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In the Plumbing Biz, It’s Always Nice to Have Friends to Lean On

Mar 22, 2016 | San Francisco Plumbing

When it comes to running a successful business, having great people on your team, a great product to offer and sell, and great processes in place, are all key to obtaining — and retaining —customers. In the plumbing trade, and especially here at O’Grady Plumbing, our process includes our Master plumbers and myself answering a lot of questions from our crew, along with providing step-by-step demonstrations and the revealing of advanced approaches to solving common and not-so-common plumbing-related challenges.

Sometimes in this business, you meet a competitor whom you respect enough to offer them your take — when asked — on a particularly difficult problem they’re having on the job site. It’s a tradeoff of sorts, if the exchange of information is mutual, it benefits both parties.

With that in mind, I am going to use today’s blog post as an opportunity to talk about two of my friends in the plumbing service business, with whom I exchange knowledge. They are Travis Allen and his dad Mike of Smelly Mel’s Plumbing Service.

Many moons ago, Travis and I were introduced via a quick phone conversation through a friend who thought we might get along. I’ve had him on speed dial ever since.

Travis is a smart and witty plumber who knows this business inside and out. He’s never too confident or too proud to ask for a second opinion. In other words, he’s my kind of guy. I respect seasoned homeowners and property managers who know their stuff, but when hiring a plumber, they expect you to show them that you know your trade. Especially when it comes to the difficult problems that their own handyman can’t resolve.

Sometimes, Travis and I find ourselves getting down and dirty when competing for the same job. Friend or not, we’re fierce competitors when it comes to winning a customer’s confidence over the other. There’s no sympathy and no hostages when we compete for the same job. Except, of course, when we’re dealing with a difficult client who wants to tell us our business. In those situations, we are more than gracious in our praises about the other.

We both know that the smart answer — along with a guarantee to back the work up — combined with prompt service, wins the job. It’s a good thing Travis works mostly in San Matteo and I in San Francisco. We both have our niche and are good at what we do.

And what is it that we do so well? We both maintain large plumbing service in San Francisco facilities and we keep the best toys on the warehouse floor so we can annihilate our competition. Pipe bursting equipment, excavating machines, temporary on-demand water heaters that work on propane, streamlined digital plumbing parts inventory systems, and in my case, a zip line that runs across the warehouse ceiling to keep us on our A game. These are just a few of the perks folks get when they hire guys like us.

Like me, Travis started out in business at the ripe age of 20. He bought out his cousin Mel, while I dropped out of Hunter College in New York City in order to chase a buck. It wasn’t for another decade that we would meet.

I admire Travis’ ability to read people and get the best in the business to work for his company. No frills, just a no-nonsense guy like myself providing plumbing services and doing it with integrity. And, like Travis, sometimes I need a little expertise that will get me from Point A to Point B. In those instances, it’s always nice to have a friend who knows his stuff, thinks the same, and has your back.

So it looks to me like I’ve taken up this whole blog post to say one thing: Thanks, buddy!

About The Author: Paul O’Grady is the founder and general manager of O’Grady Plumbing — San Francisco’s multi-generational residential and commercial plumbing company. Mr. O’Grady grew up in the plumbing business and is backed by three generations of plumbers. At O’Grady Plumbing, he manages a team of Master plumbers who build, repair, maintain and retrofit plumbing systems and equipment throughout San Francisco and San Mateo.

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