Aqua Drain Sewer Services Inc.
Aqua Drain Sewer Services Inc. (ADSS) is a full-service plumbing company serving customers throughout Northeastern Ontario.
ADSS specializes in 24/7 emergency service, ensuring a quick, professional response regardless of the time of day. “Most companies shut down at 5, but we get a lot of work on nights and weekends, so we have a dispatcher and our guys can be ready to go within the hour,” says Yanick Brulé, president and CEO of ADSS.
ADSS’s full slate of services includes plumbing repairs for residential and commercial clients, new sewer and water line installation, hydro excavation and cured-in-place pipe liners (CIPP).
The company also offers high-pressure drain cleaning, root removal, pipe locating/mapping and grease trap maintenance and replacement, as well as pipe thawing, sump pump and hot water tank repair.
Founded in 2005 by Yanick Brulé as a small residential plumbing company, ADSS has grown over the last decade into a major name in the regional market. Today the company works with customers across all sectors, with a majority of its work concentrated in the residential, commercial and municipal markets.
Building a reputation
Based in Ottawa, ADSS expanded its footprint in 2015 to include a new office in Kingston, Ontario. The new office will reduce the amount of time ADSS crews spend on the road traveling to and from job sites and allows the company to respond to service calls within a five-hour radius of Ottawa in a timely fashion.
This expanded presence allowed ADSS to land one of its highest-profile contracts to date: performing plumbing inspections and repairs on over 350 houses on the CFB Kingston. The massive project involved camera-in-pipe work, the installation of pipe liners and high-pressure pipe cleaning, taking a crew of four nearly three months to complete.
After a successful project in 2014 that saw ADSS replace more than 6,000 toilets for the City of Ottawa, the company was hired by Minto Group Inc., Ottawa’s largest property management firm, to replace over 3,200 toilets throughout Ottawa. “It sounded easy, but there was a lot of coordination needed and it took nine guys about two-and-a-half months to complete,” says Brulé.
ADSS has almost doubled its revenue in the last two years, allowing the company to steadily add to its roster of employees, which is up to 54 from 30 back in 2014. Steady, 30 percent year-over-year growth has allowed the company to invest in new equipment, expanding the services the company can offer and driving future expansion.
“Back in 2014, our infrastructure division was just starting out and we were buying big trucks to do sewer work,” says Brulé. These big trucks include ADSS’s fleet of hydro excavation-equipped vehicles, and Combo vehicles which have grown to encompass a steadily larger portion of the company’s fleet in recent years. Starting off with one such machine in 2014, the company now has a fleet of six completing water-powered excavation projects across Ontario.
Technologies such as Hydrovac represent an existing growth opportunity for sewer service providers like ADSS. Using a stream of high-pressure water to loosen rocks, soil and the like, the Hydrovac sucks up the resulting debris, moving it to a separate tank for easy disposal.
“It’s all about safety; when you’re replacing water or gas lines, you don’t want to use a backhoe to rip those out, so the Hydrovac can safely dig the hole,” Brulé explains.
At a price of nearly $500,000 apiece, the Hydrovac trucks represent a substantial investment for any company, even one that has logged such meteoric growth over the last few years. “We probably could use four or five more, but it’s tough when you grow so quickly because this equipment is expensive,” says Brulé.
An independent alternative
Recent industry consolidation in the Ottawa area has actually been a boon to ADSS. When the company’s largest competitor started buying out smaller plumbing and sewer service outfits in the area, customers began to flock to ADSS instead of the newly expanded company.
“They’re basically trying to own a large portion of the market and a lot of people don’t like it when someone tries to do that. We’re actually one of the only ones left, so they’re coming to us automatically and that’s why next year is going to be even bigger, we think,” he says.
While Brulé is content to take advantage of this type of growth, he believes the best thing he can do to ensure ADSS’s future is to keep offering a superior level of customer service and expertise on every job.
“Everyone has to be trained and know what they are doing before they go out on a job site and we do a lot of meetings regarding how to interact with customers and making sure you clean the site before you leave,” he says. “We want to make sure that we keep the job site clean, keep our trucks clean and be sure to thank them for providing us with their business.”
While Brulé has been able to attract a fairly youthful team of employees at ADSS, he says the trades as a whole are suffering from an overall lack of new blood. As a younger manager, Brulé is able to better retain younger employees by connecting with them on a personal level.
Still, Brulé values employees of every age. Knowing that intergenerational learning ultimately benefits the company as a whole, he’s worked to team up older a younger employees in a bid to promote skill-sharing. “We still need the older guys to train the younger guys, and then the younger guys can train them how to, for example, use the phone or camera when we are doing camera reports,” he says.
A newly expanded presence in Kingston, along with an investment in new technologies and equipment, should help Aqua Drain Sewer Services Inc. continue along its impressive growth trajectory for years to come.