This month, NASSCO honors Mark Metcalf who epitomizes the association’s commitment to serving the industry in a positive manner.
My original career plan was to get into real estate. I received my bachelor’s of science degree in business administration from Arizona State University in 1973, but instead of jumping into the world of buying and selling properties – which I knew would take some significant ramp-up time – I decided to take a salaried job for a couple of years to save up some money. A family member involved in the Roto-Rooter business recruited me to work for the Phoenix franchise location in 1974, so I took the job thinking I would stay just a short time. I ended up staying with Roto-Rooter for 42 years.
Early in my career I had the privilege of working both in the field and using my business education to manage the Phoenix branch. I served in that role for 10 years until I bought my own franchise in Reno, NV. Just two years later, Dennis Hoffman, whose family founded Hoffman Southwest Corp., recruited me back to Phoenix as a regional manager of multiple branches. The Roto-Rooter franchise was taking a new strategic direction to add complete plumbing services to their already established drain cleaning business and Dennis wanted me to lead that initiative.
Over the years I began to see the opportunity to also serve municipalities with pipe inspection and cleaning services. In the late 1980s we purchased camera equipment and a Vactor truck, but at the time the cities and engineering firms didn’t recognize Roto-Rooter as being anything beyond a residential drain cleaning and plumbing company. Today, of course, Roto-Rooter is a major provider of commercial plumbing, cleaning and water restoration services. But back then, it wasn’t the case.
In the early 1990s, cities started privatizing and they didn’t have the expertise or even see the need to for pipe inspection. One county in particular had already purchased two CCTV trucks, but they were just collecting dust because the county didn’t understand the benefits of proactively inspecting the lines. Action by the county to investigate was only taken when failure occurred.
In 1992 we entered the municipal market by launching Professional Pipe Services – more commonly known as Pro-Pipe. We made our entrance into cities as a subcontractor for Insituform which allowed us to begin building relationships to educate municipalities regarding the need to proactively inspect and clean systems so repairs can be made before they become disasters.
Dean Monk, Pro-Pipe’s current director of operations, was our very first camera operator. Pro-Pipe is a division of Hoffman Southwest Corp. which is also the franchisee of the largest network of Roto-Rooter franchises in the country. Thanks to Dean’s hard work and commitment, Pro-Pipe has gone from a one-truck operation to a national leader in CCTV inspection, including the identification of cross bores in lateral lines. I retired from Hoffman Southwest Corp. last year as their vice president of operations for all divisions, but continue to stay deeply involved with our industry, including my commitment to NASSCO.
I first turned to NASSCO when I became aware of an equipment manufacturer that was making unfounded claims about its product. In fact, the company was using fear tactics to sell their product and ultimately affect policy. Many of us knew we had to take action and NASSCO seemed to be the best place to bring together industry professionals to make a stand for what’s right. I worked diligently with many different groups in the industry on this issue including manufacturers, engineering firms, cities and even other contractors that were considered my competition.
This experience was my first introduction to the power behind NASSCO’s ability to bring together all players to make a huge impact on what’s right and what’s best for our communities. Prior to this, I had mistakenly believed NASSCO was just for East Coast member organizations, but when I saw industry professionals converging from all over the country to address this issue, I quickly learned it was a highly influential organization designed to set standards and assure the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless technologies.
In 2005, I became a NASSCO member and jumped in feet first. Dave Fletcher from Applied Felts told me it was a lot of fun, but more importantly that NASSCO membership would open doors to meet industry professionals that I really needed to know and work with. He was right. Through NASSCO I have been able to network and work with all kinds of people for one common cause: to help cities work with standards that are fair, reasonable and not exclusionary.
Over the years, my involvement with NASSCO has grown and I was honored to serve as the president of the board of directors in 2015. My continued hope for our industry is that we continue to speak up when we see something is not right. We must continue to advance standards as our industry changes through technological advances and find that delicate balance between embracing new products while ensuring reasonable standards are met. My caution would be to pay special attention to new products or services that claim to be the only solution or the best solution. Standards must be based on performance, not a particular process, and we all need to be accountable and take action when we hear these claims.
Even though I have retired from Hoffman Southwest Corp., I don’t plan to ever stop. This industry gets into your blood and it’s hard to let go. In the short term, I will be doing some consulting work, and my fee structure will include contributions to the Special Olympics and NASSCO’s Scholarship Funds because whether it’s setting standards, helping others or attracting young talent to our industry, we need to always do what’s right.