Ohio Plumber Finds Natural Growth in Drain Cleaning

Plumber moves into drain cleaning and leak locating services as a way to grow customer base
Ohio Plumber Finds Natural Growth in Drain Cleaning
The staff of Emergency Mr. Plumber. Front, from left, Diane Brackett, Ted Curtis and Tammy Owens, in front of their fire engine vehicle that they use on the job in Toledo, Ohio. Their employees on the truck are, from left, Rich Chadwell, Dean Bumpus, Martin Saazar and George Buder III. (Photography by Amy Voigt)

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When Ted Curtis and his sister, Tammy Owens, started Emergency Mr. Plumber in 1990, the company’s primary focus was plumbing. After 10 years, the pair decided it was time to add to the company’s menu of service.

Emergency Mr. Plumber, based in Toledo, Ohio, added several new services, including pipeline inspection, drain cleaning and locating. “We got calls for these kinds of services and we wanted to keep up with the competition,” says Ted Curtis.

Now, the company operates with a crew of five serving northwest Ohio and eastern parts of Michigan.

Q: Why did you decide to include some of the additional services like sewer and drain cleaning and locating to your menu?

TED: The reason was to keep up with other companies, and to add to our revenue. We saw these services as a money-maker. Drain cleaning is not that intense of a process and most anyone can become a drain cleaner with minimal involvement. We thought we could offer something that involved more substance. We also got into directional drilling and excavating.

Q: Had your customers been asking for these services?

TED: We got calls for these kinds of services and we wanted to keep up with the competition. If you don’t you will get left behind. That is how the industry goes these days. One company sees another company doing something that is working and next thing you know others will follow.

Q: How did you happen to move into directional drilling?

TED: This kind of fell into my lap. We were on a job and a fellow asked me if we were hiring plumbers. I said yes, and it turned out that he had been a directional drill operator. He was not happy where he was, so we hired him. After hiring him we ended up buying a directional drill. This allows us to offer more services as we can now put in water, gas and electrical lines by going under lawns and driveways, and not disturb landscaping. We recognized the benefits and it was kind of neat. Prior to this we would have had to hire a company to perform these services.

Q: Why was it important for your company to offer locating and leak detection?

TED: Locating equipment is important in finding the break underground so it can be repaired. These days a plumbing company needs to be so diversified in order to keep the doors open. You have to do a little bit of everything. Thirty years ago you could get by just being a plumber replacing faucets and cleaning sink drains, but to survive these days you have to diversify.

Q: What percentage of your business is in basic plumbing, as opposed to the other services?

TED: It is about 50-50. On any given day we might have three plumbing jobs, and three drain cleaning related projects.

Q: What service is the best money-maker for your company?  

TED: I think drain cleaning is the best. Here again, it shows how the industry has changed. It used to be a plumber did plumbing and a drain cleaner cleaned drains but did no plumbing. Now you have to do both to survive.

Q: In looking back over the years, what would you say was one of the smartest moves you made?

TED: Smartest thing we did was we hired Diane Brackett as our office lady 15 years after we opened. Ms. Brackett is always positive. You can call and talk to her, and she is our first responder and sets the example for us to go out in the field and do our job. She is positive and knowledgeable and answers questions. She is not a robotic call and this helps tremendously getting us into the door of the customer and fulfilling the needs of the customer. An employee like this is a huge benefit for a service provider in our industry.


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