At the 2017 PHCC National Convention, I delivered a presentation titled, “Limitless Growth — Finding and Developing Great Team Members.” During the program, I asked the group to right-hand-up-promise to STOP saying, “I can’t find great people.”
One member of the audience just wasn’t having it. He wasn’t going to let me discount the problem of finding and keeping great team members. So, I turned my full attention on him and put him in the hot seat. This is a risky training technique. Yes, the rest of the class will pay attention, and perhaps remember the point presented. Hopefully, the experience will positively impact the singled-out student. But, I can go too far in the heat of the seminar moment.
Later, I was walking the show floor, thinking about this when I ran into Gil Rodriguez.
Gil had been in my class. When he stopped me to chat, I was wondering if he was going to give me grief for picking on the fellow in the back row.
Well, he didn’t. He reminded me that I had once singled him out in a seminar, 14 years ago. Gulp.
He recalled an incident that I had forgotten, about calling him up to the front of the room to haggle with me. I “volunteered” him to role-play an awkward pricing situation in front of a large seminar crowd.
“I was going through some stuff already. I had started in the service department only four days earlier. Up until then, I had always worked in new construction. I’m a shy person, and I was really scared to talk to customers. And, then you threw me into that painful role play.”
“Did I go too far?” I asked, at the ready to apologize.
“No. That’s why I found you today, because I wanted to tell you that your challenge came at the perfect time. My boss had suggested I read ‘Who Moved My Cheese,’ and I did. Well, change was happening fast, and I wasn’t sure I was up for it. After your seminar, when I didn’t die from stage fright, I decided to jump with both feet into the new opportunity; to keep an open mind. Not just in the service arena, but for other adventures as well.”
That year, Gil went on to become one of the Top Ten Service Techs in the company’s franchise system.
Gil added: “Ellen, your love for the trades, and for trades people, is clear. Keep doing what you’re doing — we can take a little heat.”
Aw, that was really nice of him. (And, as it turned out, I also ran into the fellow I had challenged the during class. He was gracious, and funny! I discovered that he and his co-workers are doing a terrific job building a rockin’ team. So, there you go. Thanks, Rick, of Pinellas Plumbing!)
After the show, I called Gil to find out more about him and his company. I asked him what got him interested in plumbing.
Gil said: “My mom and dad were from Puerto Rico. We lived in a Spanish-speaking community, near Philadelphia, and I didn’t speak English until I started school. I grew up in a tough part of town, and my career prospects weren’t great. My parents were hard-working people, and my dad suggested that I get into plumbing because I could get a solid, high-paying job. I was not all that interested, but I signed up for VoTech classes in high school.
“That’s where I met Kevin Kelly, the VoTech teacher. Mr. Kelly was very strict, ‘old school’ in his approach. He was also kind and fair. He saw that I had mechanical talent, and gave me a lot of encouragement. He believed in me, and, at age 14, I decided to become a plumber.
“My friends gave me a lot of grief; there was this stigma about plumbing. I carried that around like a chip on my shoulder. Only it was much bigger than that. It fueled my decision to not only become a great plumber but to create an incredible life. I made a commitment to take my career, and the trade, to the highest level.
“I got married, to the love of my life, Nikki. I embraced learning and becoming a skilled tradesman. Life was good.
“Then another experience impacted me in a powerful way. In 2005, I went on a mission trip with my church to Thailand. We helped deliver medicine to people in areas that were hard to get to. The people we met, they had little access to potable water and no sewer system. I thought, ‘I can help a lot of people with the skills I have.’”
Gil started “googling” for opportunities. He searched “plumbing in Australia,” and found an ad for a company called Raytheon, which was doing a plumbing project in Antarctica. (You know how it goes … you start searching for Australia and end up in Antarctica!) The ad made the job sound really hard, in nearly impossible working conditions, and only the brightest and toughest plumbers would be considered. Of course, Gil was interested, and with Nikki’s enthusiastic support he applied.
Gil was one of only seven plumbers from hundreds of applicants who made the cut, and reported for work at the McMurdo Station on the south tip of Ross Island. After the five-month project, Gil had the travel adventure bug.
He searched the Internet for more adventures. He found www.hydromissions.org, a Christian organization that provides access to safe drinking water around the world. With this group, Gil has traveled to all seven continents and delivered potable water to thousands of people in dozens of countries.
Gil had no problem finding work with great companies in Pennsylvania. However, it became clear that the best way for him to live life on his terms was to start his own business.
“Another great experience unfolded when I decided to go out on my own. I shared my plan with Roger Miller, one of the owners of the company I was working for. Roger was a serial entrepreneur and investor. He chuckled at my primitive business plan but not at my dreams. Roger was impressed with me and my drive and character; he proposed a partnership. He would teach me what I didn’t know about planning and finance, and invest in the business. We started Pure-Line Plumbing LLC and have been partners since 2014.”
The company is based in North Carolina. They do commercial and residential plumbing, as well as specialize in medical gas work. They operate in several states as Gil has Master Plumbing licenses in North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia, and is Medical Gas Certified in Louisiana.
“And, I am just a few weeks and one step away from being a Master in Florida, too,” Gil told me proudly. He is even more excited about his team; they have grown to over 20 employees, and he loves every one. He and Roger treat them like family. They invite the crew to spend vacation time together on the outer banks of North Carolina. This year, over 30 people participated. Check out their site at www.purelineplumbing.com
“I always love a challenge. I want to go to the moon! Nikki likes it when I say I make pipe dreams come true. She is right there with me. We have a son, Jaden, who is 10 years old and loves baseball. I just got back from Botswana. I tell Jaden, ‘There is this whole world that I am seeing all because of my ability to run and fix pipes.’”
How nice to meet Gil and hear his story! I am happy to share my takeaways from our conversation:
• This is an amazing industry, and it can take you as far as you want to go. Thanks, Gil, for the reminder.
• There are great people out there, and they may come work for you, at least for a while. Perhaps as long as you can help them make their dreams come true.
• A supportive family member, a really good teacher, an encouraging word, a savvy business partner, and one awkward experience at a seminar — these things add up. So, put yourself out there and do what you can to promote the trades and encourage the fine people who work in them.
Ultimately, that’s how you find great people and create limitless growth!
For more on team building, download my free special report at www.FindGreatTechs.com.
Also! Here’s contact info for Gil:
Pure-Line Plumbing LLC