Welcome to the Eventual Millionaire Podcast. I’m Jaime Tardy and today we have Linda Stanfield on the show. Linda owns a franchise called Ben Franklin the Punctual Plumber. It in Arizona and she’s also nominated for the Gilbert, Arizona Businesswoman of the Year Award and I’m really excited to talk to her today. She’s in business with her husband. I have tons of questions about that and about her business in general. So thanks so much for coming on today, Linda.
LINDA STANFIELD: Thank you for having me.
JAIME TARDY: So let’s get started. Tell me a little bit about when you started, how long it has been and what it has been like.
LS: I actually started our company in 1985 with my husband. We didn’t work totally 100 percent on the company together at that time. I went ahead and started my own career while we owned this company and I went outside and built a very big insurance business. I got my management degree from college; did a lot of things as we started raising children. Unfortunately, I had a life tragedy that brought me back to the business and it was my mom passing away. I just found myself in deep depression from her loss. It was a quick loss, unexpected and I just couldn’t work outside the home and continue the career that I was loving and enjoying.
While I was at home trying to figure out what my new life was without her, I ventured into what this wonderful plumbing company was that we’ve had for a long time. So that was in ’99 that I decided to join our company and really make it pretty much from ground zero to where we’re at now and so it has been a long path. It has been a wonderful journey but what it was was some unexpected life change that made me jump in and see what a wonderful gift I had.
JT: So was your husband already doing this beforehand and you just jumped into it?
LS: Yes, he actually was focusing on plumbing construction. So there wasn’t a whole lot of really service to do, some accounts payable that type of thing. What we chose to do because, at that time, when I started to join it, he was burnt out. He was totally burnt out. He did everything 24/7. It was really all him and two other employees and it is a lot of hard work and he was burnt out over those years and I understand it. But my background is totally service and working with customers and when you work with construction plumbing you work with contractors. So you don’t really get that face to face experience to really find out what is it that you want in your five minute shower that can make and change your whole day.
What is it that I can help you with in the kitchen when you’re cooking that makes that meal so much better when you’re preparing it? So I look at that as service and I look at that as different being a woman. So we changed our whole focus 360 degrees and changed it directly to service so we could directly impact and help the homeowner with their plumbing and make their life better.
JT: Wow, okay. So how did you do that? How do you switch especially if he is already working to the max that he’s working at? How do you switch and actually do that? That seems like more work.
LS: Yes, it was. However, I wasn’t doing a whole lot at that part that he was. So unfortunately it was a lot more work on him because I was building more service and having him kind of do double duty.
JT: I know, here honey, here’s some more work! Please! Here!
LS: But he was liking it, the more he was taking on. It was the part that we had to learn to say no to something to allow room for something else to come in. That’s a very scary time, very scary, but you have to have faith. I had faith in all my customer service in the insurance business that I did and I knew when we connected with people, when I tried to refer to other plumbing companies I couldn’t find one to answer their phone, to show up, that showed up neat and clean, any of that stuff. So I really had the faith that there was a need out there, there was a niche and if we just focused and stayed strong, it would work.
So we built it baby steps. It worked. It really did and doing the basic steps of cleaning up, making sure you show up in a clean dressed uniform, making sure that you smell good, making sure you look good, making sure you answer the phone right and professionally. All those little steps, making sure you follow up with everyone, because that’s the biggest horror story that I get when people say, “I had a service company over and they never followed up. They never called me back the week later. I really want that faucet but they never called me back.” So it’s putting in those basic steps that I call it the small details that make the big professional service work for us.
JT: Yeah, that’s huge. I mean and stuff that people a lot of the times forget. When you’re so busy going to every single thing it’s hard to remember like oh I forgot to call that so and so back about that thing and to you it’s not that big of a deal but to them it can be huge, especially if they’re waiting for your call.
LS: It is and I know on my end, if I’m waiting for a computer service or if I am waiting for something for my company, I depend on those people. I depend on those partners to make me important and that’s why my passion, my heart is every single person that touches our company, if it’s an employee or if it’s a customer or vendor, they are very, very important to us and we do not let them down. We make sure that we follow right through with what they needed and sometimes plumbing can be very, very difficult and it just takes a longer time to, I call it check off the list.
You get one thing fixed, another thing fixed because sometimes people don’t call you when it’s just one thing. It’s five things that have led up to this. So it’s not that we have to go in and fix all of them right away but how do we help them through this process and how do we make it fit in their budget and meet their need. Not the same plumbing fixes the right thing for everybody and so again we really teach our employees that way.
JT: Excellent. So how did you go from your husband working 70 I don’t know how many hours a week, I’m guesstimating 70 hours a week, right, because I understand it’s crazy to let me add more and more stuff to his plate while I go yeah I think we should do this, I think we should this. How did he handle that?
LS: That sounds worse than it really was.
LS: No, Chris and I have always been a team. We’ve been together since we were in high school and never been apart so we have been friends, we trust each other and we’re a team in everything that we do. So with me coming back home he was really excited for that to be part of the business. However, he also was very tired of what he was doing. So his ambition and it was doing something different, it was really helping and working with customers one on one versus contractors. There’s a totally different feel.
So it allowed him to have more openness and the ability to be happy about it versus saying oh my gosh it’s just the hours. It wasn’t like that for him. He says, with me, both a long-term goal and a great place that we can make ourselves happy.
JT: That’s great. He went from installing with contractors; he actually ended up talking to the customer themselves and asking them what they wanted?
LS: Yeah, when you do service work that we do now, we change it to where a customer calls us directly. So we weren’t really doing remodeling homes. We weren’t really doing a build up from the ground up to where they’re just standing there. So we’re doing repair and replacement so when a customer has a plumbing problem they call us or when they want to do maintenance and we directly work with them they already own their home, they’re already working with it. So it’s a much different contact and anyone, any homeowner out there, I would suggest always get your piece in with every contractor.
If you’re building a home, if you’re remodeling a home, so many times that contractor understands and feels that they know you well but they won’t come and really go over all the shower heads you could have, all the experiences you can have from the plumber directly. If I was building a home I would want to talk to every individual contractor because they know they’re the expert at their field and they can tell you what lighting to add for the picture. The contractor thinks that they know what they want and they think they know you but believe me, that specialty field can really help you get what you want.
JT: Excellent. So how did you go though from having, it was him and two other guys, right?
JT: How did you go from changing what they did to really pay attention to the customer, especially because I know in service work you’re all about the billable hours? You’re so worried about making sure we’re getting paid. So how does that work and what were some of the first things you guys did for that?
LS: We definitely had some money saved up and so we knew it would take some time and investment to be able to make that changeover. We’d end up really with half and half so we got to a point where we were doing half days contracting and half day service and we just scheduled it that way. Then we got to where there was a full-time truck always doing service and the other trucks doing construction. We never changed our focus and made sure everything we did focused on service so even though we were on a construction site, we were dressed in our full uniform proper and clean. Our trucks were neat and clean.
And that was the big difference immediately when we woke up Monday morning from this changeover. Permit inspectors and contractors saw the same companies show up totally different. They treated us so differently. Our vendors treated us so differently from how we changed the look and feel of our company and then from there it just continually grew and when we stopped doing business for these contractors it was really interesting. While we were doing business for them they were always wanting us to lower our price and do more. That’s the name of the game.
When we stopped and said we’re going to just service and they saw the change in us, all of a sudden they wanted to pay higher prices and they only wanted us to do the repairs. So we knew we had something there when they started wanting and they were running after us to do their service.
JT: That’s amazing. See when I interviewed Guy Kawasaki earlier this year, I asked him specifically because I have a client that’s a plumber and he goes, “You know what, the plumber needs to be an enchanting company. One of the first things they can do is pull up their pants, right?” And I was sort of like yeah that’s a good one. But he was, he was like neat and clean uniform, customer service, the stuff that you don’t get out of plumbers, that nobody expects out of plumbers. You can sort of take that and be one of those amazing, enchanting companies and it sounds like that’s exactly what you guys did.
LS: Yes and our slogan, before we joined our franchise, our slogan was we will smell good and show up on time or we’ll pay you. So people just thought that we were just hilarious and I would get interviews on TV just from saying that. My husband would be pulled over, laughed at, you know, with this big old slogan we will smell good, because the thought of it is totally that’s not what a plumber is. And we were able to meet those needs and so the more we could meet those needs and exceed those, the more that the word got out. Oh my gosh there is a plumber around that is different.
JT: Yes. So how do you guys find your clients? Do they find you or do you actually do marketing and find them too?
LS: You know, unfortunately in service business I do a lot of marketing.
JT: Dispel the myth, right?
LS: Yeah. I have to do that and it’s really top of the mind awareness. I would say 65 percent of my new customers every single year is from referral which is awesome.
LS: It’s the biggest and best in the country. However, when you have that third party credibility, when they see you someplace else and they see you marketing on the radio and things like that, it helps when somebody refers you. So all of that comes together. It’s like a tri-brand effect. So what we want to do is make sure we get to stay top of the mind awareness.
JT: So how big is where you are right now? I know you’re in Gilbert, Arizona. How big of a city is that?
LS: Gilbert is about 250,000. Right next to it has a few other cities – Chandler, Tempe, Mesa – so our service area that we actually service here is about a million and a half people.
JT: Nice. So do you guys end up doing a lot of driving to reach all your customers?
LS: It is expanding because the Phoenix area is expanding quite a bit so probably the farthest we go is maybe about an hour depending on traffic but a lot of our customers are within 20 minutes or a half hour time frame.
JT: That’s still really impressive that you go that far to reach your customers. Do you charge them while you’re driving?
LS: No, we don’t. We have one flat fee. It’s called a service fee and we bring out a fully stocked truck so it’s a big box truck and we call it our warehouse on wheels and we take a lot of time behind the scenes to make sure that that truck is stocked, make sure the plumber is trained in everything that they need to know, that they have all the paperwork. Again, it’s that detail and expectation but it takes a lot of time on the back end but you need that. So we do charge a service fee to come on out but people tell me they save a lot of money on that service fee.
JT: So tell me about your processes because I know, I have a client that’s a plumber like I said, so I know about the back end and I really would like to hear more about how you guys implemented that stuff, any struggles that you went through trying to implement processes, especially with your employees and all that fun stuff.
LS: Yeah. As we grew, you know, you have the same employees and you say we got to put on this uniform and then you have the same employees we got to start stocking this and you add these little pieces and being in the corporate world in the past, myself, I understood why those things needed to be and I also understood the impact as an employee when it came down to me, how hard it was to deal with changes and what I was expecting from it.
So I guess as a person that I love to plan and I love to know the outcome, I try and do that ahead of time before I bring it to my team and customers. I really try and think out what are the negatives, what are going to be the positives and focus on the positives and understand that we got to have team players in our company that are willing to grow with us. So right from the very beginning, I learned to hire people that are willing to change. Now that doesn’t mean that that always happens.
However, for the most part, it really does and we are able to connect with people that are looking for something new. What else are you going to do, Linda? What else are we bringing on? So they are the type of people that are encouraged by that type of change.
JT: So how many people do you have now working for you?
LS: Right now we have 14.
JT: Nice. Okay. So you’re much bigger than you were back then.
LS: Definitely, yes. Yeah, it has taken a lot and a lot of learning pieces along the way.
JT: I bet! Tell me about some of those learning pieces. What were some of the key things that you’ve learned along the way?
LS: You know, the key things really is to connect with the right employees. Now the right employees at every stage of my company has not always been the same. So sometimes our company has outgrown an employee and that’s okay and sometimes an employee was not a good fit at our level when we started to hire them. However, I’m the type of person that we always stay friends and if our company is outgrowing the employee’s needs or wants or abilities and they’re not willing to learn and continue to grow with us, they still got great strengths, I’m more than happy to go out and help them find a job that fits for them.
Work is a lot of hours out of our life and so it’s important for everyone to be happy and I like our team to be happy and motivated. If somebody is not happy at work because we’re going in a direction that they are not comfortable with, maybe it’s computer technology, maybe it’s something else that’s happening. We’re doing a lot more with technology nowadays. So, if not, I’m going to definitely support them and help them get on the wagon with us, with the technology and the learning that they need to do. However, if it’s really not for them to stay with us on that, then let’s find them the right better path for them.
JT: So how do you do that? As an employee, they want to be known that you guys are helping them and stuff like that. But if you don’t see them making progress and stuff like that, what do you do? Do you give them warnings? Do you say you need to learn this by this time? Like what advice do you have for actually going down that path because you can’t just say you’re not doing it, goodbye.
LS: No. I get to know them personally. Really usually they’re with me long enough and we have some personal talks and we understand what their strengths are, what their likes are. Then I understand personalities very well. So somebody that’s creative may be uncomfortable in some areas. Some people that are more factual finding are going to be less comfortable with creativity. So different parts of my team has different areas of responsibility and so I try and put them into places that their personality is comfortable with and happy with.
You can find that out by cars that they drive or by hobbies that they like, things like that and that then work becomes a part of their life. It’s not an extra piece that they have to do, they have to go to work. So as much as I can, now I am a responsible business person, so I have bills to pay and I have customers paying my bills through our fees that we charge. So it is very, very important that I get right on track as fast as possible with an employee, if they’re doing well or if they’re not. So if they’re not, we need to take a lot of time and really find out.
I’m pretty straightforward. Is this really going to be what you want to do? If not, let’s work this out. Let me help you find something that is because neither one of us want to stay in a game that we’re not happy at.
JT: Yeah, see that’s really impressive that you say that because I know plumbing isn’t the neatest, cleanest. There are some bad problems that people have to go in and it’s not something that most people would be like yeah I get to go do that today. But it seems like you have a really good attitude to try and make them actually want to come to their job. Do you feel like your employees, the ones that you have right now really do appreciate you and enjoy coming to work?
LS: Yes, I do. I do and we’re constantly trying to raise the bar for them to be happy because our work is very hard. It’s 24/7. We have to answer the phones seven days a week. There’s a lot of demand when the customers call in yelling upset that they have a problem, now it’s our problem. So there is a lot of hard work that comes on to this that people don’t think about. But at the end of the game, it’s that we get to work together on it. It’s our attitude. We have games every single month, every single week. So right now we have a ticket game and so every employee can win tickets every single day and then put it in a box for a prize. So I have about ten prizes out in the training room.
So every employee has the options to be able to do this and then at the end of 30 days we pick one ticket with a winner for the TV, for an iPad, for a day off, you know, different things like that. So again, it’s motivating. It’s a team concept. We have some tickets that the whole team won because they all made this happen together – no injuries per month, perfect attendance – that type of thing. So they can win tickets together or individual.
JT: How do they win tickets? Like what do you reward them for with tickets?
LS: Right now it’s to help each other with a follow up. So if we had a customer that a plumber needed to find a special faucet with and an office employee jumped in and helped to find that, they both did that together, they both get tickets for that. They completed that task. They can individually get a ticket for 100 percent on time attendance or and they can also get a team ticket all month long for 100 percent on time attendance. So if the whole team is 100 percent on time, everybody will get individual tickets and a team ticket.
So that, it’s no injuries, it’s offering financing to our customers because a lot of times plumbers or even our call takers will forget to let our customers know that we do have financing. So it’s little things that I see it as a win-win for the employee and the customer.
JT: See that’s great. That’s really cool. A really good way to really bring your team together too. It seems like a team effort. It sounds really great to actually work with you even when you’re going through some of the crappy stuff I know that you have to deal with.
LS: You’ll see on my Facebook page for Ben Franklin, monthly we have monthly contests that we bring in customers. So like November was National Toilet Day so we put out a contest with every customer who showed up we gave them a form and one of the questions, if they answered it correctly on our Facebook page, they would get $100 cash. So every month maybe it’s a can food drive, the person that donated the most canned food the customer would get a cash prize.
So we’re constantly trying to again win-win with the customer and employee and the employee that had the customer win that contest would also get a prize. It’s that connection. It’s relationships. I like doing business with people I have a relationship with and so it really does connect with our customers.
JT: This is really cool how you do the Facebook page and stuff like that with it too because a lot of people want to get into Facebook and want to do this stuff and it sounds like you have a really cool way of doing it. So I’m assuming that’s part of your marketing tactics. So tell me some of your marketing tactics and what’s really worked and did that campaign really work for you.
LS: Oh yes and it really engages the plumbers. So I can share with all the plumbers and the girls in the office to please let everyone know that we’re having a canned food drive this month. It’s Christmas in July, we want to raise as many cans as we can and tell them why. Well at the end of the month, you know, if they forget, basically it’s what’s in it for me. Customers really want to know what it’s in it for me and employees want to know, they love giving back to the community don’t get me wrong, but it’s always also an added bonus to have a what’s in it for me.
So with that, I usually make it easy on the plumber and the office staff and I’ll ask them to remind the customer on the phone when they make the appointment if they have canned foods available for the plumber they’ll put them in for a fun drawing. Then I also make up a little sheet that explains a little bit more that the plumber can leave behind with a customer and it explains what our Facebook contest is.
So with you donating today please log on to our Facebook and let us know what this meant or how this felt. Sometimes the plumbers will take a picture with the customer with their canned food and we’ll put it on the Facebook and then at the end of the month we pick one of those customers through the Facebook contest for a $100 cash prize. I have quite a few of those customers out there and so one of them she was actually meaning to, I think it’s earlier in the year, she won a contest, I can’t remember what we were doing but I think it was just the amount of Facebook people that liked us in that month I would draw a name.
So I think that she had won one and we went on out there and presented her with a $100 cash bill and she was so happy it actually was going to pay for her daughter’s birthday party that weekend. She didn’t know how she was going to pay for it. She needed to do this and she was so thrilled. I’ll never forget that and it is on our Facebook page. We have a lot of great relationships through Facebook and it’s an easy way for people to connect with us, to ask questions, to promote us or to not and say I didn’t like this and that’s okay. Not everyone is going to like what we do but if it’s something I can change or I can help out with I need to know and that’s a great way to tell me.
JT: So how long have you guys had your Facebook page and how many fans do you have?
LS: I think we’re close to about 900 fans and we’ve had it for probably about two and a half years.
JT: Oh nice, you were early adopters, wow! That’s really impressive! That’s longer than I’ve had a Facebook page and I’m on the internet. That’s crazy.
LS: Yeah I added that, Twitter, LinkedIn. It was like oh my gosh, what am I doing to myself but I’m one that jumps in. We jump in to new equipment before many people have them around the town. Solar when it was really hot and going here. We were already in it for a year and so we really work hard in our company to see what’s coming up and be prepared and be ready because to be honest, it’s no rocket science out there in plumbing. So what is the better service that we can start to offer and how can we have a good relationship with our customers.
So Facebook is a great way for relationships so when you start seeing that kids and family want to connect on that, why don’t customers want to too? So it really does work out. It’s a lot as a business owner to be able to keep all of that updated and going. It’s a full time job.
JT: Definitely. I know, definitely. It’s funny because when I asked Guy Kawasaki about it, what should a plumber do on their Facebook page, he didn’t really know either. He was like well they need to be an enchanting company is what he ended up saying but it’s funny. I love hearing the fact that you guys are doing Facebook like that because usually you wouldn’t assume that people would be like yeah I’m going to like my plumber’s page, great. But you’ve had some really, really creative stuff. So I think that’s really, really cool.
LS: I share with our customers what we’re doing because a lot of people think that they’re just calling a plumber. What are their expectations? What’s the plumber going to look like? Facebook can allow us to share what our plumbers look like, what they’re doing, so maybe it’s jobs, maybe it’s we’re having a breakfast barbecue and we’re celebrating something here in a team. I’ll put that on there. So again our customers can get to know us before we show up or while they continue to use us and they feel like we’re family.
Many of our customers that like to feel like we’re family and so this is one more added piece that they can keep connected with us. They don’t have to reply, they can just continue to watch and say oh what is she doing now? Where is she going? So I find people tell me all the time, oh that job was hilarious. I show pictures of different things and stuff.
JT: Oh really? Of like actual jobs and stuff that you guys do?
LS: Because people really don’t know what the choices of shower heads are. So when I can give them pictures of choices, pictures are so different. Just like you would Skype in on a video versus just a podcast, what a difference it is to be able to see somebody and feel some of those emotions and Facebook does that. It allows us to bring those emotions into plumbing.
JT: So now how do you deal leveraging that? Because you sound like you’re really good at building relationships with your customers but 65 percent are referrals. So how do you ask for the referrals or do they just, I mean we all want them to just give them to them anyway, but how do you actually prompt that?
LS: You know, I probably am not the best at asking for it really. Now every time we service a customer we do send out a thank you postcard and it does ask on there if you liked our service please let your friends and neighbors know about it. So I would say in a much down to earth way, because I personally don’t like to be asked here’s a paper, can you give me ten referrals? I’m here to get my computer serviced, I’m not ready to hand out ten referral names.
But I am the best when I like somebody’s service to let everybody know about it and I guess that that is my feeling that most of my customers are going to do the same and I really feel that that has been reality. Yeah we can remind them sometimes but for the most part it really is just what they like and that they share along. It’s just that old fashion saying if they don’t like you they’ll share that too. I really find that just really going over the top. Every time we have a concern, any time a customer is not happy, making sure that we go over the top making it right. You can’t make that person always happy but we can do what’s right.
JT: That’s great. So what do you do for callbacks and stuff like that, if you guys are like an hour away and you have to go out, do you just eat the cost of going out and making it up to them?
LS: Yes. It’s in the price of our work and it’s interesting because a lot of people deal with prices. I had a customer call me the other day. It wasn’t a customer of ours but just said, “I want you to tell me if this price if I’m getting ripped off from another plumber.” I can’t tell over the phone. I can’t see their plumbing. It’s like going to your doctor and saying did this doctor diagnose me correctly with pneumonia versus bronchitis over the phone. So asked him a few questions but I told him also why is it that you’re not trusting your plumber? What is it, because most people have that feeling within 15 seconds when a plumber shows up, how they showed up, if the office called ahead, you know, all the relationship steps that have built them to that service.
So if you had a piece that broke that trust, you’re going to then feel like you got ripped off. Now pricing is just like a hamburger. You can buy a hamburger at five different prices. What is the difference? It’s your atmosphere, it’s your service, it’s your quality. Plumbing you’re going to get the same exact things. So for me to tell anybody they got ripped off from a plumber, I can’t do that because I didn’t know the whole true experience. I didn’t know the quality, but the way that our pricing does work is that we include everything. So we’re not surprising people with ala carte at the end.
Okay now if you want a better warranty it’s this price. Oh I added and it took me an extra hour so it’s this price. Everybody knows everything up front. They know that the service call to come on out, we don’t change it. If it takes 20 more minutes, if it takes a half hour difference, callbacks or warranties that’s all within our price. So we price accordingly. We also know the types of jobs and we also really hire very good experienced plumbers, because you get more callbacks when you don’t have an experienced plumber that is not diagnosing or correcting that correctly.
And just like with a doctor, if we allow a customer to diagnose it for us and only want to repair something, when we really say an 18-year-old toilet needs to be replaced, you’re going to have ongoing issues here, it’s time to just replace it all. We’re not trying to up sell anybody, we’re really just trying to correctly diagnose that so that this person can get on with life. To say that and I hear that comment a lot, am I getting ripped off by a carpet cleaner, you’ve got to do your education. You got to know what it is out there and you got to put some trust into your vendors and service.
So when I do marketing, when I’m on this type of call or on TV or things like that, it’s those third party pieces that really help the credibility that what we do and what we say is the correct advice for you.
JT: That trust is huge. So do you let the customers know when they first call you up? I mean a lot of the times they’ll call you up and say something is broke I don’t know what to do. You just say we’ll do a service call and then you let them know exactly how much it costs after?
LS: Exactly. Yes. We just can’t diagnose it over the phone. People say, “Oh it’s just a simple faucet.” Well I have six neighbors down the road every single simple faucet is something different and one was on the counter 10 more years than other homes, 3 years, and I’ll tell you the hardest part of that type of job is getting off the old one. It’s not really putting in the new one. It’s getting the old one off so that we can correctly not damage the counter. So that takes some skill. So just like with the doctor when you go to a specialist versus another type of doctor, you pay differently and we really are a very, very high-skilled company.
JT: So you set yourself apart both in skill and in customer service. That’s excellent.
LS: Definitely but our prices are right in the middle. We’re not the highest priced plumber out there. I sleep good at night knowing that our prices are set correctly, I like to make a 15 percent profit. I have to continue to invest in this company to grow and to go into technology and things like that. When all of a sudden business expenses explode without much notice, you need something like that. So again, I feel as a responsible business person to my customers that if I am not pricing it correctly, I may not be here for them next year.
JT: Exactly. We never know, especially with dips. Have you seen dips because of the economy? Everybody is talking about the economy and stuff like that now.
LS: Yeah I did. It’s not that we probably had a whole lot of people, I would say even lose a lot of their jobs, but what I would say is they got fearful and they’d get scared and they’d stop using one toilet. I have another toilet and that happened for about a year. It went right back to all to emergencies so everything came back to I’m only going to fix it when it’s a dire emergency. We are starting to see that pendulum change a little bit where people are doing more maintenance because in the last couple of years they’ve realized, they know they didn’t probably have the money but they also realized that the cost when it gets to emergencies is three or four times more of damage and many other issues, just not plumbing, but it’s many other issues that gets into.
JT: Yeah, maintenance is usually a good thing. I know sometimes I put it off too and it’s kind of annoying because you don’t want to do it. It’s just another thing to think about even if you have the money, sometimes it’s just another thing to think about but when that emergency comes that’s worse. I know because we had a pipe burst and that wasn’t fun. It is a long story, it was fun. It flooded floors so we had to replace all the carpets and the hardwood floor. Yeah it was fun. So everybody do your maintenance for your plumbing and your heating now.
JT: So I would love to talk about technology like you were saying before. What sort of stuff do you implement and how do you have the guys learn new technology all the time? I mean it’s kind of fast pace how things go now.
LS: Yes, you know, it’s funny that you mention a pipe leak. That’s one of the newest technologies that we just invested here in. For about a year, we were looking at it and what we do now is we restore pipes. I don’t know if you can see it but this little piece of copper pipe and on the inside it’s coated white and it’s epoxy coating. So it’s actually a lot from the naval yards for all the ships. They use the coating to protect a lot of the ships from all the salt and all the eating up and all that.
So now this is a pipe restoration technology that we can use and again you’ll see pictures on my Facebook that I’ve put up. We actually will dry out and clean the pipe inside the wall really, really good so we don’t have to cut a lot of holes or do any re-piping. So there’s a lot of negative areas to do re-piping. So what we do is clean that pipe really good, fill it with this epoxy coating, make the inside better than new and around here we have a lot of chlorine in our water so the chlorine being increased in our water and the pipes are not working well together. We’re getting a lot of slab leaks and that’s where pipes are bursting, they’re flooding, they’re having to tear out carpet and tile and things like that.
So once we know that one piece of the pipe is starting to go bad, if you just repair that piece, that whole pipe is having the same problem. It’s just like if you have a rash on your arm. If you get one part of that rash fixed you still need to figure out what’s happening. So what we do is we go in there and clean that out and we put in the epoxy and that pipe now is lasting up to 20, 30 years with the great, great restoration. So technology is very expensive and so many people look at us and say it’s labor and material. Well a lot of investment into drain cameras and to locating equipment, into training how to use that because you just don’t show up at a jobsite and know how to locate a leak and do it correctly.
So a lot of costs go into training our plumbers to make sure that that’s right on so that when they get to your job time is of the essence and we’re not keeping you longer than what we have to or doing unnecessary type of work.
JT: Excellent. So what do you guys do when somebody goes, one of your employees goes on the job? Does he know everything? I mean that’s the thing too. I know a lot of plumbers have like specialists. Like this guy does this, this guy does this. But if you go to a site and don’t know exactly what you’re doing, what do you guys do in that situation?
LS: Luckily we have a whole team and all of them really are, I would say, 90 percent right on. We put them through a lot of in depth training with drains and leaks and things like that. All the equipment, they all know how to use that. We would never send them on a type of a job that we didn’t feel like they were 90 percent already trained in. The way we do that is sometimes they have to do ride alongs. They have to go along with another plumber.
They can be 110 percent great at restoring pipes, that doesn’t mean they don’t get into a job that somebody added a remodel or this and that and it’s just really a difficult, difficult situation that they can’t go to another plumber and say, you know what, this is what I have, just kind of like a doctor does, you know, reevaluate. Am I looking at this right? Get a second opinion or we bring another plumber onsite. So we really get that from a lot of other plumbers in the value, we get calls from other plumbers.
LS: Yes and that’s okay. There’s enough work for everybody. What I want to make sure again is that our industry is being brought up another level because I hate to think that people think of us as a plumber with their pants down or that we really don’t know what we’re doing. So if we can get all of us plumbers, in our area, all working at a much higher level, our industry is going to have a much better reputation.
JT: Definitely. So tell me about you and getting into plumbing. What have you learned personally going from not in plumbing whatsoever to really running this pretty big plumbing company?
LS: That’s funny. I just had to write a story for a reality TV show that I’m on.
LS: Yes and the story was, it airs this Sunday, but the story was how did I get this? I mean I never knew anything about plumbing. I knew I could turn it on. I was raising two kids. I was loving life in the insurance business and now here I am working with plumbing and explaining to people how their toilets can work better and that’s your formal dinner conversation for me, which I would have never ever imagined. But I really do like it because, as a woman, most women are looking for their home and most women want more convenience out of their life. They’re too busy and so what I have found in the plumbing is plumbing can make our life worse, it can make our life better and it can really make our life better if we have the right service there.
So I really educate people that their shower head doesn’t have to be the shower head that they had for 20 years. When you take a shower every single day, it can be the best five minutes of that day if you knew that you had options for your shower head. Quite a difference. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot. The other thing I tell people is you don’t have to do the hokey pokey all the time when you flush your toilet. It really should flush one flush. So many people say you mean it’s a brand new toilet, I have to do this and this and this and then it will flush. No, you should not have to do that.
Women are too busy in their life and so I have engaged the plumbing and dove into plumbing because I found that it can make my life better and I’m a busy person and so I like to share with other people that it can make their life better too.
JT: That’s great. See we don’t think about that stuff. You know what I mean? That’s not something on my to do list of going yeah let me make sure I know how to fix that toilet, even if I don’t know how to do it. So you being able to go hey you know what, there’s something that we can do for you and make your life a little bit better and it’s amazing how much those, I like to call them tolerations, those little tolerations that eat away at you every day.
LS: And all the time I’ll get those phone calls. Oh Linda if I knew I would have did it a year earlier. I just didn’t know. I thought I had to live like that.
JT: Yeah, that’s so great. Excellent. Well we’re going to start wrapping up pretty soon. Can you tell me any resources or anything you’ve done to help you? Have you read books that have really helped you? Is there anything specific that you really relied on?
LS: I have. I love to learn and I learn from many difference areas. Plumbing associations, I’ve learned from Plumber’s Success International. I’ve learned from a local business group called AIM. It’s a great, great group that my husband and I took two full years every two weeks in a class and I didn’t think I needed it at the beginning and the teacher said you need it, you need it and saw more in me than what I could see in myself. At the end of two years, our company and myself was two different people and businesses and it was getting together and connecting with other successful people but learning HR, learning accounting, learning all that.
To be a business owner doesn’t mean that you just are a name. It really means that you’re responsible for every part of that business and so if I don’t take the time to learn each one of those pieces it doesn’t mean that I have to do it all but I have to know enough to be able to manage it and I have to know enough to know what’s right for my business and for the responsibility that I have. So learning and getting together with the right partners and associations have just been key for me to grow.
JT: Thank you so much. That’s great. So for the very last question I always ask everyone, what’s one action that listeners that can do this week to help them move them forward towards their goal?
LS: It’s a great time because it’s a new year. It’s really to have a really clear strong vision of what the end is. What is it? Is it exit planning? Is it growth? What is it? Then back up and make that plan. So if we don’t have a plan we don’t know where we’re going but you got to know where you’re going. So how vivid, how visually and it may be drawing a picture in some color of a building or a family or whatever but you really visually have to have that plan. You don’t have to know the steps right now to get there but you have to know what it is that you’re after and then you can back up and put in those baby steps and the plan and maybe it’s a five-year plan but the big thing is to know what that vision is.
What is that end goal? I talk to so many people that have no idea why they’re going to work every single day and working so hard on that treadmill. It’s like what is it you want to do in five years? I don’t know. So just have that plan. Get to know what that is and where it comes from inside.
JT: Perfect. Thank you so much for coming on today. Where can we find you online? Tell us your Facebook, your Twitter, your website, all that fun stuff.
LS: Lndastanfield.com is my website for myself. Ben Franklin Plumbing AZ connects to my company Twitter and my company Facebook page. So you can find all that there.
JT: Perfect. Thanks so much for coming on today, Linda. I really appreciate it.
LS: Thank you, Jaime.
Just to note, you can download the Top 10 tips from these millionaire interviews on the blog.
Thanks for listening. You can find out more great information like this on eventualmillionaire.com.