Greetings all! A lot has happened this year. We have literally been running non-stop since January. As you know, the year got off to a bad start when we were caught in a smear campaign by a disgruntled customer who took it upon himself to try and destroy our business by spreading untruthful statements all over social media and having his friends who aren't even customers do the same. Fortunately about ten percent of our customers came to the rescue and posted honest reviews which buried the others. Unfortunately, we had to totally remove the ability to leave reviews on Facebook because of the onslaught of fake derogatory remarks being made.
It's HARD to get reviews. We have done over 800 service calls since January in which customers have said we were "awesome", "fantastic", etc.,, so I ask them if they would mind leaving us a review on Google or the Better Business Bureau and the answer is "sure!", "no problem!", "I'll do it right now", etc., so I send them a link. We have received about 12………….
In January I finally took the state backflow testing exam from the state required class I had taken in February the year before. Time got away from me, with work coming in and before long it was already sprinkler blowout time, and then the holidays, so finally took and passed the test almost a year later. Our customers had been bugging me for years about backflow testing, but with all the hoops I had to go through to get the licensing, the cost for classes, licensing, equipment, and equipment upkeep, I really didn't want to deal with it. I have to have my equipment recalibrated every year, renew my license yearly, (expected), and every two years I have to take and pass a refresher class to keep my license.
Well, Sort of. Jesse, who has been working part-time off an on since January of 2014, was put on as a full-time employee as of February. Although he has worked in all phases of the company, Jesse has excelled in sprinkler system repairs, so he takes care of nearly 80% of the sprinkler work orders that come in. He became part of the family a little over two years ago when we let him marry our daughter.
Well, new to us. I picked up an old 1987 Ford F-150 for Jesse to drive around to take care of service calls. It gets about 5 gas stations to the mile, but it gets the job done…….
New On The Website
As I promised many last year, I created a page on my website with instructions on how to winterize backflow devices and pumps for those who have them. Because of the increased growth in the valley, and the decrease in qualified technicians, it is taking longer to get to everyone. While researching my competitors for pricing I noticed one may have shut down. Their website is gone. Since the majority of the sprinkler systems in the valley are underground, it takes a good while for the freeze level to reach the piping which is why we can blow sprinklers out even in December when it the temperature is in the 20's and below. We have proven that many times. However, backflow devices are a lot more fragile being above ground or closer to the surface, so I created diagrams you can actually print out on how to winterize your backflow so there is none or very little water left in them giving you piece of mind while waiting for you sprinkler blowout. I do the very same thing for the backflow on my sprinkler system because I don't get to my own sprinkler blowout until usually Thanksgiving Day which is the only day I take off other than my wife's birthday during the season.
What's Coming Soon
I am working all day on service calls and then half the night getting the website, database, and other things behind the scenes freshened up and ready for the onslaught of sprinkler blowouts. September is always difficult because we are trying to tie up a lot of loose ends of service calls, and then get everything in line for nearly two months of sprinkler blowouts.
We are working hard to get our old machine up and running again for the season. It has missed the last two seasons because of some part breakdowns that have be very difficult find. The company that manufactured the compressor shut down about 10 years ago, and then the only shop left in the United States that actually still worked on them closed down this summer. Fortunately I was able to track the shop owner down and get three much needed parts to the tune of about $700.00. They arrived yesterday, so we shall see what happens over the weekend. That machine has done over 10,000 sprinkler blowouts for us since 2005, and I am not ready to give it up yet. Jesse will run it for 40 hours (10-12 hour days) then my oldest son Justin who has also worked with me off and on for 20 years will run it so we can keep it going 7 days a week. We need two machines going to handle the increased number of blowouts we are getting. We completed around 1,200 blowouts with one machine last year, and had around 400 cancellations. It wouldn't hurt to have 3 or 4 machines, but they are hard to come by.
A Look Into The Future
There have been two entities this year who have approached me with an interest in buying out my company. One is a private investor in California who owns several rental properties in this area both residential and commercial. This would be a total buyout of name, equipment, contact list, etc. The other is a local property management company who wants to only purchase the business portion and my customer base, and have me work for them basically doing what I already do now without all the hassle of doing all the paperwork and running the business. I would only have to supervise others, do a portion of the work, etc., just like a regular job. Another good thing is my regular customers would still be in contact with the person they are used to – ME. Oh, and the big buy out check I would want as well………
No chance on the first offer. Not ready to totally give up what I spent over 20 years to build. Second offer…. jury is still out on that one. Negotiations are still, well, in negotiations. Definitely not ready to give up my sprinkler blowouts. Was planning on eventually "retiring" from all other repairs and building the sprinkler blowout portion of the business to the point where that is all I would do each year. Sprinkler blowouts was going to be my retirement plan. After all, it is recession proof. You gotta get it done or suffer the consequences in the spring. 2,000-2,500 sprinkler blowouts is all I would need each season to live off of for the entire year with blowouts ranging from $30-$100 depending on the size of the property. I am not getting any younger, and with self-employment there is no 401K to fall back on.
I already have the sign-up form loaded for sprinkler blowouts this season. I have had to take it down when I am no longer taking requests because the requests keep coming anyway. Tentative start date is the 8th of October, but much depends on when the irrigation districts desides to shut down this year. As normal, we will likely start blowouts with those on city or well water first with pumps and backflow devices while we wait for the irrigation districts to shut down. Several years ago we waited until the irrigation districts were shut down before we started and it was a big mistake. We got behind and could have had 150 blowouts completed during the time we were waiting.
I'll be sending out my usual fall email in a week or so. See ya'll soon!