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History of William J. Ciriello Plumbing Inc.
After serving in the navy during WWII and working as a plumber for a number of years, William J. Ciriello, started his namesake company in 1952.
“He borrowed $200 to get started,” says his granddaughter Laura Ciriello-Benedict, “and within the month he completely paid back the loan.”
With the post-war housing boom well under way, Ciriello figured that rather than going after the construction market, he’d focus on service work.
“And we've been primarily service since the get-go,” Laura adds.
Eventually, William J. Ciriello Jr. joined the company, working as usual in a family plumbing business doing odd jobs as a youngster. By 1980, he’d bought the business from his father.
“My dad is that incredibly rare combination of a brilliant technician and a brilliant businessman,” Laura says. “Those two things don't typically go together, but he really has a very methodical mind and a real knack for business.”
While we’ve already heard a bit of Laura’s story in our opening paragraphs of the main feature, no one will be surprised that she and her younger sister, like their dad, answered phones and washed trucks while they were in grade school.
Laura eventually graduated from Indiana University in 1996 with a degree in business management and human resources and had that fateful lunch with her dad.
“I've always been proud of the family business,” she says. “I mean, how could I not? It's been an exceptional cornerstone on the South Side of Indianapolis for almost 70 years. But whether or not I thought I could do it, I had to get in there and try, and I ended up loving it.”
Laura eventually called the place her own following a buyout from her dad completed 10 years ago.
The overall company remains committed to service and repair, which has afforded the Ciriello Plumbing disciplined growth overthe decades for its 17 employees.
“All businesses need to be bottom line driven,” Laura explains. “But I think so many business owners get hung up on the top line of sales. To me, the bottom line is the only line that matters. We’ve never wanted sacrifice that for growth. So it's been a slow, steady climb on purpose.”
Like her father, Laura is heavily involved in PHCC activities, and most recently became a Zone 3 director for the PHCC – National Association.
By the way, grandfather William is currently 91 and nurtured his interest in antique cars when left the business in the hands of his sn, William Jr., who is now 68.
“I think he actually played more golf back when he was working than he does now that he’s retired,” Laura adds. “He says it's not as much fun when you get to play golf anytime you want. When you feel like you're not supposed to, that's when it's fun.”
The company was putting the finishing touches on updated office space in another part of its Beech Grove, Indiana, facility when the first news of the pandemic hit.
And a good thing, too. Hand sanitizer. Gloves. Face shields. Other PPE. All were in short supply at the time, but at least the new space literally helped physically separate office staff during the early days when just exactly how COVID-19 spread was anyone’s guess.
In addition, the company typically had the techs park their trucks at the shop at the end of the day. That also changed since the company purposefully continued to isolate workers from one another as well as the office staff. Techs could be easily routed to calls from home with trips to the shop made only to stock the trucks.
“So many hard business decisions had to be made,” Laura explains. “I still remember getting that first phone call from a customer who said she was recovering from COVID, but still needed service. We had to run through all these scenarios and change protocols for everything and everyone. In many cases, our techs may have been the first people allowed into a business or home.”
No amount of proper planning, however, could erase the business impact of the pandemic.
“April and May were certainly eye-opening,” Laura adds. “Our business didn’t stop, but, of course, we certainly weren’t as busy as were used to being.”
Then and there, Laura decided to focus on a company trademark.
“We decided we were going seize this opportunity to do what we do best and focus on training,” she explains. “To make ourselves more efficient, better tooled and better trained. So we made a concerted effort to give hours to our techs when they weren’t in the field and pay them for that extra time in the classroom. That would help keep families fed and everyone safe in the short-run, and benefit all of us in the long-run.”
While commercial work in such places as restaurants has continued to suffer on account of public health shutdowns, Laura says she’s never seen such a high demand for changing commercial plumbing to electronic, touchless styles.
“We are changing faucets, bottle fillers, paper towel dispensers all over the place,” Laura adds. “We’ve always done that work, but never on this scale. We’ve had commercial customers tell us to just change everything to hands-free.”
As you can imagine, that’s kept Ciriello Plumbing crews very busy as of late.
Here, too, the training wasn’t just on hard-and-fast installation and service, but also soft skills.
“How do you effectively communicate with customers when you’re wearing a mask,” Laura says. “We did find content about this, such as tilting your head to one side to show empathy. Maybe, exaggerate your eyes so that people can tell you’re smiling.
Above all, Laura advises an optimistic mindset for these times.
“It’s natural to be upset and afraid,” she explains, “but you also have to show everyone that this is going to be OK, that we are going to make it, and this how we are going to do just that. Every piece of information that I could get that I thought would be helpful, I would share. That’s all can do right now.”
Indiana PHCC Names All Its Contractors "Contractor of the Year"
With the year all of us have had, we doubt any PHCPPro would disagree with a proclamation issued recently by the Indiana PHCC that named all Indiana PHCC contractors as its Contractor of the Year for 2020.
Normally, the trade group honors one company through a nomination process. However, this year the decision was made to acknowledge the contributions of the entire mechanical contracting industry during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Officially, the proclamation reads:
WHEREAS, Indiana PHCC names a Contractor of the Year annually; and
WHEREAS, that Contractor is singled out for significant contributions to the plumbing, heating, air conditioning and/or mechanical contracting industries in Indiana and to the PHCC association and who has been an effective leader; and
WHEREAS, the year 2020 has brought on unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS, the Indiana PHCC Contractors have had to endure trials and lead in new ways while keeping employees and clients safe; and
WHEREAS the Indiana PHCC Contractors continued to provide essential workers to the public and kept the economy growing;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Adam Meny, President of the Indiana PHCC, do hereby declare and express that Indiana PHCC Contractors are the best people with the best practices and proclaim that ALL Indiana PHCC Contractors are named the 2020 Indiana PHCC Contractor of the Year.
This article is a part of our 2021 National Skilled Trades Day compilation