino Coast.
Walsh attributes their success and future growth plan to a few different factors. “Maintaining good relationships, providing great customer service, reaching out and acquiring new clients and using the business skills we learned from West to build a healthy business,” are vital to their success, says Walsh. While it has been only three years of ownership, they find the hard work and long days worthwhile. Walsh and Wegner don’t regret their decision to quit their day jobs and strike out on their own, and in fact, with help from West, are so much more energized for what’s next.
Walsh mentions, “being able to understand how to make accurate projections for our business is crucial. Being able to exceed those projections is not only profitable, but it feels really good to know we are succeeding in living up to our personal potential.”