Many businesses are still feeling the hit from the recession, but Sleuth Plumbing Technologies in Sarasota, Fla., is charging forward. We featured the company in 2008 and now we’re catching up to see where the road has taken them.
“When you did the story on us, lining was probably 25 percent of our business, and it’s grown,” says co-owner Justin Mizell. “That’s the part that’s been the big push. We’ve done some high-profile clients like the Kennedy Space Center. We’ve expanded our comfort zone on projects.”
The company has grown from 25 to 40 employees, and it now does 70 percent lining work and 30 percent locating. The underground leak locating and lining company also opened a new location in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last year and their Naples division has doubled.
“We’ve been able to create a large company with a small company mentality,” says Mizell.
Learning how to connect with organizations, such as condominium associations, has grown the company’s lining side. They recently had a 16-month lining contract with the Pelican Cove condominium complex that put their skills to the test.
Mizell credits the industry for the increase in customers’ lining knowledge. “I think lining is mainstream now and most people know about it,” he says. “The manufacturers have got a better name out there. Their websites are more explanatory as far as explaining the product.”
Sleuth continues weekly safety meetings and adds additional training as necessary. “With getting into the bigger projects, we’ve had to expand our OSHA training,” says Mizell.
The company can also boast just three turnovers since 2008. “We’ve been able to keep benefits,” says Mizell. “Through the down economy, I haven’t pulled any benefits from any of my employees. They’ve got the same health care, the same 401(k), the same profit sharing.”
Sleuth has kept a lot of the same principles over the years, just grew them to suit a larger team. “My partner [Jerry Mixon] and I have the same mentality,” says Mizell. “It’s not all about us. Both Jerry and myself are about customer service and employee service. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t have your customer service be more important than your employee service. And vice versa.”
With more lining jobs in the market and the Internet easily accessible for customers, the company has had to ramp up its sales team to get the Sleuth name noticed. “We’ve really expanded with our sales force and our marketing,” says Mizell. They do more social media and online marketing. They also set up booths at trade shows for various industries including insurance, hospitals and nursing homes.
The company still subcontracts hydroexcavating, directional boring and GPR work. “Instead of going out and buying all the equipment, we’ve been able to go out and help support other businesses,” says Mizell. “It makes you feel good because you’re watching other business succeed.”
Through its growth and evolution, Sleuth has shown it has sound principles when it comes to expanding a business and keeping employees and customers happy. As Mizell says, “When you put your right foot forward, and have the right values and the right thought pattern, how can it go wrong?”
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