Condensing boiler provides savings and reliability

Florida plumbing contractor stays with tradition while also making changes to make the company more profitable.
Condensing boiler provides savings and reliability
Mike Butler, left, and his father Robert “Bubba” Butler, stand with the company’s fleet of trucks.

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Mike Butler has his work cut out for him as he follows in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather.

While he’s carrying on the tradition of what they started with Wimpy’s Dependable Plumbing Inc. by serving primarily residential customers, the 32-year-old CEO is also changing things up with new technology and business practices.

Winfred “Wimpy” Butler started the company based in Sarasota, Florida, in 1973 working out of his service van and at the kitchen table. The business eventually passed on to his son, Robert “Bubba” Butler. Bubba handed the business off to Mike in 2014.

Q: After 44 years, what would you say has changed at Wimpy’s Dependable Plumbing?

MIKE: What has not changed is our honesty and integrity and how we take care of our customers. We always have and will look after their interests. Our level of service has never changed.

What has changed recently is our method of charging for our services. We have gotten away from offering plumbing services on an hourly basis. I explained to my father that the prices we charged hourly were just getting us by. We needed to not only take care of our customers, but we needed to provide for our family and employees. Flat-rate pricing would achieve those goals.

We had done work for Habitat for Humanity and we were doing the same job over and over, and bidding was redundant. I did research to find what would be fair all-around. With this in mind, I made up my own menu of our services with pricing for each project we would offer.

Q: When you introduced this, how did it go over with your customers?

MIKE: Our customers were somewhat confused initially about how it worked. We explained it took into account time and material and other issues. Yes, we did lose maybe 15 percent of our customer base; our devoted customers have stayed with us. They liked that they did not have to keep an eye on the clock to see what the cost would be. They also knew that if the job was harder than anticipated, the price would not change. We actually built a higher level of trust with our customers.

Q: Were you concerned that your plumbers would go to a job and not waste time visiting with the customer?

MIKE: Our plumbers know they are given a job to do, but we want them to also know they are not pressed by the clock. They can spend time hearing about the dog or some other personal item. We do not want to miss that connection. They can always remind a customer that they must get on to the next job. We want to maintain those important relationships. Our motto has been  “Building relationships since 1973.”

Q: Any other changes you want to mention?

MIKE: We have changed our fleet of six service trucks and now run completely custom Ford F-450 Lariat trucks with 11-foot reading service bodies with custom aluminum pipe racks and storage boxes. They are larger and more well equipped so we can better serve our customers.

Q: What is your staff as of today?

MIKE: We have myself, my father, Bubba, three plumbers and our secretary is my aunt, Lori Stone. Lori has been with us for 43 years. She is the cheery voice on the telephone. Our plumbers work under my license, but they are all working toward getting their own licenses. We encourage them and pay for them to have their own licenses.

If someone is going to be in the trade they owe it to themselves and the customer to be highly trained.

Q. You offer drain cleaning. When did you include that service?

MIKE: We’ve done it from the beginning. If you are a plumber you are in the drain cleaning business. Every plumber I know has always carried a drain machine. We have three, and also a trailer hydro jetter. In Florida we have problems with cast iron corroding, and the hydro jetter allows you to descale that iron and then drag it outside the house, and clean the line completely. We can do 2- to 10-inch lines.

If that is not enough, we have a pipe bursting machine and we can pipe burst the sewer lines or lines under the house.

Q: When did you begin using pipe bursting, and what product?

MIKE: We started that in 2015 and use Tric Tools equipment.

Q: Is it difficult to offer a flat rate for pipe bursting?

MIKE: When we are planning a pipe bursting job, either Bubba or I will go out and look at the job. We take into account footage, access, how much concrete needs to be cut, and other aspects. We have a method to help us give the customer a firm rate. We complete the job regardless of what we find, as long as it is not extremely out of the ordinary. We do 4-inch pipe with our pipe bursting.

Q: What kinds of jobs are you most interested in, and what would you avoid?

MIKE: We do very little commercial business. We also do not provide service to condominiums in our area because parking is limited and many of these buildings can be 10 stories, and there are difficulties in getting access.

We will service town homes, which are generally two to three units, with access and parking much more accommodating. We also, of course, do all residential homes.

Q: What are the major challenges you face as CEO of Wimpy’s?

MIKE: Biggest challenge is that customers still want Bubba to come take care of their problem. He is still working here, but we are trying to let him take a back seat. They have known Bubba for 20 years.

On a personal level, I feel a huge responsibility. Everyone’s well-being depends on me. I have come to realize that “I will not fail.”

Q. What are your goals?

MIKE: I’d like to have 10 to 12 trucks, and more plumbers. We are always looking at new technology, attending trade shows. Our goal is to serve the customer with all their needs.

Personally, I love being a hero. Every call I go out on, I get to be a hero to somebody. Every call is different and I love figuring it out and solving it for the customer.



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