If you don’t want to bring your iPad into the bathroom, we can send you a magazine subscription for free!
The Crimson Construction crew, from left, are Darryl Blankenship, Logan Jackson, Rachel and Shane Seale, and Jimmy Lewis. (Photos by Med McKinney)
Interested in Dewatering?
Get Dewatering articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.
+ Get Alerts
Playing the hand he’s dealt led Shane Seale to success in the pumping industry. The road wasn’t always smooth, but he learned to embrace opportunities as they came his way. Today his company, Crimson Construction, in Wilsonville, Alabama, is doing better than ever.
Seale was introduced to the industry through a family connection. His uncle worked for a local power company and installed septic tanks east of Birmingham, Alabama, as a sidelight. “I’ve been helping my uncle ever since I was big enough to help. I think I was 14 or so,” Seale says.
After a few years as his uncle’s right hand, Seale had a good grip on running the excavator and doing system installations, skills that came in handy when his uncle sustained a wrist injury during a job. “He busted the tendons in his wrist,” Seale said. “He called me and told me if I took care of the tank installs while he was healing and made his backhoe payment, I could keep the rest.”
At the time Seale was working full time for another construction and excavation company but still helping his uncle when he had the time. He thought he had an arrangement worked out with his boss at the time, but when he asked for the day off to put in a system for his uncle, he was told to take the week off, and not come back.
“I was young and didn’t know what to say or do,” Seale says. “I was kind of panicked, so I called my uncle and asked, ‘What the heck do I do now?’” His uncle told him not to worry and that he would get him more work installing septic tanks. “One by one I picked up local builders and got busy.
“Our original deal was that if I made the backhoe payment, I could keep the rest of what I made on the job,” Seale says. “Well, I made the backhoe payment off the first job and as soon as that was over, I realized the rules changed.”
He was essentially leasing his uncle’s machine and realized buying one would make more sense for him. He brought that up and his uncle offered to sell. It was 1999, Seale was 22 years old and Crimson Construction was born.
HIGHS AND LOWS
In the beginning, Crimson focused only on installing new septic systems and business was good thanks to the booming housing market. Seale was able to quickly buy more equipment including a tandem-axle dump truck and a brand-new excavator. In 2007, when the housing market crashed, business took a hit. “I went from putting in three to five systems a week to, I think, three tanks all year in 2007,” Seale recalls.
The downtime was tough, and Seale was considering what he should do to make ends meet. In 2009, while weighing a couple career options, he came across a vacuum truck for sale in North Carolina. After looking at the truck and contemplating his next steps, Seale eventually decided if a deal worked out with the truck, it was meant to be and that would decide his career path moving forward.
He made an offer, and after some back and forth with the seller, it was accepted. Seale officially owned his first vacuum truck, a 1998 cab-over GMC with a 2,500-gallon tank. “I started pumping right away and that really made things more consistent for me,” Seale says.
The shift in services was a learning experience, but one Seale embraced.
“Basically, everything I know about pumping I had to learn myself,” Seale says. “I didn’t have background knowledge on what I was doing, how to do it, or any tricks with pumping trucks.” But being a hands-on learner, Seale has overcome the challenges with only a few bumps in the road along the way.
“The business side was a challenge when it started growing; I had to learn how to deal with people differently. My role really changed,” Seale says. “And thank goodness it did. Everything in life has kind of pushed me toward something else.”
TIME FOR UPGRADES
Now, Crimson Construction is a multiservice company serving the Shelby County, Alabama, area and spends about as much time pumping as he does repairing systems and installing tanks.
However, it’s pumping that provides steady work week in and week out.
“We really started growing over the past few years. I had older equipment that I have been updating or buying multiples of, and pumping has really become our consistent work,” Seale says. “So much so, that we recently just bought a new truck.”
Seale’s new rig is a 2021 International HV built out by Dellinger Fabrication in Conover, North Carlina, with a 3,500-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater steel tank and NVE 4310 blower.
“I had a jetter that I previously mounted on a trailer, but it would have been a separate job to use,” Seale says. “Now that it’s on the truck we’ll be able to use it right away at the job if there’s a problem, and not have to come back.”
From a helping hand to business owner and from installing to pumping, Seale learned changing with the times and seizing opportunities are key ingredients to a successful run in this industry. Adjusting to changes never stops if the business continues to grow.
“One of the biggest things I had to learn was how to deal with people, and I’m still learning lessons in patience,” Seale says. This doesn’t only apply to customers, but with new employees as a company expands. “Letting someone else do the task that I am used to doing myself has been a challenge. Delegating has been the hardest task for me.”
Finding new team members he can trust has been necessary to keep up with recent demand. Crimson Construction now employs five people. “I have great help. Really good folk that work together here and we care about each other,” Seale says. “We butt heads; don’t get me wrong. But we love each other and help each other.”
Besides Shane and his wife, Rachel, Crimson’s team includes operator Darryl Blankenship, technician Jimmy Lewis andapprentice Logan Jackson.
Crimson is scheduled at least two months out for repair work, and Seale is getting used to managing the team more than getting his hands dirty. “I’m learning how to balance being in the office more taking care of those tasks, and less in the field,” he says.
EAR TO THE GROUND
Crimson had no trouble keeping and acquiring customers. Seale says basic communication is one of the easiest ways to gain and keep loyal customers.
“People tell us all the time they appreciate that we call them back and talk to them,” he says. “Even if we are backed up, I will at least talk to someone and tell them where we are and what we can or cannot do for them.”
Listening carefully to the needs of customers is one way Seale will determine how to expand his thực đơn of services. “We’ve had a number of customers over the years ask us about pumping grease traps, but in our county we have no place to dispose of grease,” he says. “We really want to get set up with dewatering so we can handle that waste.”
Rachel has a lot of interest in an environmental services business and specifically dewatering. She also recently got licensed as a pumper so she could help on that side of things. “Her interest is more on the dewatering side of a business,” Seale says. “She wants to degrease and save on the dumping while getting the compost out of it.”
Crimson Construction recently bought a 50-acre property as a location to start on-site dewatering. Seale has attended a variety of trade shows and visited manufacturers looking at different products and methods to dewater. His goal is to choose a dewatering system and have it up running in the next year or two.
Rachel also plays a crucial role in the office and managing the business. “She helps me stay organized. We’ve had a couple projects where we have done multiple things on top of pumping four to five times per week and it got to where I couldn’t keep up with it,” Seale says. “She started making reports and keeps track of what has been paid or not paid, and I wouldn’t be able to do some of these projects without that.”
REWARDS ARE MANY
Seale built Crimson Construction by adjusting to the needs of customers. He realizes the value in developing a well-rounded arsenal of services that doesn’t stop at installing and septic pumping.
“We do a lot of maintenance and repairs. I think we have a knack in that,” Seale says. “The fact that we can do all aspects of it is big. When we go out to pump and there is a problem, we can fix it.” It’s a benefit to homeowners when they can make one call and take care of all of their wastewater needs.
“We don’t sell things people don’t need,” he says. “But if we see potential problem and can save someone money in the long run, we will let them know we have the ability to take care of those things.”
Even though owning his own business can be stressful at times, Seale says the reward and satisfaction outweigh the strain.
“What I really like is when people really need and want your help, and then being able to go help them,” Seale says. “I don’t always like going out on Saturdays for an emergency, but when you do go out and help somebody and they are appreciative and say ‘thank you,’ that’s the part I enjoy the most.”