Sticking to Key Business Principles Drives Company’s Growth

Since gracing the cover of Cleaner magazine in 2008, Tennessee’s Pipe Wrench Plumbing has tripled in its number of staff and annual revenue

Sticking to Key Business Principles Drives Company’s Growth

Pipe Wrench Plumbing of Knoxville, Tennessee, was last featured in the magazine in January 2008.

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Tom Cambron, the owner of Pipe Wrench Plumbing, has a lot to celebrate. Last year, the Knoxville, Tennessee-based firm was voted one of the top 10 companies to work for in the Nexstar Network, a member-based organization that provides business networking and training opportunities. And this year, the company was named the best firm in Knoxville by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

It’s a sign that while Pipe Wrench Plumbing has grown considerably since it was featured in the January 2008 issue of Cleaner magazine — 16 employees and $1.8 million in annual revenue at that time to 51 employees and $5.7 million in annual revenue now — it hasn’t necessarily been because the company has changed its business practices drastically in the last decade. Rather, Pipe Wrench Plumbing has enjoyed continued success by sticking to many of the same principles that were highlighted in the January 2008 profile.

A significant part of Pipe Wrench Plumbing’s continued success has been repeat business. Cambron estimates that more than 60 percent of the company’s business falls into that category. He credits that to his approach to creating happy homeowners. From the initial phone call, Pipe Wrench staffers work to create that happy customer experience.

“We put a mirror at the phone to remind people to answer the phone with a smile,” Cambron says. “We send out a text message confirming the appointment and another one when the tech is en route. That text includes a picture of the technician, so the customer knows who is coming to their home.”

Pipe Wrench’s staff also thoroughly explains each step of what the customer can expect, whether the job is clearing a clogged drain or completely replacing a sewer line. After each job, Pipe Wrench makes what Cambron refers to as a “happy call,” to thank the customer for their business.

“We also touch base with our customers from time to time to see if they have other needs,” says Whitney Mitchell, Pipe Wrench’s general manager.

From the company’s start in 2001, an emphasis has been placed on continually looking for opportunities to add new service offerings and technology, and that practice continues today.

“We’re now offering HVAC services,” Cambron says.

High efficiency has been customers’ demand in that area.

“We’re installing a lot of tankless water heaters,” Cambron says. “We’re also offering Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats that the customers can control from their phones.”

Pipe Wrench is installing more LICO automatic water sensors.

“If your pipes burst, the sensor shuts the water off,” Cambron says. “We do a lot of them for the elderly. And we are moving emergency shut-off valves to where people can more easily get to them.”

Cambron, who’s been in the plumbing business for 33 years in total, says that he has never wavered from his exacting standards.

“We have a systematic operation,” he says. “We even require that our trucks are parked with the center of the wheel placed on the tip of the white line.”

The company continues to keep a precise weekly schedule, with daily staff meetings at 7:30 a.m.

Trucks are washed each Wednesday during the staff meeting.

“And I pay my employees to play games Monday as a team-building exercise,” Cambron says.

Tuesday’s meeting offers Nexstar training. Thursday is tech day. And each Friday is reserved for inventory control, so the trucks will be ready to rapidly — and efficiently — respond to calls.

Providing top-notch training also helps ensure that Pipe Wrench provides five-star service to match its Better Business Bureau rating.

“We really recommend Nexstar’s organization,” says Cambron. “Their phenomenal coaches support our staff training and help with everything from operations through marketing.”

Pipe Wrench even built its own training center to better bring techs up to speed on customer service methods and the latest technological innovations. Each plumber also has an iPad tablet for notes and instructions.

But it’s not just consistent training and precisely-parked trucks that keep Pipe Wrench’s staff sticking around, some with service of more than 12 years. Cambron supports his employees in other ways.

“Recently, one of our techs perished in a car crash,” Cambron says. “The family couldn’t afford the funeral, so we paid for it.”

He also took another step, buying  each employee a life insurance policy. That’s in addition to a full range of benefits for his people.

“We understand that you have to have happy employees to have a happy company,” Mitchell says.

Pipe Wrench’s philosophy is paying off: The firm has grown to annual gross revenue of $5.7 million and 29 trucks, most of that growth happening in the last four years, says Mitchell. In fact, Pipe Wrench’s revenues grew 84 percent in 2016, she says. And the firm added 12 new trucks to its fleet.

“We’re always weighing how we do business with the question, ‘Does it make it easier or harder to do business with us?’ We always take the path of making it easy for our customers,” Cambron says.

Pipe Wrench Plumbing proves it’s the top firm in Knoxville not just because of superior customer service and highly-trained, knowledgeable staff, but also from being a compassionate and caring business neighbor.

“We do quite a bit for elderly people,” Cambron says. “About two to three times a month, we’ll hear about an elderly woman, for example, who needs heat in her home but can’t pay for it, so we take care of it.” 


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