The Sunny Plumber Phoenix Blog

Perks for Plumbers: Hawaiian Vacations, Craft Beer and ‘a Lot of Zen’

May 29th, 2018

FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The fast-growing business offers all the perks a pampered Silicon Valley tech worker might expect: An on-site tap flows with craft beer and the kitchen is stocked with locally roasted espresso beans. There is a putting green and a smoker for brisket lunches. Next up: a yoga studio.

Welcome to the gushing job market…for plumbers.

Colorado’s Neuworks Mechanical Inc. employs 75 plumbers but needs 15 to 20 more. To keep them happy, it offers “a lot of Zen,” says business-development manager Jackie Sindelar. That includes a sharing exercise that “brings out your raw emotions and makes you vulnerable,” she says.

Drained from a labor shortage, the plumbing industry is throwing the kitchen sink at job candidates.

Bonfe’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Service Inc. of South St. Paul, Minn., boasts an array of arcade games and a “quiet room”—a plush hangout space with insulated walls painted a calming sky blue. It has a lockable door, a comfy couch, a recliner and a sound machine that babbles with the soothing audio of ocean waves.

“When people have a bad day they go in there,” says Mr. Bonfe. “They literally check out for a while.” Mr. Bonfe, a veteran plumber and president of the 120-employee family business, could use the room himself some days, noting that the labor market is “the hardest I have ever seen.”

Plumbing employers are plugging on-site spa treatments, exotic trips and jet-ski outings. The Sunny Plumber—which serves the southwest with the slogan “Bright and Shiny and Won’t Show Our Hiney”—has job announcements offering free laundry service and “a suite at the Arizona Cardinals games for you and your family.”

In Manassas, Va., My Plumber Heating & Cooling is trumpeting “biweekly, on-site massages.” Across Virginia, Wisler Plumbing, Inc.’s February radio recruitment ad promised “a hot breakfast every morning.”

“We do that to set ourselves apart,” says President James Wisler, of the daily 7 a.m. repast that can include sausage, gravy and biscuits.

Kerry Stackpole, executive director of the Plumbing Manufacturers International, a trade group, described the race for talent as very real. And the profession’s reputation of being a bit of a drip presents an obstacle to recruiting and drawing new people to the field.

“It’s ‘the butt crack;’ it’s ‘the slobs,’ ” sighed S.J. Peters, the executive director of a Midwestern plumbing group, referring to tired misperceptions swirling around the trade.

U.S. job openings hit a record 6.6 million in March, with the construction industry<https://www.wsj.com/articles/economic-milestone-there-is-a-job-for-everyone-who-wants-one-1525797993?mod=article_inline>—where plumbers are heavily employed—seeing one of the largest jumps.

Building, needed repairs and retirements are fueling demand for plumbers at the same time the U.S. jobless rate<https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-adds-164-000-jobs-in-april-unemployment-falls-to-3-9-1525437126?mod=article_inline&mod=article_inline> in April fell below 4% for the first time since late 2000.

The annual median pay for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters was nearly $53,000 per year in 2017, according to federal data, but it isn’t uncommon to see jobs advertised for far higher wages, from $70,000 up to six figures.

“Our phone is ringing off the hook but we don’t have the skilled folks,” says Jonathan Bancroft, chief executive of Morris-Jenkins Inc. in Charlotte, N.C. The plumbing, heating and air-conditioning company is one of many offering to train unskilled people.

And to further distinguish itself, Morris-Jenkins is positioning its workplace as overflowing with fun.

“We like to play games and wear costumes…a lot!” say current Morris-Jenkins job postings that praise the “legendary” company breakfasts. In one event, Mr. Bancroft says, employees received mullet wigs for “Mullet Monday.”

Bob Hamilton Plumbing, Heating, A/C and Rooter in Overland Park, Kan., recently bumped its signing bonus to $5,000 from $1,000, says owner Bob Hamilton, whose corporate motto proclaims “Better Call Bob!”

The company added a perk in April: employer-sponsored pottery classes.

“I made a couple of bowls and what turned out to be a toothpick holder,” says Paul Smith, a veteran plumber and supervisor there. “It was a blast.”

Candidates know the fringe benefits are overflowing, according to Alex Kramien, chief operating officer of George Morlan Plumbing Co. in Portland, Ore.

A few weeks ago, he started aggressively recruiting out of state—offering to cover moving costs—and says “pet insurance has been brought up more than a few times in interviews.” (He’s looking into it and he gets the appeal: He says his own father spent $1,200 for cancer treatment for his goose George.)

In the meantime, Mr. Kramien waves concert tickets, “week in paradise” Hawaii trips, and use of the company-owned beach house and condo on the Oregon Coast. New plumber jobs at his company pay $44.84 per hour plus benefits.

Plumber Jason Braukman briefly left George Morlan, drawn by signing bonuses and opportunities elsewhere, but says the company’s benefits lured him back.

“We’re like top dogs now,” he says of plumbers.

That reality is one reason Wyatt Hepworth recently unveiled a new indoor basketball court at his business, Any Hour Electric, Plumbing, Heating & Air in Orem, Utah. He also made the company gym “six times larger.”

His technicians get other job offers weekly. Watchful managers whisk employees being courted by competitors off on company time, he says, for a half-day of fun, like jet-skiing.

And of course, “everyone is going to get swag,” he says of Any Hour’s shirts, caps, sunglasses and backpacks for the whole family.

A promise of a “brand new truck” that plumbers can drive home is helping Wilder, Ky.-based Jolly Plumbing, says operations director Scott Sharrock.

Jolly—where “A Flush Beats a Full House”—has its own indoor basketball court, two 72-inch televisions for sports viewing and allows plumbers to use Jolly’s building and large fully remodeled kitchen anytime for personal family shindigs.

“We have had a couple big parties with a lot of beer cans left over,” says Mr. Sharrock, adding that basketball games have led to busted ceiling tiles.

But the extras, he says, are necessary. “We can’t hire plumbers fast enough.”

Write to Jennifer Levitz at jennifer.levitz@wsj.com<mailto:jennifer.levitz@wsj.com>

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What Are Copper Pinhole Leaks?

May 21st, 2018

sunny-plumber-vanDo you want a quick answer to the question posed in the title of this blog? They’re a real pain. Don’t worry, we’ve got a more detailed definition coming your way, but we really just wanted to get that out there. The unfortunate fact is that there are a lot of different problems you may encounter with your plumbing system. Copper pinhole leaks are one of them, and they’re a doozy.

As is the case with any plumbing problem, it is always going to be in your best interest to schedule professional plumbing repairs the moment that you discover the issue. Sometimes, that comes late enough in the game that you’ll be in need of professional emergency plumbing repair in Phoenix. This may well be the case when you run into copper pinhole leaks in your home. Just remember that The Sunny Plumber Phoenix is always here for you.

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What You Can Do to Prevent Sewer Repairs

May 7th, 2018

sunny-plumbersOne of the last things that any homeowner wants to think about is a damaged sewer line. The sewer line is a part of your plumbing system that you have most likely developed an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality about. We understand that. Given its sole function of removing waste and wastewater from your property, it goes without saying that a sewer line is not really a glamorous part of your home. It is a necessary one, though.

So, while your sewer line may well be out of sight, it really should not be kept completely out of mind. Problems can develop with your sewer line, and no, not all of them can be avoided entirely. That being said, there are a few ways in which you can avoid the need for sewer repair in Phoenix. Contact The Sunny Plumber Phoenix the moment that you suspect there is a problem with your sewer line. We’ll figure out what’s wrong and have it fixed up as soon as possible. 

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Is It Time for Sewer Repairs?

April 23rd, 2018

logoThere are parts of your home, even those that you depend upon daily, throughout the day, that you simply don’t keep at the forefront of your mind. If your sewer line is among them, don’t feel too badly about it. Most of us don’t really sit around wondering what type of condition our sewer lines are in. That being said, any problems with a sewer line are certainly a big deal, and you need to schedule your sewer and drain repair in Phoenix as promptly as possible.

Doing so, of course, means that you must recognize signs of trouble with your sewer line to begin with. We can help you to do just that. In today’s post, our drain and sewer line experts are going to share some information with you about why sewer lines may be damaged, as well as how you can spot any potential signs of trouble. If you have any questions or concerns, remember that the pros at The Sunny Plumber Phoenix are always here to help. 

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All Plumbing Installations Require Professional Plumbers

April 9th, 2018

sunny-plumber-vanOne of the great benefits of owning your own property is that you really have final say in the decisions made about that property. You don’t need to clear every little project with a landlord, and you don’t need to worry about running afoul of your housing authority. Of course, this freedom should not be taken for granted, and it should not lead you to believe that you can just go ahead and take everything into your own hands.

When you need any plumbing installation in Phoenix, AZ completed, for instance, you are still going to need to hire a professional plumber to do the job. Yes, this can be any plumber of your own choosing, and you are not limited to the contractor that your landlord has a relationship with. You do need to find a professional plumber to handle the job, though, because a plumbing installation is simply never a DIY appropriate project. You can always trust The Sunny Plumber Phoenix with the job.

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Hire a Professional Plumber for Gas Line Service

March 26th, 2018

logoAre you an avid do-it-yourselfer? If so, we commend your drive! There is definitely a sense of satisfaction to be had in taking matters into your own hands around the house. Of course, even the most skilled and handy homeowners have their limitations. In fact, we’d argue that the sign of a truly responsible homeowner is knowing when to reach for the phone instead of the toolbox. This is certainly the case when it comes to servicing a gas line.

When you need gas line services of any kind, be it repair, replacement, or a brand new installation, you are not the right person for the job! Our plumbers in Gilbert, AZ, on the other hand, are licensed and qualified for this type of work. When you hire The Sunny Plumber Phoenix to handle your plumbing system services, including all of those that you need for gas line and connections, you can count on a job well done. Your safety and satisfaction are our top priorities! 

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With a Focus on Customers, Plumbing Firm Finds Fast Growth in Five Years

March 16th, 2018
With a Focus on Customers, Plumbing Firm Finds Fast Growth in Five YearsGary Eisenhauer, The Sunny Plumber general manager, poses outside the company’s office and many of its service vehicles in Las Vegas. Most of the company’s 43 vehicles are Nissan V2500 high-top models.

Business prospects are bright for The Sunny Plumber. Since it was launched in Arizona in 2013, the plumbing company has already reached markets in Nevada and California. And Gary Eisenhauer, general manager, believes that’s only the beginning.

“Ten years from now, we’d like to be in all the states,” Eisenhauer says. “It’s a lofty goal but absolutely possible.”

The Sunny Plumber would not, of course, be the first plumbing company with a national footprint. Think Roto-Rooter, for example. However, The Sunny Plumber can’t offer a novel solution to clogged plumbing lines like Samuel Oscar Blanc did with his homemade root-cutting device. Rather, company executives are banking on expertise and a sunny disposition to power their expansion.

FINDING ROOM TO GROW

Ken Goodrich is the driving force behind The Sunny Plumber’s ambitious growth plan. The entrepreneur, who grew up in his father’s air-conditioning business, has founded a succession of successful heating-ventilation-air conditioning firms and plumbing companies, including acquisitions in Arizona in 2013 that introduced The Sunny Plumber to Tucson and Phoenix. Two years later, the company opened an office in Las Vegas and, in 2016, in Corona, California.

In these locations, Goodrich owns both an HVAC company — Goettl Air Conditioning — and The Sunny Plumber, but he operates them separately. What they have in common is the goal of growing across state lines. As Goodrich puts it in a Las Vegas business publication interview in March 2017: “Our ultimate goal is to bring our brand, our unique customer-centric culture and processes across the nation and become the gold standard for home service in the U.S.”

To that end, the plumbing side of the organization is being aggressively marketed around an image of the sun. The company logo is a smiling cartoon sun ablaze with cheerfulness and holding a pipe wrench in one of its sunbeams. The theme continues through bright orange and yellow wrapping on service trucks — and the giveaway of a pair of sunglasses with every job.

FOR THE CUSTOMERS

The positive vibes flowing from the company image are also, by design, felt within the company, according to Eisenhauer. He says The Sunny Plumber is as optimistic a workplace as it appears to be.

“Every company goes through its trials, but we do everything we can to keep morale up. We do everything we can to make it a positive work environment. The management style I have always followed is to lead on a positive level,” he says. “And the positive attitude we have in the office, when conveyed to our clients, helps them overcome their situations. After all, the clients have called us because they are unhappy. They are unhappy that something is wrong in their home.”

Eisenhauer says the positive attitude begins with Goodrich, who, he says, is “upbeat and can-do and pretty demanding, too. He attracts the best talent — not just recruits them.”

The upbeat company attracts customers, too. It holds them through such innovations as The Sunshine Club, an annual maintenance agreement in which The Sunny Plumber techs inspect all fixtures, check the pressure on lines, do recommended maintenance on the water heater, and flush drains. The agreement promises two drain clean-outs each year and a camera inspection whenever a snake is deployed to clear a line.

Sometimes these inspections generate additional plumbing work, sometimes not. “If the house is in good shape, we’re going to tell the homeowner so,” Eisenhauer says. “If there are issues, we are going to say this is what you have going on. If you don’t want it fixed, fine. If something is not quite up to specs or is getting corroded, we will suggest a fix to avoid flooding because each inspection is really about flood prevention.”

Annual inspections are not original to The Sunny Plumber, except for the drain check and clearing, but are an increasingly popular feature: Eisenhauer says the company is signing up 100 to 150 Sunshine Club members each month. Fees for the plumbing maintenance do not vary with the size of a property. The service is reserved for residential customers, which constitute the bulk of the company’s customer base.

Another feature of the customer-centric culture is a guarantee of 100 percent customer satisfaction. That sounds like a pie-in-the-sky promise, given the wide-ranging expectations of homeowners regarding service. But Eisenhauer says the company lives up to the pledge — one way or another.

“We know we can’t make everyone happy. We could not get hot water to one bathroom we worked on, so we gave the client all his money back. I’ve given money back on $12,000 jobs,” he says. “When things don’t work, we leave the client satisfied by not taking his money and walking away. It’s all about reputation.” The company’s reputation is good enough to have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Eisenhauer believes people are afraid to call plumbers and other service technicians for fear of being victimized. With the 100 percent guarantee, potential customers know they have some recourse when things go wrong. “When people know that, they are more willing to let you do work for them. Most customers will let you work through problems until it’s right.” He adds that he has no evidence that potential customers try to game the system by feigning dissatisfaction.

A TEAM ATMOSPHERE

Eisenhauer’s office is in Las Vegas. From there, he closely supervises the activity of the company in its four locations. He accomplishes this mostly through weekly conference calls, but specific management issues that crop up at any of the locations are addressed the same day in real time.

Besides offering competitive salaries to its 42 employees, Eisenhauer says the company offers a team atmosphere in which colleagues “can jell and help each other out in the field. Plumbing is a fickle industry for technicians, who seem to have ‘the grass is greener’ syndrome. I try to look after and take care of our technicians.”

In return, Eisenhauer expects job applicants to communicate well, both in listening and verbalizing. That’s because a tech must be able to understand a customer’s plumbing issue and then clearly explain the cause of the problem and what will be required to resolve it.

Eisenhauer acknowledges that, as in other maintenance and construction industries, attracting qualified and suitable people to work as plumbers is difficult. “I don’t have a pipeline for techs, unfortunately.” For those the company does hire on, there is no shortage of work: The Sunny Plumber offers true, live-dispatched 24/7 service.

Technicians roll out in the company’s fleet of 43 trucks. Most of the trucks are fully equipped Nissan V2500 high-top models, which are deemed to be ideal because a water heater can be stood upright in them. Some repair specialists, as Eisenhauer describes the most experienced techs on the team, drive smaller units and are being transitioned to the standard-top version of the V2500.

A WIDE RANGE OF CALLS

Some of the same societal changes that make it difficult to find blue-collar employees are having impact on customers, too, but not as one might expect. The cultural preoccupation with electronic gadgetry has in some ways made homeowners more, rather than less, likely to roll up their sleeves and attempt plumbing repairs on their own, Eisenhauer says.

“Today’s homeowners are not less hands-on. If anything, they are more hands-on. They’ll watch some video and, by golly, they are now a plumber. Then we get the calls. We have a saying here: ‘Everyone is a plumber until they mess something up.’”

Like their peers across the plumbing industry, The Sunny Plumber techs sometimes arrive at a home and find the results of interesting attempts by a homeowner to repair something on his or her own. Eisenhauer recalls the time a technician walked into a residence for an inspection and found an Australian Foster’s beer can adapted to reuse as a vent on a water heater. “That was probably a homeowner fix.”

Service calls typically range from clogged drains and leaking pipes to fixture failure.

Before he became general manager of The Sunny Plumber, Eisenhauer “dabbled” in a variety of careers, from office administration to law enforcement and federal prison supervisory work. It was in this last capacity — as plumbing supervisor for eight years at a prison in California — that Eisenhauer gained perspective about customers. “I tell our technicians that my best client in prison was worse than my worst client on the outside,” he says. “My best defense was communication.”


First, look for integrity

A growing company like The Sunny Plumber is necessarily a hiring company. It builds out its business on the backs of new hires who, once they prove themselves, become the veteran employees whose performances foster future growth.

The Sunny Plumber will be in a hiring mode for years to come because the Southwest U.S. company aspires to establish itself across the country. “We are not yet expanding across the country, but that kind of thinking is coming into play,” says Gary Eisenhauer, general manager, “The goal (in 2018) is to expand quicker. Every month, we have a management meeting to determine if it is time to move forward or to slow down.”

In the process of expansion, Eisenhauer constantly will be culling male and female technician candidates for employment. The general manager says technical ability is not the first criterion he considers as he interviews job applicants. “The first thing I look for in the recruiting process is integrity,” he says. “That’s because I will be sending them out to clients they have never met. They have got to be able to work with strangers.”

He is not talking about an employee being congenial, though that also is a valuable customer service attribute. Rather, the employees must be trustworthy because they will be in clients’ homes where personal security is always a paramount concern. Both Eisenhauer and his customers must be able to trust that the plumber entering a home will demonstrate good character while there. Eisenhauer says what separates The Sunny Plumber from some competitors is the trustworthiness of the company itself and the integrity of the service employees who represent it.

In his focus on character, the company’s general manager might be channeling Warren Buffett, the legendary CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. Buffett is quoted saying: “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”

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Avoiding Common Residential Plumbing Problems

March 12th, 2018

plumberThere are a lot of systems and appliances that we rely on in our homes. Those related to our residential plumbing, however, are among the most important. Indoor plumbing is ubiquitous enough that it is easy to take for granted. The fact is, however, that it’s a lot more difficult to do that if you run into problems with your plumbing system. Unfortunately, this is more or less guaranteed to happen eventually. All plumbing systems encounter issues from time to time.

While we may not be able to help you avoid any such problems entirely, we certainly can help you to minimize the frequency with which you do. In many cases, problems with residential plumbing are actually the result of simple user error. In others, problems are allowed to develop much more than they should have. So keep these tips in mind, and remember to contact The Sunny Plumber Phoenix when you need a professional plumber in Phoenix.

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How Water Quality Affects Your Plumbing

February 26th, 2018

copper-pipesHow often do you think about the pipes in your home that make up your plumbing system? Probably not that often, right? At least, not when everything seems to be working as it should be. That’s just the problem, though. Things can seem to be working just as they should, but this does not mean that there are no problems present. They may just not be symptomatic yet—or, perhaps, you just don’t know what types of symptoms you should be on the lookout for.

Just because your pipes—which you can really see very little of, anyway—seem to be in fine working condition does not mean that this is the actual case. Remember, while burst or corroded pipes are obviously very big problems, they are not the only problems that your pipes may encounter. It is also possible that there are problems within those pipes, and that’s partially what we’re going to be talking about today. Read on, and leave your plumbing repairs in Phoenix to the pros on our team.

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When to Hire a Professional Plumber

February 12th, 2018

woman-plungingThere are many, many capable men and women out there who not only handle multiple jobs around their homes, but who take great pride in doing so. The mark of a truly capable and responsible homeowner, however, is knowing when to put down the toolbox and pick up the phone instead. Let’s face it, many of us have a stubborn streak when it comes to admitting that we’re out of our league. When the issue becomes apparent, and you’re already elbow-deep, it’s even harder to call in the cavalry.

But trust us when we tell you that you’ll be much better off for having done so. Yes, there are a few instances in which you may be able to handle some basic plumbing services on your own. The lion’s share of such service needs, however, demand the skills and expertise possessed only by a professional plumber in Gilbert, AZ. Whatever the job may entail, trust The Sunny Plumber Phoenix to do it right, right from the start.

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