Courtney Van Delden was answering office phones when she was 7 years old.
Van Delden Wastewater Systems is a fourth-generation family business in Boerne, Texas. Courtney’s father and grandfather were running the company when she was born. At the time, it so happened that they needed a new secretary.
No, they didn’t hire Courtney out of elementary school.
“My grandfather said to my mother, ‘Hey, Pam, we’ve got an office in the back,’” she recalls. “‘You can start working for us—and you can bring Courtney with you.’”
That’s how she was initiated into the trades. Her mom brought her to work when Courtney was an infant and kept bringing her through elementary school. Summertime. Winter breaks.
“I don’t remember how it started, but at some point, I had a legal pad and I had learned how to answer the phone and take messages,” she says.
Today, Courtney and her brother, Chad, run the enterprise. The siblings consider each other equals—even though Chad holds the title of president and Courtney is vice president.
As with any family business, there was a succession plan to have the kids take over. However, Courtney’s fair-minded parents couldn’t decide how to pick one child over the other to be president.
“We flipped a coin,” Courtney says. “I guess I got tails, so I am vice president. It’s really just a title, though. We both own the same percentage. We both value each other’s opinions.”
The new brother-and-sister management team realized that it was time to up the ante on the technology side of the company. They added ServiceTitan but didn’t go paperless for quite some time.
“At first, my mom wanted paper backup on everything,” Courtney says. “We did a long transition when we integrated with ServiceTitan but also kept an extra calendar on hand. “We finally realized this was doing double the work.”
So, they phased out the extra calendar.
“What you want software to do for you is really important,” Courtney says. “Dispatching. Communication. You have to have priorities. You can do the baby steps—like an extra calendar—so it’s not overwhelming at first. But then you get comfortable with it, and you use the software as part of your vision.”
Today, Courtney is a thought leader on running a septic company. She takes questions from the public and publishes the answers on blogs that are syndicated on Facebook and LinkedIn.
It’s a whole new world from the one where a 7-year-old takes incoming phone messages on a legal pad.
Courtney Van Delden recently joined ServiceTitan’s Jackie Aubel as part of Season 3 of the “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, which included Van Delden’s thoughts on:
Keeping business and personal lives separate when you’re working with family.
Training people to work in a trade where experienced job applicants are scarce.
Working with a program like ApplicantPro to find new hires.
Recognizing it takes a special mindset to work for a septic company.
Not always being a people pleaser—and learning to say no when a customer is not a good fit.
Planning for slow growth over 10 years and not trying to do too much in a short period of time.