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THE CARNETT FAMILY, from left to right are Ned, Steven and Delores as they pose in their truck yard for their septic tank business based in Placerville for 40 years. Democrat photo by Krysten kellum

Secrets of Success 2012

Ned Carnett: ‘No. 1 in the No. 2 business’

By From page SOS17 | December 31, 2012

 “They keep telling us to raise our prices,” said Ned Carnett, 69, owner of Ned Carnett Septic Services located on Union Ridge Road in Placerville. “If you bring up your price, your profit margin is higher. But we don’t look at it as, ‘We’re going to make so much money for this job.’ We have an obligation to our customers.”

As with many local businesses, Ned Carnett Septic Services has felt the crunch of recent economic times. From lawn care to cleaning air-conditioning filters, local homeowners have a lot to worry about. Unfortunately, when times are tough, maintaining their septic systems often gets placed at the bottom of the list.

“The housing market dropped and the phone stopped ringing. We lost 50 percent of our business,” said Delores Carnett, 65, Ned’s wife and partner in the business. “We had to lower our prices in the hopes of getting more jobs. People were even trying to do the jobs themselves.”

But Ned and Delores, along with their son and partner, Steven, 42, know how important it is to maintain a septic system properly. A septic system is an underground tank with two compartments — a solid side and a wastewater side — where sewage is stored and decomposed by anaerobic bacteria. In a healthy system, as sewage flows into the tank, solids settle into one side while wastewater flows to the other. The solids are stored until they break down or are removed. The wastewater is purified by enzymes in the tank and then gradually released to a “leach field,” an area of land — usually “a ditch covered with gravel ”— where final treatment occurs in the soil.

Unfortunately, not all waste can be decomposed by the bacteria in a septic tank. Over time, the solids build up and must periodically be pumped out. Otherwise, they can flow into the wastewater side, causing system failure and contamination of the leach field. In addition, moist toilettes, even those that manufacturers mark “flushable,” don’t break down. This is where Ned and Steven come in.

“Depending on how you use it, most tanks need to be pumped every three to five years,” said Steven. “We try to determine what our customers’ needs really are and work them there. We’ll try to talk customers out of a job if they don’t really need it.”

Ned agreed. “If you’re out there trying to talk them out of a job, they’ll talk themselves into it. It’s all about how you treat people. If you’re sincere and really try to help customers, they recognize that.”

Genuine care is just one of the things customers can count when dealing with Ned Carnett Septic Services. Ned has been in the business since he built his first septic truck more than 40 years ago, and since then it’s been a business where everyone, including the customers, is family.

“Because we’ve been here and been in the same location for a long time, we get a lot of repeat customers. We have more experience than anyone by far, and we’re not just sending anyone out there to help you,” said Ned. “I had a lady call me the other day who I hadn’t helped in 40 years, but, still, she remembered me.”

Steven laughed and agreed. “People tell me all the time, ‘I thought your dad was going to come . . .’”

In addition to residential septic tank inspections and pumps, Ned Carnett Septic Services performs septic inspections for real estate transactions and refinancing homes. It’s just one more way Ned Carnett Septic Services demonstrates that they care, and a secret to the company’s success over the years.

“We have a quick response time and treat our customers like friends,” said Delores. “We’re nice to people and are committed to keep prices low when times are like they are now. We offer expert advice and, if we’ve ever been able to help you, we’ll be here when you need us again.”

Jessica Cyphers

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