Plumber with small operation finds big ways to draw in customers.
Dave Banghart likes to describe his plumbing company as a “small shop with a lot of versatility,” and he isn’t joking.
Banghart, owner of Banghart Plumbing in Everett, Washington, has only one employee. But if you look at the list of services, you might think the company has a staff of 50. Services range from the typical plumbing repair and installation all the way to specialized drain cleaning.
“Running a plumbing and drain cleaning business is something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Banghart, who has more than 28 years of experience in the industry working at various companies after four years in the U.S. Army.
Plumbing is so much a part of Banghart’s life that he encouraged his two sons to enter the industry — which they did.
BRINGING IN DRAIN CLEANING
Banghart didn’t clean a single drain for his first 20 years in the industry; he was content with plumbing installations and repairs. He steered clear of drain cleaning because of the cost of equipment and training.
“Then, I started learning the service, and I saw how valuable it really was, partially because a lot of plumbers don’t want to do it.” he says. “It takes a guy a little bit to learn, and there are some tricks to it, just like there are to installations. There are a lot of safety procedures that absolutely need to be followed, too.”
Banghart knew he would offer drain cleaning when he started his company in 2015. That sector accounts for up to 30 percent of his work each year.
“When we go out to a client’s house for a drain cleaning job, we do our best to make sure the system is back in service,” Banghart says. “After the drain has been serviced, we use a camera to make sure the system is fully operational and trouble-free. We also recommend BIO-CLEAN (Statewide Supply), which is a bacterial treatment that keeps pipes free of buildup.”
Banghart Plumbing uses two cable machines: a Spartan Tool 300 for mainlines and larger-diameter pipes, and a Spartan Tool 700 for smaller drains with sinks. “The Spartan Tool 300 gets the most work, and it is absolutely the best machine a plumber could invest in,” he says.
The company has received drain cleaning referrals from other plumbers. “I don’t understand why more don’t do it. Yes, the machines are expensive, but they tend to pay for themselves in a hurry.”
BETTER WITH NETWORKING
Many referrals for drain cleaning come through a network Banghart takes pride in being a part of: the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association.
“We can call on each other to borrow equipment or give other help,” Banghart says. “A few of us plumbing contractors are really good friends. We go back and forth sending each other photos of things we’re finding and giving each other tips and tricks for performing the tasks.”
Being a member of the national group has also helped him solve problems on tough jobs. “You can always find out what they did in a similar situation, and that can help you or keep you from making a mistake on jobs,” Banghart says. “I have a friend just south of San Francisco, and we talk regularly about the trade and even what kind of trucks to buy in the future. We do things to help each other out all the time.”
A TALE OF TWO TOWERS
Banghart has had his share of tough jobs; the two most memorable jobs took place at towers. One of his favorites was working on the new air traffic control tower at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where he was hired to do most of the plumbing including a pump station on a midstory.
“They forgot to put the pump station on the deck before the concrete was poured for the next story, so I was assigned to disassemble the pump station and move it up piece by piece,” Banghart says. “When I was done, they couldn’t even tell that it had been moved or disassembled. It actually was a very fun job. It was like figuring out a puzzle.”
The second tower project was on the Avalon Towers Bellevue job in Bellevue, Washington. “I did all the 10-inch, stainless steel distribution piping in the boiler room,” Banghart says. “The boiler room had three boilers totaling about 1-million Btus providing the hot water for the entire building.”
A FAMILY FOR THE INDUSTRY
Banghart’s love for the plumbing industry has spread to his sons Colin and Ryan.
“I made it clear as they were growing up that the things we did with vacations, lifestyle and living conditions all came about from the plumbing industry,” Banghart says. “I used to buy them the smallest RIDGID pipe wrenches so they could play with them and pipe fittings. They both remember me giving them those things.”
Colin, the older son, is an apprentice and is working in the United Association Local 32 for a utility solutions company. Ryan is a service plumber but is taking some time off to prepare for his wedding.
“I’m really proud of both of them,” Banghart says. “They’re coming into their own and making themselves really good plumbers. I’m very proud, and anytime I speak to anyone about my sons, I’m always sure to mention they are plumbers.”
Banghart wishes more of the older generation would encourage their children to go into the industry. “When journeymen say they don’t want their kids to be plumbers, it makes me feel like they think there is something to be ashamed of. I don’t see it that way. I think most young men are proud of their fathers and want to follow in their footsteps. This is an excellent trade with lots of benefits and rewards.”
A GROWING COMPANY
Banghart has two big goals: to keep growing and to stay customer-oriented.
“We’ve recently acquired a new vehicle,” Banghart says. “We’ve been outfitting it with all the electronics and shelving. As soon as we get it on the road, we’re going to start looking for a journeyman.”
One thing that separates him from competitors is a customer-first approach, which he wants to keep as the company grows. “A lot of our customers do become friends, but that never means we work for free,” Banghart says. “We wear foot coverings, we put down tarps for tools, and we never put anything down on places that we know people would like to keep clean.”
Banghart is willing to spend the extra time with customers to answer questions and make sure they are comfortable with the work. “We’re just full-on customer service here.”
Getting into the ballgame
One of Dave Banghart’s favorite pastimes with his sons as they were growing up was heading to several local minor league baseball games each year.
So when that minor league team — the Everett AquaSox — contacted him about advertising opportunities, he jumped at the chance.
“We met with them, and they told us what they could do for us,” Banghart says. “I had been looking for a way to do a little bit of branding in the community and help the community at the same time, so that is how we got together.”
The Everett AquaSox, owned by the Seattle Mariners, provide signage at the stadium for Banghart. His company’s name is also broadcast on the radio during game coverage, and fans receive packets that include coupons for Banghart Plumbing.
“We’re really proud of this sponsorship,” Banghart says. “We usually go to four or five games a year still.”
The company does other advertising that includes a Facebook page and a website.
Outfitting the vans
When other plumbers look inside Banghart Plumbing’s service van, they often ask where the shelves come from.
It’s an easy question for owner Dave Banghart. He just went to Costco and bought storable wire racks. “All the shelves I put in myself,” he says. “I used some wire racks that are similar to what you see in a restaurant kitchen. They worked out really nice.”
The shelves are installed in both of the company’s GMC Savana Cutaway vans. “We find that the engines are durable — not maintenance-free, obviously, but as close as you can get,” he says.
The vans are fully stocked with a complete set of tools and ABS, copper, and PEX pipes and fittings. “We like to be able to pull up to a job and do any number of tasks that need to be done at a moment’s notice without having to run back to the warehouse.”