This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue as "Drilling Down & Moving Up"
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In the river valleys and flatlands of Scott County, Minn., Gary Bohn began his career providing residential water treatment through a local business after graduating high school. His ambition begot his own start-up in 1975, and three years later, he bought out Minnesota Valley Drillers to expand the company.
Nowadays, Brandi Weckman, Bohn’s daughter, handles administrative duties while her husband, Lee Weckman, coordinates well drilling services. Bohn’s son Charlie Bohn manages the septic and excavation sides of the business. The three lean on Gary for his leadership and guidance. Pride in the family business brings them back each day.
“For my brother and I, it’s continuing to grow what our dad built—to see it continue to be successful and make it better,” Brandi said. “To continue what his name started, that brings me back every day.”
Residential wells and septic systems are Bohn Well Drilling’s speciality, and the business prides itself on the longevity of its customer base.
Well to Do
Since the business started in 1975, the residential makeup of the county has changed. “When Gary started, it was two- or three-bedroom houses then. Now we’re seeing a lot more five- [to] six-bedroom houses with irrigation systems,” Brandi said. Gary added that the company installs bigger pumps with constant pressure to handle the increase in irrigation systems for houses, some of which already have wells and septic tanks installed.
Brandi said the first order of business when addressing a customer’s needs is an evaluation of his or her current system. The company will provide new filters and replace old septic systems with newer ones. Some of the customers serviced by Bohn Well Drilling have been regular clients for 40 years.
“We’re still doing service work on their well systems. It’s not something that goes away,” Brandi said. “We like to earn that customer basis and continue to service them throughout the years. To have a customer for 40 years is a good testimonial to your service.”
That kind of longevity and customer appreciation was a founding principle of the business. That means “being real honest to the customers about telling them what their problems are and be up-front with them before we start servicing the problems they might have,” Gary said.
Those values also empower the employees, who Brandi said have a lot of pride in the work they do and the equipment they install.
“They install a good looking, good quality product that they’re proud of, and that passes on to our homeowners and our builders. They see a good quality product as well, and it brings us a lot of testimonial word-of-mouth business,” she said.
The Human Touch
Just as the size of systems has changed over the years, so too have equipment and technology. Handwritten invoices and face-to-face meetings for quotes are a thing of the past due to online requests and social media, and computerized controllers are installed in new wells. But Brandi said those advances have not taken away from the human touch of Bohn Well Drilling.
A Bohn Well Drilling septic truck is parked outside the company office.
“Before [the internet] it was more personal. It was more face-to-face, so we try to keep a voice at the end of the phone,” she said. “We like to have a personal voice when you call our office, so you’ll never get a recording system unless it is after hours. You’ll get someone who can answer the phone and answer your questions and get you serviced.” Gary added that any messages left after hours are quickly returned because waiting too long will result in the customer calling a competitor instead.
Once Bohn Well Drilling connects with a customer, it checks a Minnesota state-run site and its own records to learn about previous wells on the property—how deep they go, where water levels are and what they are likely to encounter. That information is used to create a proposal, which then is brought to the customer to ask questions and approve.
Then the real work of drilling the well in the right spot begins. Brandi said the process can take two days to two weeks, depending on the depth and the type of well.
“Once we drill it, we have to dig in the water line to the house, which uses another set of a equipment with a backhoe,” she said. Then pumps are installed and any work inside of the house is completed.
Assigning Value to Water
Water is taken for granted. “People don’t really realize how important water is,” Gary said. The average person expects water to flow out of the faucet when it is turned on and does not understand what it takes to get water from the well into a home, Brandi added. Customers worry it will take days to get the well water back to normal, but for Bohn Well Drilling, it is just an afternoon’s work.