Campbell Answers the Call

Boutique plumbing shop stands firm on the premise small can sometimes still be better .
Campbell Answers the Call
Campbell Plumbing & Drain Cleaning President Ray Haymer flanked by Vice President Scott Haymer (left) and master plumber Vince Lamitie. Photography by Amy Voigt

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Some companies strive to be big. Others carve out a niche and work to be the best. Count Campbell Plumbing & Drain of Eastlake, Ohio, among the latter.

The company was founded by Ray Haymer in 1969. Haymer’s son, Scott, who is now a co-owner, joined in 1996. Together with technician Vince Lamitie, the three-man team runs the “boutique” operation entirely, focusing services on just a 20-mile radius around their home base in affluent Eastlake.

The trio adheres to a mom-and-pop philosophy, keeping the company small while they stay on top of the latest technology and focus on providing the best service possible.

“The benefit to the customer is that when they call for service, the person they talk with will be the plumber who shows up at their door,” says Scott. “I actually take every phone call myself, and Vince and I will be the guys who turn out to fix the problem.”

As majority owner, Ray handles bookkeeping, advertising, licenses and permits, and most importantly makes sure the operation is profitable. Scott, in addition to running the truck and taking care of the customers, does all scheduling, estimating, billing, purchasing and equipment maintenance. 

Scott says he is often familiar with the houses and businesses where he’s working due to the company’s small service area and longtime association with many clients. This is an advantage in determining the urgency of the call. As a 24/7 operation, Scott can often assist the customer in determining if a weekend or after-hours call is necessary or if it can wait in order to avoid the extra charges. Talking with the actual plumber rather than a dispatcher helps both parties make the right determination.

While day-to-day routine service calls are handled by both Scott and Lamitie, emergency situations fall to Scott as he takes all the calls directly.

“If I need extra help I’ll call in Vince,” Scott says. “Sometimes my dad will go along or my 11-year-old son Scotty will ride along. We usually will have one or two calls on a weekend, and we determine what actually is an emergency and what can be put off until Monday. If a house has three bathrooms and one toilet is plugged up, that is not an emergency that can’t wait until the work week, and would save the customer some extra money as there is a higher rate for these calls. If a house has one bathroom and the toilet is plugged up, that is an emergency.” 

Making points
“We have our repeat and loyal customers because we do what we say we will do,” Scott says. “We show up on time, and if we’re going to be late we call and let them know. When we get to the site we find the problem and explain the options: good, better or best. We let the customer choose, and there is no high-pressure selling.”

Scott estimates they are doing 60 percent of the business in plumbing and related repairs. Drain cleaning makes up the rest and has been a very profitable side of the operation. To augment that piece of the business, Scott purchased a Spartan Warrior trailer jetter (4,000 psi/18 gpm ) in 2013.

“We had been subbing out this work, and when we ran the math and saw how much we were spending with the subcontractor, we decided it would be a financial benefit to purchase our own, and now it is one of our top five favorite tools and it goes out on almost every drain cleaning job.”

The company also uses subcontractors for pipe bursting and relining projects that come along in their service area of mainly older homes with clay pipes that have broken and require no-dig repair.

When working with subcontractors, they include the price in their estimate and bill the customer directly for the work. On other occasions, Campbell Plumbing will serve as the subcontractor, and although their trucks are clearly lettered, they make it clear they are not the prime contractor and Scott does not present himself as an owner.

Pipe conditions in these older neighborhoods run the gamut.

“Sometimes the pipes are root infested,” Scott says. “What we recommend depends on the sewer. We will jet and inspect the pipe. Once we get it clean we can truly assess the pipe. We are drain cleaners. Just because we get the water to drain doesn’t mean it is open. Once you get the water out of there then you can go back in and give it a complete inspection and take care of the roots as needed.”

With their small commercial and residential business they see the typical problems that involve oil, grease and the various trash items people dump into their sewer, particularly the baby wipes and feminine products. For the commercial customers they offer and encourage a preventive maintenance agreement, which is sometimes a written contract or a gentlemen’s agreement.

“With the commercial account, they may not go for an agreement until they have a major blockage and it affects their business,” Scott says. “We have several clients on a regular service agreement. Our customer list includes apartment complexes and condominiums as well as franchise restaurants. We would like that they were all on a contract basis so that we could go in and service them on our own time schedule. As I say, when they experience a problem they then truly understand the value.

“If they are willing to commit to us, we commit to them and actually offer lower pricing. This works both ways. It gives us the freedom to know we have the income and can set up a schedule of service that will take care of the client.”

Scott says customers sometimes comment that they have tried other companies, but they typically come back.

“Actually, our fees are not the lowest, but not the highest either. Customers will note the kind of service we provide and that we strive to leave everything neat and clean, and they recognize there is a cost associated with superior service. That is our goal, at all costs.”

Suit up
Being prepared on every job site is a key piece of the business model, and Scott keeps the 15-foot GMC cube van stocked with a large inventory of tools and supplies. Along with their long list of the latest tools, they carry an extensive array of plumbing fixtures so they can respond on the spot to the needs of the client. This includes a large selection of faucets, copper fittings and tools.

“You cannot make money driving to the supply house,” he says. “If the customer needs a garbage disposal, we will have it on the truck. We can walk 50 feet to the truck. There are two items we do not carry regularly: a water heater or a toilet. Otherwise we are fully stocked to meet each need. If we know we will require a water heater or a toilet, we can load it on at the beginning of the day to avoid having to make a stop at our shop.”

Scott regularly tracks the items pulled from inventory and emails the supply house for replacements, which usually arrive the next day. “You have to have it on your truck and ready to go, because today’s society does not want to wait.”

Tools include a variety of nozzles, including StoneAge Warthogs in multiple sizes. Eyes in the pipe come courtesy of three RIDGID cameras, including a C26 and CA-300 micro camera. The crew also uses a RIDGID Navitrack locator.

Additional tools include RIDGID K-40 and K-3800 drain cleaning machines, and also the RIDGID RP 340 press tool. General Pipe Cleaners Hot Shot 300 and 400 thawing machines make short work of frozen pipes.

Game plan
Campbell Plumbing is focused on same-day and next-day service. They will do small jobs such as relocating a toilet or changing a sink, but they avoid larger projects and new construction. Providing those services through subcontractors provides options without affecting the company business model.

They are situated in a 2,500-square-foot shop with their lighted sign that can be seen from a nearby freeway, and there is plenty of room to house all their trucks and equipment.

Scott has a lot of pride in their accomplishments, and points to their high ratings with the Better Business Bureau and sites such as Angie’s List. They have also received awards from Pulse of the City for providing excellence in customer satisfaction.

For Campbell Plumbing, it all boils down to the company's promotional theme: Talk Directly To The Plumber.



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