What's the secret to becoming one of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States? Mark Mason, President and Chief Executive Officer of Blood Hound Underground, is certain that it is listening to his customers, strategically investing in equipment, and a robust preventative maintenance program.
Blood Hound Underground is a utility locating company that was founded in 1999. Today, they offer a variety of services including mapping, EM locating, ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanning, and underground pipe survey and inspections using Envirosight’s ROVVER X robotic camera crawler system. In 2015, Inc. 5000 recognized Blood Hound Underground as one of the fastest growing companies in America. Blood Hound has over 75 employees, with plans to hire 15-20 more by the end of this year. Mark Mason started out in this industry working as a locator, eventually he founded Blood Hound Underground.
Blood Hound's customers range from municipalities and engineers to property managers, excavating companies and environmental remediation firms. To them, customer service doesn’t just mean doing the work efficiently and effectively—it goes far beyond that. “I expanded the company based on my customers’ needs. They would ask whether we had a sewer camera, and we responded by adding it to our suite of services. Customers like diversified companies, a company that can come on-site and do multiple things. We pay attention to the industry and what customers want and need—and do everything in our capacity to stay aligned with our customer’s demands,” said Mason when asked what customer service meant to him. Soon, Blood Hound's customers started to ask if they had a lateral launch system which would allow them to inspect laterals from a mainline—a necessary piece of equipment for any cross-bore mitigation projects. “We bought our first RVX-SAT lateral launch system two and half years ago and today we have three. We closely analyze the utilization of our current equipment, and once it reaches a certain threshold we will acquire another piece,” continues Mason. Today Blood Hound Underground has three ROVVER X mainline inspection cameras, three ROVVER X-SAT lateral launch units, a ROVVER X 95 small-diameter crawler, a Verisight push camera and a Jetscan video nozzle.
When Blood Hound Underground got into the underground inspection business in 2013, the decision to invest in Envirosight’s equipment was simple. They knew that eventually they wanted to add capabilities such as lateral launch—growing and scaling was a part of the company culture from the get-go. “Having the right equipment is imperative to the success of any company in our industry," says Mason. "Envirosight’s ROVVER X platform can grow in capability as we grow and scale our business.”
Eventually Blood Hound Underground became one of the first companies to own a ROVVER X-SAT (lateral launch) system. “Simplicity is key in business,” Mason says. “Having a common platform also makes scaling our business easier. Envirosight’s various crawler technologies interoperate and leverage each other for cost efficiency, along with giving us the opportunity to grow or move into new markets without the need of extensive cross-training, helping us optimize labor hours and equipment usage. Operators can pick up and work on whatever piece of equipment they need without having to relearn the software or controls."
Preventative maintenance is embedded into Blood Hound’s company culture. “We are sticklers for making sure that the equipment we use is always ready for the next job,” said Mason when asked about his preventative maintenance program. “My operators are trained to know the importance of daily, weekly and monthly maintenance—and regardless of the condition of the equipment, we send it to Best Equipment’s local service center for a tune-up every winter so that it is ready to roll during our peak season,” added Mason. “And when a piece of equipment’s service life is over, we invest in replacing it. It’s like B-52 bombers built in the 50s that the military is still flying. At some point it costs more to maintain the equipment than it does to replace it. Our camera trucks are out 8-12 hours every business day, we can’t afford downtime because of an older system that breaks down. Our customers rely on us to bring out equipment that is in good condition and gets the job done,” says Mason.
“My advice to people trying to grow in this industry is not to be afraid of diversification," he says. "Many of our competitors only deal with one type of service to provide. I understand that being overly diversified can also hinder growth, but so can not being diversified enough. Find your sweet spot and don’t be afraid to add services as your business allows."
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