While 2020 has been a year of uncertainty for most businesses, Mr. Rooter Plumbing is celebrating its 50th anniversary by adding more franchises to its lineup. Plumbing & Mechanical Chief Editor Nicole Krawcke recently chatted with Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, about the company’s successful growth and what lies ahead.  


PM: What is Mr. Rooter Plumbing doing to commemorate its 50th anniversary?

DJ: While Mr. Rooter Plumbing is celebrating many things, the biggest is our long-time franchise owners. More than 100 franchise owners have been a part of Mr. Rooter Plumbing for more than 10 years, and more than 30 have been in the network 20-plus years. Their collective experience, knowledge and comradery is what makes the network impossible to duplicate.


PM: How many Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchises are there currently?

DJ: We have more than 240 franchise owners in North America, representing more than 300 territories. We also have more than 60 locations operating under the brand name of Drain Doctor in the United Kingdom.


PM: How many have been added in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic?

DJ: Mr. Rooter Plumbing has added five new franchise owners since January, which is an impressive feat given our limited market availability and rigorous standards for franchise prospects to meet. We continue to see record levels of sales growth even while factoring in the initial effect of the pandemic earlier this year.


PM: What do think accounts for this growth?

DJ: I believe the growth in sales is due to the longevity of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, along with the collective experience of our franchise network and their willingness to adapt to changing market conditions.


PM: What would you point to as the biggest change, addition or shift the company has made in recent years?

DJ: Mr. Rooter Plumbing and the other Neighborly brands have been repairing, maintaining and enhancing customers’ homes for many years. However, we struggled to get repeat customers across our 26 home service brands. To help increase the number of customers utilizing more than one Neighorly brand, we changed the overall organization name from The Dwyer Group to Neighborly to create a common tie between the brands. We always strive to make sure that our customers know that they can get all of their home service needs in one place.


PM: What industry issues are important to you and the company? 

DJ: The world is changing, and the way customers interact and communicate with us is changing as well. We are working to stay at the leading edge of technology to maximize contactless interaction for the customer, and we are also advancing the ability for customers to do more scheduling online. We want to be where the customer wants us to be, when they need us.


PM: We all know the workforce is shrinking. What is Mr. Rooter Plumbing doing to attract and retain young talent?

DJ: Plumbing is a skill that will last someone their entire life, and I am an example of that. I came up through the trades as an apprentice, journeyman and then master plumber. We are using some of the best systems and LMS platforms to assist our franchise owners in training and developing the newest trade professionals in the marketplace. We work hard to encourage and develop each Mr. Rooter Plumbing location as a workplace of choice by incorporating rewards platforms, financial planning tools and flexible scheduling to maintain a good work/life balance.


PM: What kind of training opportunities do you offer your franchisees and their employees?

DJ: Mr. Rooter Plumbing provides a complete training package, which includes business training for owners, managers and service professionals, as well as self-directed training on our learning management system and other communication portals. We also host weekly webinars based on feedback from franchise owners on relevant and timely topics. Best of all, franchise owners have constant access to designated franchise business coaches who offer and conduct on-demand training, often through an online meeting portal, at a franchise owner’s request.


PM: Why might a plumber consider becoming a Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchisee, and what are some of the benefits?

DJ: A good way to understand the benefits of becoming a Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise owner is to read the book “The E-Myth,” by Michael Gerber. For myself, it took more than six years to become a master plumber. As Gerber mentions in his book, being a master plumber doesn’t necessarily mean you will be good at running a plumbing business. My multiple years of learning about how to do the work of a plumber did not teach me things such as sales, marketing, growing a business and how to manage/lead others. Mr. Rooter Plumbing helps owners understand the business side of running a business.


PM: What is the company culture like at Mr. Rooter Plumbing, and how do you create/maintain that?

DJ: In 1981, when Don Dwyer founded what today is Neighborly, he developed a Code of Values. These values serve as a set of guidelines by which Neighborly strives to adhere by, from the bottom of the organization all the way to the top. The values include:

  • Showing respect for all people;
  • Acting with integrity in all dealings;
  • Serving customers with enthusiasm; and
  • Having fun in the process.

Although we are not perfect, we use these values as a guideline for how Mr. Rooter Plumbing needs to operate on a daily basis, and this has helped us attract like-minded franchise owners that carry these same values into their businesses to create a well-rounded company culture.


PM: What is one accomplishment from the past year that you are especially proud of?

DJ: 2020 has been a challenging year, and I am most proud of how the Mr. Rooter Plumbing network has supported each other through these uncertain times. I can’t imagine how businesses that did not have a strong support system navigated through these difficult times.


PM: Where do you see Mr. Rooter Plumbing headed in the next 50 years?

DJ: I started my plumbing career as a teenager in the 1970s, not too long after Mr. Rooter Plumbing was founded. The basics and principles of plumbing have not changed much over the past 50 years. What has changed are the tools and systems we have to make our jobs easier and more efficient — both in the field and in the office. Over the next 50 years, I believe plumbers will continue to be in high demand, which will drive the need for more skilled personnel. Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise owners are uniquely positioned to learn how to adapt and share these innovations across the network, keeping all franchise owners on the leading edge of changes.


PM: What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

DJ: I started my career as a plumber, and I still consider myself a plumber — although my career today has shifted to helping others build their plumbing business. Over the years, I have remodeled and built many of the houses that my family has lived in, including my current home. While this may seem like an unusual way to relax, there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of building something with your own two hands.