Wisconsin contractor creates support team for his plumbers to keep focus on quality work and customer relations.
When Bill Rozga started his plumbing business 36 years ago, he didn’t realize how quickly his operation would grow.
Rozga Plumbing & Heating Corp. was founded in 1981 and served only the residential plumbing market. However, five years later other opportunities began to come up and Rozga grew his company, based in West Allis, Wisconsin.
The company now employs 30, including four master plumbers, three journeymen, two apprentices and numerous support personnel. Rozga Plumbing & Heating offers services in the commercial and municipal markets in addition to maintaining residential work.
Rozga, a master plumber, still remains involved in the day-to-day work as well, taking service calls from time to time. “I will take my turn down in the ditch alongside the other guys,” he says. “I am very much involved. I don’t want to be just a button-pusher owner or manager.”
Five years after starting his company, Rozga began to see other opportunities — HVAC and water and sewer work for municipalities — that would allow it to grow.
Rozga now splits his services into three divisions, each led by a separate manager. The plumbing, HVAC, and water and sewer divisions each represent about one-third of the bottom line. In the plumbing division, about 70 percent of the work is residential and a small portion of that is remodeling and new home design and build.
Working on the remodeling projects or new constructions allows Rozga to work directly with the owner or general contractor, something he says he still enjoys doing.
While the company has grown significantly, Rozga has never added a showroom to the business, saying the expenses of adding one would not benefit the company. Instead, there is a conference room where staff can sit with customers and subcontractors to review projects.
BRINGING IN A SUPPORT STAFF
Because of the company’s emphasis on providing services to a varied customer base, Rozga has a support system in place for his seven plumbers. That support system consists of truck drivers, material handlers and an office staff. Having the support system allows the plumbers to stay focused on the work and not have to worry about traveling back and forth for materials.
“If a plumber calls to say he needs a water heater that he did not expect to provide, there will be someone available to deliver that to the plumber,” Rozga says. “Or if a water main breaks and you have to dig it up and we need fittings fast, we will have a material handler there to lend that support.”
The support staff consists mainly of young entry-level laborers who are getting the opportunity to see what they can do within the company. “We learn what their goals are,” Rozga says. “We give them an opportunity to try something and find what works best in his or her life. We first look for quality men and women and let them develop on what they may do as their work choice.”
In the office, Rozga Plumbing & Heating has a staff of dispatchers who control the flow as calls come in and know whom to call among those in the field. The company has eight telephone lines coming into the busy dispatch desk.
“In the service industry you are reacting to what is presented before you,” Rozga says. “The thing I’m most proud of is that we have that backup support here. Our master plumbers, journeymen and apprentices are never alone in the field because help is available to them one way or another.”
That proved to be true when one of the plumbers in the field responded to a service call at 2 a.m. After arriving at the scene, he realized there was more there than what he could fix himself, and by dawn the water and sewer division was also at the job helping.
“You cannot orchestrate that or design that kind of response,” Rozga says. “It was discovered and implemented as we went along. My company is organized and set up in a way that we can support each other.”
Rozga Plumbing & Heating plumbers are scheduled like chess pieces, being moved around as needed to get to the greatest amount of jobs while still having some available for emergency calls.
The entire staff gets together once a month for meetings. Typically they’ll meet by division to train the employees and go over anything that comes up on jobs. “We study current policies, new products and have continuing education all handled in-house,” Rozga says. “That way we know everyone is getting the same training.”
TAKING CARE OF THE FLEET
A key piece to that support staff is the company’s in-house mechanic. With 16 service vehicles, properly caring for the fleet, and all related equipment, is an important element of the operation.
The mechanic heads up the 2,500-square-foot shop that sits on a 2-acre site along with the company’s 7,000-square-foot office and conference room.
“The reason we go to the expense of an in-house mechanic is because of the unique nature of our company,” Rozga says. “We do a lot of specialized design and build and fabrication; things that are not normally purchased at a wholesale house.”
The service vehicles are Ford 1-ton cargo vans and full-size walk-in step vans. With a mechanic on staff, the company has gotten more mileage out of the vehicles.
“For us to have a 30-year-old service van is not unusual,” Rozga says. “We buy a lot of aluminum-body vans and you can put engines and transmissions in them all day. As long as the vehicle has not been in a wreck, we keep it on the road indefinitely.”
The rest of the equipment includes two Mack, quad-axle dump trucks; GMC and Ford dump trucks; and a CASE front-end loader for work around the shop. “It’s all owned outright and maintained in-house,” Rozga says. “This gives us the versatility and ability to take a call at 2 a.m. and have our mechanic available for any special needs.”
Other equipment includes drum machines and cameras (RIDGID), power tools (Milwaukee Tool) and boring equipment (TT Technologies).
“There are things we design and build with custom-fabricated fixtures that cannot be found in a wholesale house, so that is a big advantage with our mechanic,” Rozga says.
Rozga adds that the company doesn’t maintain a large inventory for standard parts, with sufficient supply houses nearby that will deliver upon request. It also helps him not have a lot of money tied up unnecessarily. On the plumbing side, the company prefers fixtures from Moen, Kohler and GROHE.
DOCUMENTING THE WORK
With the large staff, Rozga says he depends on communication to keep the employees in contact with one another and to keep track of the work they are doing.
“Communication is very important and we are in contact with each other through text and email,” Rozga says. “I can be anywhere and looking at what my guys are doing. If they get into a jam or need a second opinion, they’ll have it.”
Plumbers on the job take photos of their work as standard procedure and those images are then put into the customer’s file on a computer to refer back to.
“We want to know the make, model and serial number of the equipment,” Rozga says. “If a special situation requires a photo, we can add it to the file or if there are extenuating circumstances and something has to be done or changed, we can go back to the photo.”
Recording of the work can also be beneficial to the customer, especially if they decide to remodel in the future. “We have records that go back years upon years,” Rozga says. “We’re proud of the fact that we can recall those things when the customer asks.”
SEEING THE GROWTH
Rozga says he is most proud when he sees the personal development in his employees.
“I take very personally what God has given me in responsibility,” Rozga says. “I share with my employees their personal joys and grief. I want them to feel free to come to me and to feel comfortable, and I’m grateful to be able to give them a living wage and benefit package and to see them grow and develop.”
Getting more social
When Bill Rozga founded his company, Rozga Plumbing & Heating Corp., in 1981, the biggest form of advertising was the yellow pages in the local phone book.
Now, 36 years later, there is no more ad in the phone book and Rozga relies heavily on the internet and social media. The company has over 1,200 reviews on its website from customers.
“There is nothing gleaned by putting your name in a book,” says Rozga. “Right now the industry is driven by social media. That is where people find the information. When we get to a job, the customer will already know as much about us as they want to know because they’ve done their homework ahead of time.”
Customers will check out the company’s website, look at the reviews and even talk with other customers of Rozga Plumbing & Heating.
“They will have done their due diligence long before we get to the house,” Rozga says. “People want to know who they are dealing with. It is important to inform a customer about who you are and what you do.”
The company’s website has photos of the staff, a brief history of the company, its certifications and memberships, and a list of offerings.
“Sometimes we will get a pure cold call if it’s an emergency, like if someone breaks a water main, if they have water heater issues or if they have no heat,” Rozga says. “But those calls are few and far between.”