Technology innovations and changes come with the territory in this industry, especially when you’ve been in business as long as Peerless Plumbing. After 28 years, owner Randy Rushing credits his success to hard work and an awareness of market fluctuations.
“We switched over to specialty contracting when the market collapsed,” says Rushing. “It turned out to be a boom for us.”
Peerless has always leased a warehouse and office with locations in three regions surrounding Phoenix, but the company is combining the sites into one location and recently broke ground on a new 2,700-square-foot warehouse and office. The main Phoenix location now includes the owner’s home and business.
“Looking at the economy, we didn’t know what was going to happen, so we purchased a 2-acre lot with a nice home on it,” says Rushing. “It had a big basketball court at the back, which is being constructed into the warehouse and office. The savings from moving from a bigger house to a medium house just about paid for the property.”
Peerless serves all 13 cities that encompass Phoenix, and they’ve done lining jobs as far as 150 miles north in Flagstaff and 120 miles south in Tucson.
Continuing to serve the large region involves protecting vehicles and equipment from the harsh southwestern climate, which was also a driving force behind building the large warehouse. It can be damaging for the seven Ford, Chevy and Toyota service vehicles to park outside in the dust, heat and constant sun. “We want to keep our equipment looking good,” says Rushing. With equipment on hand for a variety of services, keeping it looking its best is important.
Peerless started out as a copper repiping and plumbing company, but now offers drain cleaning and inspection, hydrojetting, leak detection and pipe restoration.
While repiping is still the company’s main moneymaker, Rushing attributes his decades of success to the Peerless trademark one-stop services offering. They do drywall repair and repatch interior walls so there are no holes in walls or floors when they’re done with a job. That is one of the many reasons they’re able to generate business through repeat customers and word-of-mouth advertising.
For hydrojetting and cleaning sanitary sewer lines, the company uses an 83 hp turbo diesel Spartan Tool SideWinder. Jetting and cleaning jobs are primarily commercial, and include prisons, nursing homes and hospitals. A range of snakes and rooter machines from Spartan and General Pipe Cleaners fill the need for cleaning small-, medium- and large-diameter drains.
Each of the nine employees carries a camera inspection unit from Spartan, Pearpoint or RIDGID on their vehicle. They like the variety of cameras because each offers different functions. Rushing says crew members like the keyboard and recording options on the RIDGID cameras, and they use the heavy-duty Pearpoint units for long, 300- to 400-foot lines. Technicians use the Spartan cameras in the sunlight because they offer daylight-readable screens.
Rushing keeps a Spartan PROVision 2.0 as a backup in the warehouse. “I want everyone to have the best tools in their hands,” he says. “It’s safer that way than using crummy equipment.”
Branching into other sectors was not an easy decision for the Peerless team. “When the market was starting to go down, I was searching for alternate revenue sources,” says Rushing. An opportunity presented itself in the form of pipe lining and rehabilitation with products from Nu Flow Technologies.
Peerless is the only certified Nu Flow provider in the Phoenix area, and the Nu Flow professionals trained each of the field technicians. “I sent several employees to the Nu Flow training center,” says Rushing. “Then I had Nu Flow technicians come out to monitor and show employees tricks of the trade.”
With a current division of 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial work, Rushing says pipe lining is quickly increasing the commercial side of his business. “I used to work for homeowners or building managers, now most of my business is for other plumbers,” he says. “They haven’t invested in the new technology and don’t want to so we’re doing pipe restoration and lining for them.”
Lining jobs for nursing facilities, government buildings and large plumbing corporations are becoming the norm.
Rushing attributes this shift to the specialty trades. Industry professionals have to make a bigger investment in training over the years than in the original license and equipment, he says. And that’s something not all plumbing and drain cleaning companies want to or can afford to do.
“Most plumbers don’t talk to other plumbers unless they work for the same company,” says Rushing. “Around here, I’m starting to become the ambassador among medium to larger plumbers because they don’t want to get involved in that business.”
Making an impression
As a one-stop shop for consumers, Peerless has been able to maintain a steady business and also grow through the economy. “We’ve been going along, not making waves,” says Rushing. “We’re lucky to keep the same people.”
Relationships developed across generations have been the reason for much of the company’s growth. “I did the grandparents’ home, I did the son’s home, and now I’m working on the grandchildren’s home,” says Rushing. “Our 9,000 repiping jobs have carried us through bad times.”
Word-of-mouth promotion and a website for each division of the business also draw customers. Rushing says they have just about given up on Yellow Pages advertising. “We’ve survived and kept on growing with our resume of jobs and websites,” he says.
Building the business does not stop with generating new customers. Rushing stresses the importance of building relationships with others in the industry.
“If I see a plumbing truck or somebody at a gas station I usually stop and say ‘hi.’ I introduce myself and hand out a business card,” he says, adding that he might end up spending a dollar on a coffee during the visit, but it’s all worth it.
He likes the old-fashioned way of making friends, some of which turn into business connections and result in jobs. “Seventy-nine cents to make a friend is the cheapest investment you’ll ever make,” he says.
Friendliness and family ties run deep at Peerless. General manager Christian Rushing has worked for his dad since he was 12 years old. At age 30, he is being groomed to take his dad’s place within the next five years when Randy retires.
Randy has instilled one vital piece of advice onto Christian and all the technicians before sending them out into the field: “Make sure customers think they’re getting more than they’re paying for.”
As most companies learn sooner rather than later, happy customers are repeat customers. “I want them to know what’s available on the market,” says Rushing. “If somebody else or another product would be better suited, I’d rather walk away from the job. I want happy people – especially me.”
DOCUMENTATION GUARANTEES QUALITY SERVICE
As owner of Peerless Plumbing, Randy Rushing ensures that customers receive the highest quality service, so he takes any guesswork out of the equation for technicians.
“I carry two cameras with me all the time,” he says. “When I go into a customer’s home for the first time, I use photos to document the floors and walls.” Rushing keeps the images on file and provides copies to the technician assigned to the job.
“If there’s a particular detail, like a Roman tub made out of Italian tile that the homeowner doesn’t want broken, I take photos, make notes and attach them to the job report,” says Rushing. This allows him to share the concerns of the homeowner with the technician, so he doesn’t have to be on site when the technician arrives, sometimes at six in the morning.
Rushing uses the second camera to photograph the front of the house or building. He also attaches those to the work order so the technician can easily find the location in the morning when it’s dark.
Each service vehicle includes a digital camera so technicians can make quick documentation while they’re out on a job. Most of the crew members also have smartphones now. “If something is not right when a guy gets to a job site, he’ll photograph it and shoot it to me,” says Rushing. “Then I can come over right away.”