You Know the Drill: Embracing the Family Business
Some people find a profession in drilling; some people are born into it. Tommy Fletcher, vice president of Fletcher Well Systems, is the latter. Fletcher is a fourth generation owner/operator of the company, which was started in 1970 in Colorado by his grandfather.
Specializing in residential well systems, they’ve constructed wells as shallow as 50-feet down to ones as deep as 1,400 feet. They’ve also dabbled in irrigation and commercials wells.
Fletcher knew from a young age that he wanted to be a part of the family business. He was incredibly close with his grandparents who founded the company.
“I can recall plenty of times during the summer as a kid, I’d be on break and I’d stay with them for days at a time while my dad handled all the business and worked out in the field,” he says. “And because my grandmother was our secretary at the time, she’d take me into work with her and I’d draw pictures of drill rigs on our office chalkboard or help the guys load up trucks. Other times, my mom used to bring my dad lunch and I’d be right there, eating my PB & J, playing around in the mud and watching my dad drill wells.”
As he grew older, the summer visits turned into turning wrenches and working on the rigs with his father. Then the “fun” turned into work — hard work.
“It was then that I began to understand what it is we truly do, and how important what we do is,” he says. “I enjoyed helping people, and I loved doing it with my family. I liked the industry we’re involved with, and by the time I was out of high school, I had no doubt that I’d continue where my great-grandfather left off back in 1901: providing quality service and water to people who need it.”
Q. What do you do, and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. I’ve been involved in water well drilling and the water well industry for most of my life, but 1991 was the first year I was actually employed with our business. By 1997, I was in charge of my own crew and I was active in the field, installing and servicing pump and water well systems. By 1998, I was behind the controls of a Gefco 30K, drilling and constructing wells throughout the entire front-range and mountains of Colorado. In 2015, I took a year off to go to work for one of our distributors doing outside sales where I was fortunate enough to meet most of the other well and pump contractors throughout the state — many of which I’m still friends with today. In 2016, my father retired and I’ve been at the helm since.
At Fletcher Well Systems, we design, construct, and install water wells and well pump systems. What keeps us coming back every day? Helping people. And since water isn’t an option in life, we specialize in all aspects of it. From commercial businesses to local homeowners, if there’s a water well need or service related problem, we can help.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. Every day begins with planning out and scheduling each job; calling or taking calls from customers; checking all necessary equipment (pre-trip inspections); and then executing the daily plan(s) as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. Our involvement in the drilling industry has primarily been focused on the end-user (our customers) rather than the politics of it all. Speaking of which, my grandfather lived by his word and a handshake — that was all it took. Today, there are these things called contracts. Why? Because things aren’t as simple as they used to be. But just because things aren’t as simple doesn’t mean we still can’t take a simple approach to doing business — so we that’s what we do. Plus, we understand change and we understand that our industry is always, and will forever be, changing.
Because of this, we’re always ready and willing to adapt and do what we have to do to ensure we can always meet our customers’ needs and demands. As an example, when our customers wanted septic systems, we started installing leach fields and septics in the ’80s. We’ve also taken the same approach with water treatment and filtration.
We actively attend all local conferences for continuing education purposes and, in doing so, continue to learn and grow. What we learn, we then pass on to customers because, bottom line: The more we all know now, the easier it’ll be for everyone to make an educated decision in the future.
Our line of work isn’t easy. On top of being a very physically demanding job, we’re constantly battling jobsites, the elements, competition and the long days that go with it all. To truly be successful in this arena, you have to stay sharp and remain on top of your game mentally and physically. And because rarely does anything ever go perfect out in the field, you often have to be able to improvise, have a willingness to compromise and, if need be, switch gears to go in another direction entirely at a moment’s notice.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. I wish I knew how to say “no.” It’s okay to stay busy and take on as much work and help as many people as possible, but sometimes you have to know when to walk away from a potentially bad job or situation.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. Well, there are so many specialized tools we need every day, so it’s hard to pick just one. But an essential tool for me is a good ol’ pipe wrench.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. The most important thing my grandfather taught me was honesty and humility. He was a great man who not only believed in, but also stood behind, both of those traits. He was a man of integrity and honor, and those qualities were not only instilled in his family, but also in his approach to customers and doing business. His approach paved the way [for us], and it was how we conducted business then and it’s how we conduct it today.
Additionally, my father taught me everything I know, so I owe it all to him. Without him, without his guidance, without his strength and without his wisdom, my approach to life would’ve been totally different. But I’d have to say the most important thing he taught me, especially about business, is to never quit or give up. No matter what, no matter how hard or difficult a job is, we’ll find a way to get it done and make our customer(s) happy. This kind of advice has helped me navigate not only the business side of things, but my own personal life as well. So quitting is not an option — not when our name is on the line, not when our reputation is on the line and not when the belief in yourself is on the line.
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. I’m optimistic. I think the industry remains strong in the current economy, and because there will always be a need for water, water wells and our ability as contractors to provide both things are always looking up — literally.