Brothers Create a Company Culture That Helps Grow Business Quickly

Siblings pool diverse talents and build their pipeline rehab company into a major player in the Southwest

Brothers Create a Company Culture That Helps Grow Business Quickly

 Brothers Paul (left) and Eric Eaves teamed up to start NuFlow Phoenix in 2014, expanding to Tucson in 2020.

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Capitalizing on their individual, diverse skills, brothers Paul and Eric Eaves have created a company culture that has propelled them on a rapid growth trajectory. Focusing on specialty trenchless rehabilitation services has opened opportunities to work on some of the Phoenix, Arizona, metro area’s high profile commercial properties and industrial facilities.

The co-owners of NuFlow Services of Phoenix and Tucson turned a garage-based startup into a multilocation enterprise and one of the region’s highly desirable employers.  

A winding path

Paul Eaves began his post-college career in the field of molecular biology, but it wasn’t long before he realized that he wanted to pursue more labor-intensive work. He had previously teamed up in business ventures with his brother Eric, such as a landscaping business in the early 2000s. Missing those physical jobs, he approached Steve Mori, founder of American Pipe Lining and developer of a potable epoxy barrier coating that had recently been acquired by NuFlow. Mori offered him a position at the company, starting out as a helper and technician, allowing him to work his way up to foreman and eventually training other licensees in Europe and the United States.

In 2011, Paul went to Washington, D.C., to start a NuFlow contractor company and remained there until the end of 2014. Because of his prior positive experience working in tandem with his brother, Eric approached the executive team at NuFlow and expressed his desire to become a Certified Contractor and open an operation in Arizona with his brother.

Paul and Eric were granted the license and Paul quickly packed up his family to move to Phoenix to begin the new venture. “I remember packing my little three-year-old daughter and my wife, who was at the time approximately six months pregnant, and our dog into our little Scion XB which was pulling the trailer with all our possessions that probably weighed as much as the Scion itself. We arrived just before Thanksgiving 2014 and my sister was kind enough to open her home to us to help keep our costs down since we knew our new venture wouldn’t be making money right away,” Paul says.

At the start, the new business operated out of Eric’s garage with one Dodge Sprinter van, which was painted yellow and affectionately named Big Bird. Eric continued working his existing job as a schoolteacher for the first few years of operations, while Paul performed sales calls, conducted lunch-and-learns and got the word out in the community.

At the beginning they had to use the local library, reserving a study room every day of the week to have meetings and work on proposals. “If I had an appointment or proposal to write, I would just tell the customer ‘I’m going to the office to write it up’ and then I would look for the closest library and get a quiet room to complete the work,” Paul recalls.

Some days Paul and Eric would work together in shifts with Eric coming to help Paul install liners and then return to work leaving Paul to finish up, change clothes in the van and make cold calls. They aggressively went after the business of the top 50 companies in Arizona in property management, construction and engineering. They also participated in local trade shows, attending everything from home and garden shows to property management specialty conferences.

Because of their dedicated efforts, within one year the brothers acquired several large opportunities and projects that allowed them to hire additional staff. In January 2016 they were able to move out of Eric’s garage and into a single unit office-warehouse that they occupied for one year. Business began to grow quickly and in 2017 they expanded into the adjoining unit, hired additional personnel and had two service crews. 2018 was another big growth year for the firm and in 2019, they were able to move out of the side-by-side units and into a larger office building with an enclosed fenced yard. By this time, they had grown to four crews.

In 2020 the firm expanded yet again and opened NuFlow Tucson. Paul had been marketing in the Tucson area since the inception of NuFlow Phoenix and felt that there was enough traction and work now coming in from the region to justify having a more permanent location with a dedicated crew, sales team, office personnel and service equipment fleet. As of this writing, the company is scaling up to a third crew in Tucson, in addition to the six crews in Phoenix. In 2021 they purchased a building of their own and now employ just over 60 employees — a big jump from two people in a garage six years ago.

Starting to specialize

NuFlow Phoenix and Tucson offers a wide range of services and at the beginning of their business life, would take general plumbing and jetting work to generate cash flow and get their foot in the door with some customers. “In 2015 we purchased a tow-behind jetter, and this helped to fill in gaps when work wasn’t consistent. But we knew our real bread-and-butter profit center was going to be trenchless pipe relining,” Eric says.

This willingness to take on a variety of projects was a smart move as it attracted the attention of commercial and industrial properties that needed the services of a contractor like NuFlow that had the range of equipment, crews and expertise that smaller independent one-man shops can’t always provide. Profits during the firm’s first few years were driven primarily by residential work, but this has now shifted to 60% commercial-industrial or multi-unit residential property work and 40% single-family residential.

NuFlow Phoenix and Tucson boasts an impressive high-profile list of clients that include property management firms such as CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield, school districts like Yuma and Chandler, and the City of Tempe. Because of their expertise, repeat customers and exceptional reputation for quality and problem solving, they have also been tapped by some of the region’s prominent medical facilities, manufacturers and industrial plants. The technologies and tools that they have chosen to use from NuFlow, Neofit (Flow-Liner Systems) and RIDGID allows the crews to perform needed rehabilitation without disruption to a facility’s operations or production.

Case in point was when a food manufacturer had noticed the consistent lack of fluid flow in their system where the pipe level was a foot below the foundation. They recognized that the line was holding water in the clean-out standpipes just below the floor. The main drain was 8 feet below grade and the meter that indicated how much water the facility was discharging into the sewer system showed there was a discrepancy of thousands of gallons in the amount of water they were taking in from production versus the water they were sending out to the sewer system. The water was ending up somewhere it shouldn’t.

NuFlow was able to come in and pinpoint areas where there were total pipe failures and sections that had experienced severe deterioration. Initially rehabilitation work was scheduled to take place during a short routine shutdown, but after the assessment, the condition of the 6-inch cast iron line that was failing would require more time to be fully rehabilitated. “The entire system was falling apart all over the place, so we quickly had to come up with a plan that would allow us to extend the deadline but at the same time not disrupt the production floor,” Paul says.

Instead of a long run, which would have been simpler for the team, the repair needed to be completed using extremely controlled small runs and the installation of clean-outs at numerous locations. This new plan allowed them to plug specific lines, set bypasses to other drains and maintain the flow needed by the factory as it was moving hundreds of gallons of liquid. The failing lines were causing the factory’s cooling tunnels to drop around 3,000 gallons when it would go through its cycle creating almost a lakelike effect with everything on the cooling tile floor. The rehabilitation resolved the issues and restored the plant to optimum performance conditions.

As a result of successfully resolving the issue and keeping plant running while it was taking place, NuFlow Phoenix and Tucson became the go-to pipeline contractor for the manufacturer.

The right stuff

Being able to take on these types of challenging projects and high-profile clients is not by chance. The Eaves brothers have created a smoothly running workplace with three key things: providing a safe environment, proper compensation and culture. Because of this they can recruit, promote and retain highly skilled talent.

“We do our very best to keep our guys safe on the job, keeping them hydrated in our desert climate, making sure that they are properly trained on how to use equipment correctly and safely — but also feel safe that they are in a healthy working environment as far as emotional and mental stress because our industry can be stressful at times. We are really focused on having a good mojo and bringing on the right people that have the right personality, are respectful and professional in their language. Even though we work with sewers we don’t talk like we do,” Eric says.

Providing jobs that also challenge and stimulate their team is key so that crew members can stretch their skill sets and know that they have a chance to grow within the organization. Along with opportunity, they compensate their staff well to enable them to provide comfortably for their families and enjoy life in their time off as well as providing a 401(k) retirement fund and 100% payment of health care benefits.

Community recognition

In 2018 NuFlow Phoenix was honored with the Maricopa County Small Business Administration Excellence Award against a highly competitive field of other noteworthy small businesses. The Eaves credit this recognition and the success that they’ve had to their tenacity and willingness to sacrifice. Even when some larger agencies considered them too small to be awarded their projects, Paul and Eric kept moving forward knowing that someday they would be called back as experts to solve issues for organizations such as the Palo Verde Water Reclamation Plant.

“Whatever the business needed we did it,” Paul says. “One of our models that we follow is to always do what is best for the business; this has been a guiding star for us when we have to make a tough decision.” Their families have needed to make sacrifices, especially during early years, but all the hard work and the long hours are paying off as the company has grown profitable so rapidly that the brothers now can take time off more often and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Paul and Eric also share that they have a great office team that they consider the heart and soul of the business. Jokingly they’ve told these three individuals that they’re not allowed to ever quit and if they do, they need to give the brothers a heads up so they can plan on selling the business. “We have been super blessed to find awesome employees as well as having an amazing project management team in place that communicates well and is creative and generates positive energy throughout the entire organization,” Eric says.

“The lifeblood of our business comes from our sales team,” Paul adds. “We have three salespeople in Phoenix and two in Tucson, who work tirelessly in the heat and cold and all hours day or night. They are the first boots on the ground and generally the last to talk to the customer. We would not be as successful as we are without them.”

With its strong work ethic, business model and workplace culture, NuFlow Phoenix and Tucson is poised for continuing growth and taking on more challenging projects in the region. World-class customer service is the foundation for all of this. The company isn’t always the lowest bid, but they always make a point of giving options to assist a client in making good, educated decisions for the project even if they aren’t hired as the contractor. By doing this, customers get to know them and see their integrity, which brings them work time and time again. 


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