Expert Plumbing Skills and 24/7 Emergency Service Create Customers for Life

Pro Service Plumbing builds a large customer base with highly trained technicians and the newest technology

Expert Plumbing Skills and 24/7 Emergency Service Create Customers for Life

 The Pro Service Plumbing team, based in Cleveland, Ohio, includes (from left) Joshua Belon, Tim Tepeck and owner Chris Sbrocco, who started the company in 2010. 

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A name like Pro Service Plumbing sets a high bar for customer expectations and service. 

But master plumber Chris Sbrocco meets that challenge every day with well-trained employees and investments in new technology that help the Cleveland-based company do jobs right the first time — even under dire conditions.

Take the emergency call he received from the owner of a popular Cleveland restaurant in fall of 2017. The eatery was jammed with customers amped up about a playoff game between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees when a clogged mainline sent sewage spilling up through floor drains in the kitchen and two bathrooms.

“The owner was preparing to shut down the restaurant when I got the call,” recalls Sbrocco, 36, who established his company in 2010. “The place was really jamming — it was a worst-case scenario.”

When Sbrocco arrived, he quickly shut off the building’s waterline while harried employees used shop vacs in a vain attempt to keep up with the overflowing sewage. To make things even more interesting, the clean-out in the older building was in the middle of the crowded dining room.

He unloaded a RIDGID K-6200 drum cable machine from his truck and went to work.

“I was surrounded by people; it was pretty chaotic and crazy,” he says. “But I got the line open in 15 to 20 minutes. Luckily it wasn’t a bad clog. The owner and manager were very grateful — I guess you could say we saved the day.”

Plumbers and drain cleaners must always be capable of providing for customer 24/7, regardless of the situation, Sbrocco says.

All in the family

The chance to be a local hero — and earn good money, too — were among several reasons why Sbrocco decided to be a plumber. The seeds for his career were planted after he graduated from high school in 2003 and started working for his uncle, John Sbrocco, who owned JR Sbrocco Plumbing.

“I saw how people respected my uncle and how important he was on job sites,” Sbrocco says.  “He was a well-respected professional. And the fact that he had a huge house and Corvettes and other sports car was enticing, too.”

Sbrocco worked for his uncle for 10 years. He started his own company while still working for him, doing side jobs as time allowed and slowly building a customer base through word-of-mouth referrals.

“At that point, I knew I was a capable plumber and wanted to own my own company,” he says.

Sbrocco started out as the sole employee and now employs five technicians. The company primarily does plumbing for new construction and remodeling project, plus drain cleaning.

Along the way, he also built up a small but reliable roster of equipment, including two Spartan Tool 300 cable drain machines; two Spartan 100 cable machines; one KJ-1760 mini jetter and a K9-306 FlexShaft cable machine, both from RIDGID; and a SeeSnake rM200B inspection camera with a CS6X color monitor and a SeekTech SR-24 pipeline locator, all manufactured by RIDGID.

Two Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans and two Ford Econoline vans, featuring shelving-and-storage systems made by American Van (a Safe Fleet brand) and Ranger Design, round out the fleet of equipment.

Full-service shop

Sbrocco says owning the proper equipment to service customers is a big reason why the company has created a large customer base.

“Obviously we all love using the latest and greatest tools and equipment,” he says. “But at the same time, you do customers a service by staying up to date on new technology that can provide solutions that save them money because you can do jobs faster and not create more work.

“We pride ourselves in determining the issue and providing a custom solution — with no callbacks.”

While many plumbers prefer to avoid drain cleaning, Sbrocco has always embraced it. To him, it’s yet another way of being a one-stop, full-service provider for customers.

“Doing drain cleaning provides opportunities to gain other customers for the plumbing side of the business,” he explains. “One feeds the other.

“The ability to provide 24/7 emergency service, say, during a holiday, creates customers for life. They never forget the situation they were in — and who came out to fix the problem.”

Doing quality work also helped establish solid business relationships with new-construction contractors that foster repeat business.

“The contractors I work with are pretty loyal to me because of the quality of our work, plus our good communication and how we present ourselves,” he says. “Our guys are clean-cut and arrive on job sites in professional-looking vehicles, with clean tools. We take a lot of pride in what we do.”

Innovative expansion

It’s not unusual for plumbers and drain cleaners to want to expand into complementary services that generate more revenue streams and boost their one-stop-shop appeal. But lack of financial resources required for expensive capital purchases often poses an obstacle.

That was the case with Sbrocco, who wanted to capitalize on a push by local officials to get homeowners to abandon septic tanks when new sewer lines are installed, then connect the homes to the sewer lines.

“We did several septic system abandonments, but my team is more geared toward residential plumbing for new construction, so we’d end up subbing out the sewer work,” he explains. “We just didn’t have enough manpower and [excavation] equipment to do it ourselves.”

Rather than leave money on the table by sending the work to subcontractors, Sbrocco and two business partners — Jeremy Dotson and Daniel Austin — formed Earthworks Environmental of Ohio LLC in 2020.

Dotson owns a commercial construction company that does excavation work and wanted to get into sewer work. Sbrocco was getting leads for such projects from plumbing customers, but wasn’t equipped to do them.

“Trying to do everything in-house is hard to manage … so I became business partners with some of the best guys around,” he says. “That way my good technicians aren’t stuck on a dig job for a week.

“Instead, they’re using our equipment to diagnose situations and design plans for Earthworks to execute. We figure out custom solutions and Earthworks does the actual work. We do what we do well and they do what they do well.”

Powerful partnerships

The partnership offers customers a full range of services from excavation to sewer tie-ins — even restorative landscaping when needed. “When we walk away from a project, it’s finished and complete,” Sbrocco says.

Sometimes the new sewer lines are thousands of feet away from homes, but residents still are required to connect their homes to them. So Pro Service diagnoses the situation and designs plans that might include lift stations that pump sewage to the sewer line.

In the interest of full disclosure, Sbrocco says that when he recommends Earthworks to execute plans designed by his company, he tells customers that he’s a part owner.

Austin and Sbrocco also are business partners in a restoration business called Claim Professionals, which helps homeowners and businesses navigate insurance claims for things such as sewer backups. Sbrocco frequently encounters sewer backups, which leads to referrals for the company.

“Ultimately, all three businesses tie into each other,” he explains. “The work is out there. … We’re just starting a marketing campaign that includes door-to-door sales calls to let customers know what we’re capable of doing.”

Highly trained team

Looking ahead, Sbrocco says he’s less interested in exponential growth and more concerned about developing employees’ skills to the fullest. Generally speaking, new employees are good at either drain cleaning or new-installation plumbing, but rarely both.

As a result, he anticipates scaling up his business when he’s able to develop a fully trained team. He’d also like to add more quality employees, but as anyone in the industry knows, that’s easier said than done, especially with a shortage in skilled tradesmen.

“Growth will come as they gain experience,” he says. “The work definitely is out there, so the more guys we have, the better. But they have to be able to do anything and everything so we can keep providing value for customers.”



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