Drain Surgeons Manager
With Drain Surgeons Since 2010
Benji took over the everyday operations of Drain Surgeons in April 2010.
A Union native, Benji went to Union High School and graduated from Lindenwood University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Business Administration. He was also awarded the Mr. Sibley Award, which recognizes one outstanding senior each year, in 2001.
His work experience has revolved around his family’s businesses, where he’s done accounting, income taxes and home rehabs and rentals. “You name it,” hey says. “I’ve done pretty much everything.”
What he loves the most about Drain Surgeons is that every day is a new and different challenge. “You never know what to expect,” he says. “Some days I spend in the office, some days I meet and greet people, sometimes I’m out in the field working—it’s not just sitting in a chair.”
His mother, Connie, bought the company from James Von Klemen (who still plays an active role in Drain Surgeons) in 2010. Benji says that they came in and kept things “as is” when they acquired the company. “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” he says, noting that the company was already successful and growing.
When Benji started at Drain Surgeons, he immediately “went out and learned the job just like a tech would,” because he wanted to be able to go out and work in the field, which had the added benefit of helping him learn the company from every angle.
In addition to completing OSHA and Confined Space training, Benji is NASSCO certified.
He says that people in their field see “all kind of interesting stuff,” from big alligators in sewer lines in Florida to a human head in a drain line in New Jersey (“mob related,” he says). The Drain Surgeons crew has found bowling balls, a Barbie head, work boots, bricks and two-by-fours. “Anything you wouldn’t think someone should throw in a line, you’ll find,” he says. They’ve also found their share of natural drain inhabitants, from raccoons to tree trunks.
In his spare time, Benji loves playing soccer. He played in high school and college, and now plays on select teams--the St. Louis Kutis Soccer Club team and the Soccer Park Premier League. He’s kicking the ball year-round, indoors and outdoors, in St. Louis and all over the Midwest. He has also been a college soccer coach for both Lindenwood and East Central College, where he took his teams to national and conference championships.
He also enjoys playing poker, and made it to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in 2004.
Benji, who now lives in Fenton, is also sure he sets aside some time to travel. He enjoys traveling to Florida, Vegas and Miami.
But usually, he’s on call with Drain Surgeons 24/7. “Even when I’m not on the on-call rotation, I know I always have to be available,” he says.
To customers—past and potential—Benji says, “Call us—we have the proper equipment.” He notes that “rental equipment can only go so far, and you could hurt yourself or get equipment stuck in lines.”
“With every job, you just don’t know exactly how it’s going to go,” Benji says. “But when you get that standing water to go down and flow through the pipes—that’s your moment of victory.”
Drain Surgeons Manager
With Drain Surgeons Since 2010
“Drain Surgeons is my second home,” Connie says with a smile, shortly after doling out sandwiches and chips for the technicians as they went out the door to a busy day of work.
Connie got to know James Von Klemen (the previous owner of Drain Surgeons) because her tax company—Grimes Tax—was doing his accounting. James was trying to sell the company in 2009, and Connie decided to try and buy the business, with the expectation that her sons would help run the company. Her oldest son, Benji, manages the company, and her son Chris works on the website and marketing materials. Her sons Andrew and Jason both worked at the company. (Her daughter, Michelle, works at Grimes Tax.)
From August 2009 to April 2010, Connie worked with Triad Bank getting the documents and signatures together to buy the company.
“And it all worked out!” she says.
She says that Benji has been dedicated to the company, and that James (who still works at Drain Surgeons) was his tutor and mentor from the very beginning. “Benji has seen almost everything,” she says, “But there’s always something new to see in this job.”
Drain Surgeons belongs to the Missouri Minority/Women’s Business Enterprise Program. Connie is sure to point out that she’s not just a figurehead –“I’m here working,” she says. To be designated, a business needs to be 51 percent owned by a woman and she must have an active role in the company.
There aren’t many women-owned businesses in Drain Surgeons’ field, and Connie makes sure that her presence, leadership and work are central in the company’s day-to-day operations. And although Drain Surgeons may seem like a much different field than Grimes Tax, Connie was no stranger to plumbing and pipes.
Connie’s father, Olive Lee Krueger, was a plumber who owned O. Lee Plumbing in Union. That’s why Drain Surgeons is officially O. Lee LLC, DBA Drain Surgeons. She’s also expanded to have O. Lee Plumbing housed inside of Drain Surgeons, and is currently employing two plumbers.
“Usually girls don’t run this kind of business,” she says with a smile. This one, however, does.
Connie lives in Union with her husband of more than 30 years, Herman.
When she’s not running two companies, she enjoys traveling to Florida and spending time with her grandchildren.
At Drain Surgeons, Connie enjoys being in the field and is also NASSCO certified, and can run the crawler camera.
Connie raves about James’s role in the company. “He’s so talented, and so smart,” she says. “He’s always thinking.” Although he “thought he was going to retire—now he gets to focus on the field, and projects, instead of business administration.”
She adds, “He still can do what he really likes to do. He’s still here working for us, even though he doesn’t have to—that’s the best kind of employee to have.”
One of her favorite parts of the business is “going out and seeing the infrastructure that people take for granted.” She remembers going to a job where an odor was reported in a restaurant, and finding a grease trap that had been paved under a parking lot and had been neglected for years. “It’s amazing the things that we found,” she said. “Solid, moldy, stinky, gross grease.” But of course, Drain Surgeons got in, got dirty and fixed the problem.
In the future, Connie plans to keep buying more equipment. They recently presented James’s new invention to Washington University zone managers and project heads, and are planning a trip to a Pumper Show in Indianapolis (“the SuperBowl of vendors”). “We want to grow as we go,” she says.
Connie says that at Drain Surgeons, their speciality is “anything related to drains, sewers and all of the things we don’t think about.”
Senior Service Technician
With Drain Surgeons Since 2000
Joe was raised and lives in Pacific with his wife, Amy, and their children, Megan and Jack.
He enjoys ATV riding and cutting grass when he’s not performing surgery on drains.
Joe enjoys meeting people and the fact that he gets to do new and different things every day (including pulling a squirrel out of a roof vent on a cable).
He is CDL and NASSCO certified.
Joe says, “Performing preventative maintenance will save a lot of headaches in the future.”
Senior Service Technician
With Drain Surgeons Since 1997
Before coming to work at Drain Surgeons (which was called Sewer Surgeons when he started), Joe worked in plastics.
A St. Louis native, Joe now resides in Barnhart. He has one daughter, Amanda.
In his spare time, Joe enjoys boating, shooting and playing pool.
The best part of working at Drain Surgeons, Joe says, is “the satisfaction of helping someone.”
To potential customers, he says, “Call us at the first sign of a problem.”
Waste Removal Specialist
With Drain Surgeons Since 2011
Before working at Drain Surgeons, Josh worked in landscaping.
He’s from Florissant, but now lives in Cedar Hill with his wife, Erin, and their son, MJ.
What Josh enjoys the most about his work at Drain Surgeons is helping people and the fact that the job is different all of the time.
“We will take care of any problem you have, from the kitchen drain to the sewer main,” he says.
With Drain Surgeons Since 2012
Before coming to work at Drain Surgeons, he worked pumping and installing septic tanks and drain fields for almost a decade.
He lives in Pacific, and has three children: Bailey, Case and Carlee.
When he’s not working on drain lines, Roger enjoys running and playing sports with his children.
He has a Class A CDL license, and is a recent member of the union.
With Drain Surgeons, Roger loves traveling and meeting new people (or animals in septic tanks, as sometimes happens).
Roger’s advice to people is that “preventative maintenance is the key” to healthy lines.