The “Punctual Plumber,” or Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, has made its timely mark across North America as an innovative franchise that supplies ambitious contractors and business owners seeking growth. The company is known for its skilled, fast service providers, as well as for its relationship with Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs’ host, who has been working with the franchise to provide more widespread promotion of the trades and benefits they provide.
One can find Ben Franklin in many neighborhoods across the U.S., but it’s important to remember that each location retains its individual commitment and leadership in its workforce and community.
The Benjamin Franklin Toledo branch, family-owned and operated, has been in business for 49 years. John Bebeau, president, has been leading the company for just over five years. He and current manager Tim Moccabee, as well as the rest of the management team are responsible for two other operating locations, including one in Dayton and the other in Cleveland. Together they offer residential services across the trades — plumbing, HVAC and electrical. All three make up more than 100 years of independent trades experience.
“Our primary goal is to exceed the expectations of our customers and to build the reputation of our trades,” Bebeau says. “We have a diverse group of plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians, dispatchers, customer service representatives and marketing specialists. Because of our scale, we have a lot of resources.”
Training and trade advocacy are simultaneous
The group is highly committed to ongoing training. On a daily basis, they train and review performance of employees as well as review customer feedback. Because employees make up such a large and wide range team, effective communication is crucial.
“We have a series of meetings where we review progress and discuss specific departmental goals. On a monthly basis we discuss amongst all employees our overall effectiveness as an organization,” Bebeau says.
Across all municipalities, employees are expected to achieve certification and the appropriate level of technical training. This includes local training as well as certifications through organizations such as PHCC.
“Our team members appreciate additional training and how to communicate effectively with customers, and I think that’s increasingly important for the trades. Our guys can spend thousands of hours of technical training over the course of their careers which compounds with thousands of hours of experience,” Bebeau says.
Benjamin Franklin is invested in embedding trade advocacy within its staff. The training that staff partakes in gives them that much more leverage in customer interaction.
“Many customers don’t realize how much training and experience the average plumber has, which means they don’t appreciate the level of expertise and the values our people bring,” Bebeau says. “So, we work with our team and help them develop their customer service skills to advocate for the trades in each individual home we service.”
A job for the books
A recent project that the team completed was restorative plumbing work for a historically-rich home built in the 1850s. It was a challenge for the team to get the home up to current codes and expectations.
“It was one of those jobs that lets you really get involved. You don’t understand how much it takes until you’re immersed in it. We ended up walking away from that job feeling a great sense of pride from our efforts and appreciating the delight of our customer,” says Bebeau.
This sort of unique challenge is one instance that adds to the colorful array of technical and hands-on training that plumbers and technicians experience.
Social media outreach
Benjamin Franklin Toledo is able to market itself as a trade powerhouse, which has only increased with the usage of social media. It's been able to understand that reaching homeowners and potential staff members through online platforms such as Facebook, is essential to long-term visibility of the trade industries that continue to experience widespread gaps.
“We believe it’s important to connect with our homeowners and clients, and social media has given us this outlet. Our social media focus includes anything from updates to our employees training to seasonal tune-ups we feel are essential for our customers who are approaching the colder months that are invariably hazardous on this part of the country. We also share trade-related vignettes on our social pages,” says Bebeau. “Most importantly, our social pages are our opportunity to connect on a one-on-one business to our followers and anyone who is trying to find more information about us.”
Advice and encouragement
The main ingredient to any company’s success seems to be its people, and this all depends on levels of engagement.
“Sometimes when a company is being successful, everything seems simple and works the way it should. When a company is challenged, the opposite is also true — where everything seems so excruciatingly difficult. One of the things that we remind ourselves in how to be really effective this year is that you have to engage all your teams — from your apprentice plumber all the way up to your most experienced journeyman to management,” says Bebeau. Competing in today’s business environment requires all hands on deck.
He adds, “If you have effective communication channels you can engage everyone and gain the benefit of having their comments and ideas. We all tend to think we have the best answers, but the research is pretty clear that the more you can engage your team, the more likely you will be successful.”
“Recruiting is a challenge” seems to be the phrase on repeat no matter where you turn in the trades. Bebeau voices similar concerns.
“Recruitment will be the most challenging aspect of our business for at least the next decade. There aren’t people who don’t really understand the benefits and independence of working in the trades. So I think it’s very important for us to get that message out there and to communicate those types of opportunities and the income potential we have in the trades.”
Though the company has hit the sweet spot with engagement, Bebeau expresses that Benjamin Franklin Toledo will continue to make this a priority.
“Everyone wants to play for a winning team. When companies are doing well, people want to work for them. When they have up-front processes and procedures in place, it’s more comforting to employees to know what they’re getting themselves into. This ultimately recruits more candidates in the future,” he says.