Family-owned businesses dot the sewer and drain cleaning landscape continuing a long tradition of a parent passing a trade down to their offspring. Rhode Island-based Professional Drain Services of Southern New England is one of those sewer and drain cleaning companies that is proud to tout its family-owned and operated roots.
The three-year-old business is comprised of Robert “Rob” Broccolo, Jr., his father Robert “Bob” Broccolo, Sr., an uncle and cousin. Though the business is three-years-old Bob Broccolo has been in the trades for about 30 years with Rob rounding out a decade this year.
“My father is the reason that I got into this industry. My father has real estate properties and was doing his own plumbing work and I wanted to find a way to spend more time with my father,” says Rob Broccolo. “This business was a way for us to connect. To spend every day with him is nice.”
Professional Drain Services of Southern New England offers hydro jetting, septic pumping, pipe relining, camera inspections and location services — tackling nearly everything related to sewers and drains. Of the work, Rob notes that the bulk of it is in drain cleaning, septic pumping, repairs and preventive maintenance. As the name implies, the company’s service area covers Rhode Island, southeastern Connecticut and southern Massachusetts.
It is Rob who tackles the day-to-day work, his dad who provides the investment and background support needed to operate the business and his uncle and cousin help by driving the pumper truck and as general labor.
Before Bob Broccolo started the business, he was already doing much of the work at his properties, however his son was not with him. For several years Rob applied his trade at another local plumbing company. The start of Professional Drain Services was three-fold: It allowed the Broccolos to work together on a daily basis, it serviced all of the family’s properties and it picked up the sewer and drain cleaning work for many of the customers Rob was working with at his previous employer. Rob notes that, at the time, that company was not doing much in the way of sewer and drain work.
As with most start-up companies with a limited amount of cash and credit available, Rob purchased basic sewer inspection and cleaning equipment. As he puts it, enough to get by and properly service his customer base. This quickly changed as the company began to expand —via word of mouth — outside of the immediate area. Rob, refers to the growth quite accurately as, “an explosion in business.”
“We started with a truck, a trailer and some basic equipment and then shortly after we began getting busy,” Rob says. “When I first started, I had a basic RIDGID cable machine, an inexpensive camera and I tried to do what I could with the balance of money that I had. As we expanded and got new clientele, I did my research and found what was the best equipment available. That has helped get us further down the road.”
That new equipment included a RIDGID SeeSnake camera and a RIDGID FlexShaft, both of which he says are ideal to service a client base that is evenly split between commercial and residential customers. On the commercial side the clients include some of the hotels and restaurants that dot the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, many of the clients rely on the tourist trade, an industry that is dependent on clean and properly functioning drains.
“By having the best camera out there, I am able to get a clear picture of the drain every time I am doing an inspection,” says Rob. “I am able to identify the pitch inside the pipe with the new camera head, and I am able to give a copy of the recording to the customer while I am on the job. All of those little things helped build our reputation.”
He notes that customers likely expect him to show up at the job with a big rooter machine like those you can find at the local hardware store. They don’t expect a FlexShaft machine to handle the wall-to-wall cleaning, descaling, grease and root removal. Rob is happy to prove them wrong.
“It’s made my job faster because I can take one piece of machinery in-hand, walk onto the jobsite and I can get everything done in about the same time it would take me to set up my equipment five years ago,” he says. “That FlexhShaft and SeeSnake are the two pieces of equipment that I use every day. Changing to RIDGID made it a different game for me. It boosted my professionalism. It’s important because ‘Professional’ is in our name. We provide professional services to our customers at an affordable price. When the job is complete, they know it was done by a professional.”
On the camera side, Rob says that the new technologies and the clarity are amazing. The equipmet has grown by leaps and bounds since he started a decade ago. Today, he is able to provide the client with video even before he leaves the job.
“I can run my camera behind the equipment, so the client can see what I’m doing. I went from being a drain cleaner to a drain surgeon. I am giving the customers a better completed job than I could 10 years ago with a regular cable machine,” he says. “I get a lot of positive reaction from the customers since I started using this equipment. I also work to inform them about the work that I am doing, and how their system works. A lot of people don’t realize how important a properly working system is and good drainage is to their house. It’s part of building a nice, strong, relationship with the customer.
Though he is on the younger side, Rob isn’t a fan of buying equipment on the Internet and based on YouTube and other reviews. He would much rather meet the manufacturer or distributor in person to discuss the equipment and get hands-on. The biggest conduit and research tool for his company is the WWETT Show.
“The event is huge [for us] because we are going there, getting continuing education and when we’re at the expo, we see a lot of equipment that we wouldn’t see in our day-to-day operations,” he says. “I like talking to a person and getting an understanding of what I am buying, how it works and how it is used.”
By attending the WWETT Show, Rob gathered information and is now ready to take Professional Drain Services of Southern New England to the next level by offering pipe relining. The company has done some pipe patch and smaller sectional repair work, but thus far has not invested in the equipment.
Because many of his customers own high-end properties and businesses on the beach, there are many scenarios where he can’t dig, or it is painful to dig both from a cost and aesthetics side. Adding relining services will give the company the ability to give the customer all of the options when it comes to repairs, and help ensure that the job is done right.
“I am happy with the family [aspect] of the company but when we add the pipe relining I will have to add a couple guys to keep up with the work, which I am happy to do. We’ve expanded quickly, I am happy with that, and I hope we can continue to expand. That’s why I want to make sure we have all the different services,” Rob says. “I want to make sure that our company continues to innovate, grow and educate to make sure we have all of the technology and information to do whatever the customers need when it comes to their sewers and drains.”