Paul Gonzalez took a big gamble in November 2008.
The 30-year-old Sunrise, Fla., resident decided to start his own plumbing company in the midst of one of the country’s worst recessions.
“When I started, we were right in the middle of everything getting crazy with the stock market crashing,” says Gonzalez. “But plumbing is like air conditioning; when there is a problem, someone is going to call. It’s not like you are replacing tile. If customers have a leak or a clog, they want someone out that day to fix it. It’s the nature of the trade. My wife was definitely nervous, but I was confident I would do well.”
Thus far, Gonzalez - fueled in large part by strategic Internet advertising - has made that gamble pay off. As a one-man shop (he did have an additional employee for a short time), Gonzalez focuses on service calls while covering a 100-mile radius south to Miami and north to West Palm Beach.
“I charge the same price on nights and weekends and I give free estimates,” Gonzalez notes. “That gets me a lot of calls.”
Gonzalez, who worked for several service and plumbing companies prior to getting his Florida plumbing contractor’s license, estimates he has gone on over 1,000 calls during his first 18 months in business. While his customer-friendly terms have certainly netted him business, so has his Internet-based marketing strategy.
“Ninety percent of my calls come from the Internet,” Gonzalez states. “Most of it is Google and Yahoo (he also has an ad on Craigslist). I can turn the Google ads on and off. I can turn it on and I’ll get a call 15 minutes later.
“It’s the new way. Anytime I want to look up an address or a phone number for something, I go to Google. I think in 10 years nobody is even going to know what the Yellow Pages are.”
“I get a lot of, ‘Oh, that’s a great name. Were you a paramedic or is someone in your family a paramedic?’ Gonzalez chuckles. “I had heard of plumbing companies that used ‘doctor’ in their name. Paramedics just hit me and it was like, ‘That’s it.’”
Gonzales and his wife, Stacey (four months pregnant with the couple’s first child as of this writing), decided to use the universal Sign of Life logo (with a 24-hour service tag added) and wanted the truck’s colors to resemble the blue and orange paramedic rigs that are prevalent in the region. Image Point Signs’ Dane Frauenholz designed and installed the truck wrapping.
“I really like the business side. I think I’m really good with how I advertise,” says Gonzalez, who also has several condominium association accounts in the area.
“I get a lot of referrals. I respect my customers. I go to people’s houses down here and they are surprised I show up on time and they are surprised I answer the phone. I don’t care what time it is, I’ll answer the phone. I’m a small company. When someone calls and talks to me on the phone, they know they are talking to the owner.”
And in this case, they talk to an owner that through hard work and creativity has made a name for himself in trying economic times.
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