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Neptune Plumbing aims “to be the standard by which all respectable plumbing contractors are measured.” This is not a stance they take lightly and means more than “text engraved on a dusty plaque hanging in the owner’s office.” Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Neptune is a full-service plumbing shop that staffs highly trained plumbing technicians and provides a plethora of services including pipe and fixture installation, drain cleaning, water heater installation and repair, sewer repair, backflow services and 24/7 emergency service for customers across the entire Northeast Ohio region.
In 1957, Sanford and Corrine Wallenstein started Neptune Plumbing out of their basement, providing mostly residential services. When Sanford retired in 1986, his son Scott decided to take the company in a commercial direction. He worked on growing a more efficient and sound operation; one that would also allow him to carry on a “normal life” outside of the business.
About six years ago, with the turn of the economy, Neptune Plumbing went from 110 employees to 30 employees in the matter of 100 days. This is when Scott’s sons Adam and Michael, who were recently named co-presidents of Neptune Plumbing, stepped up to the plate to help the company with a start-up idea that would help prevent the company from going under like so many others did during this time.
“It was basically the savior of our company,” Scott said. “We were able to take the idea and business plan of the start-up to the banks. It went from the ground up. Currently, it generates around $3.5 million and employs 12 dedicated service technicians.”
“The idea was to take the existing customer base on the new construction side and use it to build a strong service division. We started with just one tech. As we grew, we also expanded our offerings and began to include drain cleaning. This has become a big part of our service division,” Adam said.
Branded as 1-800-Plumbing, Neptune’s service division provides customers with 24-hour emergency service and has been crucial to Neptune’s success.
Neptune Plumbing is unique in that it is a construction company that is focused on commercial, industrial and institutional new installs, while also offering 24/7 service. This diversification allows Neptune to take on a variety of projects.
“We handle everything from a small service call to building a high-rise ground up,” Michael said.
Neptune also specializes in prefabrication; a technique where components of their plumbing jobs are assembled in-house. Those prefabbed pieces then ship out to the job sites ready to be installed, decreasing waste and on-site manpower. Their work has been recognized by local organizations as an effective example of prefabrication. “We’re pretty proud of our prefab shop. Actually, a couple of years ago we co-hosted MCAA’s Prefab Seminar here in Cleveland,” Scott commented.
Some of Neptune’s projects include work with national chain restaurants and downtown Cleveland tenants.
“Our service company has now taken over maintenance for a lot of the downtown office buildings. We are the preferred contractors, so we do a lot of tenant build-out work that we weren’t doing before,” Scott said.
Neptune has also been a major player in the revitalization of Cleveland. One interesting project they are currently working on involves a 21-story apartment building, which is one of the first residential high-rise buildings to come out of the ground in Cleveland in the last 40 years. They also were recently involved with the first grocery store in downtown Cleveland.
“We’re all from Cleveland, born and bred here, so the city is very important to us. We’ve seen it at both ends of the spectrum. It’s great to see the revitalization and be a part of the process,” Adam said.
Michael added, “There’s more development happening now than since before Adam and I were born.”
Needless to say, Neptune Plumbing is an active participant of the Cleveland community. The entire executive team is a part of numerous associations and committees. Scott serves as chairman of the Cleveland Plumbing Industry. He’s also on the Plumbing Contractors of America Board and the Mechanical Contractors Association of America Education Committee. Adam is the chairman of Marketing Fund of the Cleveland Plumbing Industry and also serves on the Marketing Committee for the Mechanical Service Contractors of America. Michael serves on the board of Building Owners and Managers Association Greater Cleveland and the U.S. Green Building Council of Northeast Ohio. Michael is also involved in the Cleveland 2030 District and serves on the board of the Young Leadership division of the Jewish Federation in Cleveland.
In addition to their community involvement, Neptune Plumbing also has a strong relationship with their union, which helps them in locating the right talent.
“We have a great working relationship with Local 55. They do an outstanding job educating the new plumbers through their apprenticeship program,” Scott said.
Advice for other contractors
Neptune Plumbing has made its mark as a do-all entity responsible for restoration and growth. They believe that some of the factors of their success as a contractor are diversification and finding a good groove.
“Diversify and find your sweet spot,” Scott said. “We thought that during the downturn of the economy we were diversified, but it turns out we weren’t diversified enough.”
Scott also emphasizes the importance of job-costing. “It’s very important. We have quite a few strategic business units within the company, and we job-cost every single one of them on a monthly basis,” he said.
Adam continued, “This helps us figure out where our sweet spot is and where we’re doing well and not doing well. It also lets us know what markets we should be pushing or getting out of.”
Embracing unknowns and opportunities that lie ahead
Neptune believes that their biggest opportunity on their new construction side is the continued growth in prefabrication. Reiterating this as a key factor in their success, Scott said, “Our prefabrication has been huge. We have taken some of the jobs we’ve been involved with, like for example, the county headquarters building downtown, where we were able to fast-track schedules, and were able to reduce manpower on the job by over 50 percent.”
The team is hopeful about the future of technology impacting their business. “One of our core values is ‘We embrace change,’ and that has to do with not only our processes and procedures, but how we adopt new software and technology and tools in the field that will help us run our business and our jobs more efficiently,” Adam said.
Scott concluded, “It’s a very different industry from when I started. It’s not solely about plumbing anymore. It’s now about information and technology along with plumbing. We’ve been able to grow and maintain a competition advantage because of embracing that information and technology.”