Ray Bramble, along with his sons, Ryan Bramble and Bradley Bramble, are no strangers to franchising. The Brambles converted their family-owned and operated HVAC contracting business to an Aire Serv franchise — a Neighborly company — in 2009, mostly due to a lack of systems in place at the time.

“We were actually stuck in our growth capabilities,” says Ray Bramble. “Not only did they provide a great playbook, but the biggest surprise was the network of other business owners with the same growth mindset and sharing of knowledge that is second to none.”

Ray Bramble cuts the ribbon during the grand opening ceremonyRay Bramble cuts the ribbon during the grand opening ceremony of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of The Shenandoah Valley this past December.


So naturally, when the Brambles decided to start a plumbing division, they went back to Neighborly for help. Mr. Rooter Plumbing of The Shenandoah Valley (Virginia) opened this past December. “It was a natural progression since we already perform many plumbing services,” Ray Bramble says. “We wanted to grow our existing business and to be able to offer the same type of world class service to clients with plumbing needs that we offer to our HVAC service and replacement clients.”

Ray Bramble with his son Bradley BrambleRay Bramble (left) with his son, Bradley Bramble (right).


The Brambles originally started offering plumbing services last spring to their existing customer base. “It quickly turned into a slow trickle due to that lack of training that we were limited on for the service professional,” Ray Bramble explains. “We just didn’t have a good playbook or a set of daily expectations like we do for our HVAC team. When we joined, we were and are provided a coach, business and service professional training to include a set of systems that we immediately started using and our sales and our plumbing team has blossomed with revenues in every month surpassing the entire revenue in the first seven. We have multiple business owners who are helping us with learning the new systems and helping with best practices.”

Chris Mead, owner of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain in Columbus, Ohio, shares a different story. Mead had a friend whose parents owned a plumbing company.

“They told me it was a good industry and that I could make a good living in plumbing,” he says. “So I gave it a shot and have been doing plumbing now for 22 years.”

When it came time to start his own business in January 2022, he turned to bluefrog Plumbing + Drain.

 Chris Mead, bluefrog Plumbing + DrainChris Mead, a plumber with more than 20 years of experience, opened his own bluefrog Plumbing + Drain location in January 2022.


“I wanted to start my own business to have the freedom of flexibility in my schedule,” Mead explains. “For me, I felt burnt out at my last place of employment. If I had time for my family, it meant I needed to work more and I wasn’t able to attend activities and programs that my kids or family was doing because I was not allowed off of work. I wanted to provide a better work life balance for me and my family that would benefit us more in the long run. I also wanted to have a better quality and professional option for my community to help with any plumbing services that are needed.”

 After researching the franchise for awhile, Mead felt it would be a good fit, and decided to join in September 2021.

“I liked the proven business model and the core values that this franchise has,” he explains. “I like the logo because it sticks with you. It is memorable — when they need plumbing services they will remember bluefrog. The support, connections and relationships have helped my business grow and be successful. I’m not just a number here, I know and have built relationships with our corporate leadership. I know that if I need anything, all I have to do is call or text and I will be able to reach someone and get the answers or advice that I am seeking.”

Brandon Wiechmann, president of Z PLUMBERZ of North Dallas, was brought into an existing plumbing business as an operations manager to identify strengths and weaknesses to help improve their processes. That business launched in fall of 2021.

“My now business partner and I share a strong passion for creating local job opportunities for the underemployed by uncovering and scaling the lost art of apprenticeship in the trades,” Wiechmann says. “We joined forces in mid-2022, and this shared passion definitely motivated us to keep building the company for our Dallas market. And as we began to evaluate the business, it didn’t take long to see the issues that were clearly preventing our business from growing — call volume inconsistencies, lack of brand awareness and local marketing strategies, along with operational inefficiencies.”

Z PLUMBERZZ PLUMBERZ currently has a total of 16 franchise owners operating in a total of 42 territories across the country, four of which were added last year.


Wiechmann and his partner decided to join Z PLUMBERZ in October 2022 due to the framework of proven solutions the franchise offered as well as the ongoing business coaching. “The decision became inevitable as we learned more about the Z PLUMBERZ business model and after speaking with the experienced team that’d be supporting our business and helping us grow day in and day out. Knowing that the president of the company, Matt O’Rourke, has worked in the plumbing industry for over two decades gave us peace of mind that we’d have a team of experts supporting us in all facets of the business.”

Wiechmann notes the move has given them a leg up on the competition by allowing access to professionally branded merchandise, marketing materials, comprehensive training programs and ongoing operational support.

“The backing of BELFOR Franchise Group (BFG) has opened the door to more referral partners and even opportunities to subcontract jobs with our parent company, BELFOR,” he says. “Several of our technicians are currently assisting in a major loss at a senior living facility in Birmingham, Alabama. If we have seasonal periods of decreasing call volume, the project opportunities from referral partners like our BFG sister companies or parent company often help to fill those gaps and set our business up for long-term growth.”

Daniel Mays, owner of Zoom Drain Austin, notes that he got into the plumbing industry by accident.

“I looked at different franchising opportunities and came to the conclusion that there was nothing more essential than plumbing work,” he says. “It's going to be here tomorrow, and 50 years down the line – and it won’t be automated. Plumbing is always in high demand, so why not build a great company that can service customers in need?”

His franchise location opened last October. Mays says he saw an opportunity to grow a great business in a booming city.

plumbing contractorIf a plumbing contractor finds himself or herself “stuck” or continually frustrated with the daily grind, joining a franchise may help, Matt O’Rourke says.


“I knew I wanted to join the franchise once I came up to Confirmation Day to see the facility and learn more,” Mays says. “The Zoom Drain team had moved into a new space just outside of Philadelphia and the place was lively. Everyone was welcoming, smiling and there was just great energy. It was clear to me Jim and Ellen had built up a fantastic culture that cared for all of their franchisees.”

Mays describes Zoom Drain’s franchise network as outstanding.

“It gives you opportunities to bounce ideas around marketing, building a great team culture, training and even dealing with tough customers. It's great to call peers to celebrate big wins and for immediate support with anything day-to-day!

What plumbing contractors should know before becoming a franchisee

The decision to become a franchisee is not easy for a plumbing contractor. The loss of one’s brand in exchange for another can be difficult to imagine. However, for some, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, as these national plumbing brands have been growing every year.

bluefrog Plumbing + Drain has 36 locations, 17 of which were added in 2022. Eight additional locations are currently pending.

Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, has more than 240 independently owned franchises and three company-owned in North America.

Z PLUMBERZ currently has a total of 16 franchise owners operating in a total of 42 territories across the country, four of which were added last year.

As of January 2023, Zoom Drain has 36 total locations, two of which are corporate-owned. Of those 36 locations, 23 are currently open for business, providing expert drain and sewer service to their area. The company signed on 23 new franchises in 2022, with 13 of those anticipating an opening early this year.

So what should plumbers be aware of before making the decision to join a franchise? We put the question to the experts.

“First, existing contractors must be open to change,” says Matt O’Rourke, national brand president of Z PLUMBERZ and a licensed master plumber. “The mindset and willingness to adapt and continue learning are critical for plumbing contractors considering franchise opportunities. Second, don’t be afraid of trying new technology. While technological advancements can seem overwhelming for some, utilizing modern and industry-specific field management software plays an integral part in helping plumbing businesses sustain long-term growth. Joining a franchise helps minimize the learning curve, making it easier to onboard and adapt to the new technology.

“Third, marketing is an ongoing and multi-channel effort — and you have to be actively involved with it, even as a franchise business,” he adds. “Plumbing contractors can easily get stuck in the routine of paying thousands of dollars on digital marketing campaigns each month. Often times they’re so caught up in the day-to-day, that they're unable to properly analyze the performance of those campaigns. While digital marketing is very important for local lead generation in the plumbing industry, we encourage a multi-channel approach that might include a combination of paid digital, social media, public relations, and building strong relationships with referral partners. By diversifying your local marketing efforts, and being willing to change them as needed, you allow your business to become more sustainable and position it for long-term growth.”

But if a plumbing contractor finds himself or herself “stuck” or continually frustrated with the daily grind, joining a franchise may help, O’Rourke says.

“If you feel as if you’re working in your business rather than on your business, then partnering with a trustworthy franchise that specializes in the exact support you need is certainly worthy of consideration,” he explains. “We invite seriously interested and qualified candidates to our headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan for Meet the Team Day. This event consists of in-person meetings with the Z PLUMBERZ home office team where they explain the ongoing support and business coaching provided to our franchise owners. This face-to-face time really helps prospective franchisees get a feel for the brand and determine whether Z PLUMBERZ is the right fit.

“I’ve been in the plumbing business for over 20 years and I’ve seen it all,” O’Rourke continues. “So have some of our other Z PLUMBERZ team members. We always say that Z PLUMBERZ is built by plumbers and made for plumbers. These Meet the Team Days allow us to demonstrate that and give us the opportunity to answer any and all questions or concerns candidates may have about joining Z PLUMBERZ.”

According to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, since most looking to become a franchisee are already in business, they know it can be challenging.

“Becoming a Mr. Rooter franchise owner gives you access to a network with over 50 years’ experience,” he notes. “Our franchise owners are uniquely connected with a common brand, a consistent system and similar values on taking care of customers and creating a workplace of choice.

Mr. Rooter PlumbingMr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, has more than 240 independently owned franchises and three company-owned in North America.


“Becoming a franchise owner is a process of mutual evaluation,” James notes. “We want to make sure that the contractor is a fit within the Mr. Rooter franchise network, and they need to decide if the franchise is a fit for them. We provide an opportunity to ‘meet the team,’ ask questions and get answers.”

bluefrog Plumbing + Drain is there to improve upon what contractors have already accomplished, explains Mike Mushinski, president of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain.

“Support exists in areas that many independent contracts struggle with, such as marketing, organizational structure and financials,” he says. “Being a part of a network of like-minded individuals means you don’t have to try and figure everything out on your own. Scaling a business that is part of an established network can happen faster in many cases than trying to figure things out on your own.”

Mushinski adds that the company values honesty and transparency.

“Our discovery process is designed to educate individuals on what it means to be a part of a franchise system so that they can make the best decision for themselves and their future,” he says. “We understand and acknowledge that it isn’t for everyone and we work hard to ensure that it is the right fit for both parties.”

Zoom Drain helps guide new members through every step of the franchise journey, which is all documented in its operations manuals, according to Ellen Rohr, president of Zoom Drain.

“A plumbing contractor should consider Zoom Drain for bolstering their business as they’re looking to scale up,” she says. “Several of our franchisees have comprehensive plumbing backgrounds, owning their own plumbing business. Adding Zoom Drain not only helps elevate their billable rate but gives them state-of-the-art equipment, the knowledge of industry leaders like Jim Criniti and powerful branding — helping you offer a premium service at a premium price.”

 Zoom DrainAs of January 2023, Zoom Drain has 36 total locations, two of which are corporate-owned. The company signed on 23 new franchises in 2022, including Daniel Mays (left), whose location opened October 2022.


Rohr notes that part of Zoom Drain’s exploration process involves prospective franchisees meeting current Zoom Drain owners who have been in their position.

“Not to mention, they get to see everything up close on Confirmation Day, getting to know the business inside and out, touring our facility,” Rohr says. “We’ll help you start strong with the right number of right calls from customers using our proven marketing systems, including our proven 40-steps program. We’ve learned a lot about what works to get the phone to ring and we can get you up and running quickly. We’ll ensure you find the right candidates because your business is only as great as your best technician — we’ll help you build a top-notch staff and retain that staff. We’ll provide the training for developing your technicians, thanks to a proven process that will transform new recruits into an employee you’ll have long into the future. And we’ll procure all of the tools and equipment, from the truck to our state-of-the-art drain cleaning equipment. You’ll never find yourself left on an island during any step of your franchise journey. There are no guessing games when it comes to business operations.”

Support amidst economic uncertainty

During the past few years, contractors have navigated through an unprecedented set of challenges — one after the other — with the pandemic, supply chain delays, rising material costs and inflation. Now, with the threat of a recession on the horizon, plumbing franchises offer a sort of safe harbor amidst the economic uncertainty of the future.

“Because we are a national plumbing company operating in markets across the country, we’re very well-versed in the ongoing supply chain inconsistencies and delays,” O’Rourke says. “We are strategic about the suppliers we partner with, which helps us overcome many supply chain-related challenges. We’re also backed by BELFOR Franchise Group, one of the world’s largest franchisors for residential and commercial service businesses. When you take into consideration all of the different industries, sectors and markets that BELFOR Franchise Group has brands operating in, we have a vast network of relationships and connections that span far beyond the plumbing world. We know we can turn to those if there’s ever a problem we need help solving.”

Mr. Rooter, being part of Neighborly, has access to a premiere vendor relations program like nothing else, James notes.

“While this did not solve every issue the industry experienced, we have strong relationships across the supply chain that has helped us with sourcing what our franchise owners needed,” he says.

Being a part of a network of like-minded individuals means you don’t have to try and figure everything out on your own. Scaling a business that is part of an established network can happen faster in many cases than trying to figure things out on your own.

Mushinski explains his group was not hit hard by supply chain issues related to access to materials. “We have seen cost increases from vendors, but we leverage our relationships with them to try and minimize that as much as possible. We provide guidance on pricing when needed to ensure that our franchisees continue to operate profitable businesses in economic conditions like these.”

It’s often been said that the plumbing industry is recession-proof, and drains are no different.

“Drains aren’t affected by recession because the demand is always there,” Rohr notes. “A slow or clogged drain is not something that can be put off and dealt with in the future — it’s always necessary, as long as people are flushing their toilets and using their showers. It’s the kind of problem that can stop a homeowner’s regular routine or cause a bustling business to come to a screeching halt. We’ve already got all of the necessary tools and trucks on-hand as we continue to grow — all that’s left is you!”

While franchising may be an option for plumbing contractors to help them grow their businesses, Ray Bramble warns it’s not a magic solution. “The franchise will not run your business — it provides systems, support, training and associations that will assist you, but you have to take the reins by the horns and drive it, work it, live it and nurture it!”