When Troy Winkel relocated his family from Utah to Las Vegas 12 years ago and started his own contractor business, he knew he had to make a big splash. “Las Vegas is a crazy town to do business in,” he says with a laugh. “We have to compete with a lot of attractive women on billboards. Advertising around here is a little different than other places. How do we compete and get noticed?”

Winkel, the owner of The Honest Plumber Heating & Air, solved that quandary in a hurry. He put his mother-in-law, Debbie La Rocca, on the side of his 10 plumbing trucks and in all his advertising. La Rocca is depicted in a frantic state holding a toilet plunger (complete with toilet paper stuck to it) and making a phone call to request emergency plumbing service.

“I was thinking we have to go big or go home,” he says. “I went to the library and looked at the Yellow Pages in different markets around here to get ideas. I couldn’t find anything. I needed something crazy. I needed a lady who looks like she is in a panic and is on the phone stressed out because her toilet is backed up. It’s something people can relate to. If I didn’t have something recognizable, we’d get lost in the muck of all the other advertising around here. We call it our crazy lady logo.”

The logo has worked wonders for Winkel, whose company has grown from a single truck “on a shoestring with no money,” to 10 trucks covering a 100-mile radius in the greater Las Vegas valley area. Winkel states The Honest Plumber did $3 million in gross receipts in 2012.

“People pick up the phone and tell us they know our trucks,” he says. “People pull over and take pictures of our trucks. We probably have the most recognizable trucks in town. My mother-in-law draws them in.”

Pictured in the photos above is a 2012 Ford E350 van with a 16-ft. Supreme box. Winkel’s entire fleet is Ford and that’s no accident. “My first box truck was a Ford,” he says. “I wanted to stick to one thing so people would recognize us. I’m really comfortable with Fords. The Supreme box makes it easy to wrap. It’s like creating a big billboard. With the bigger box it has to be workable and it has to get people’s attention. Image is the No. 1 thing people look at. We want to make that first impression as good as we can.”

Winkel adds his trucks are outfitted with special UV coating due to Las Vegas’ harsh weather conditions. The fleet’s wraps and UV coatings were done by Las Vegas-based Team Acme.

“If you don’t have that added protection, the sun here will destroy the look of your van by the second summer,” he says. “Because of the weather we have to go with the more expensive wrap and the UV coating on top of it.”

The Honest Plumber, which specializes in emergency service and repair on mainly residential accounts, is a member of PHCC-NV where Winkel is chapter president. He’s active as well on PHCC’s national apprenticeship committee. The Honest Plumber also is a Nexstar member and is involved withIAPMO.

“This town has been great to me and this industry has been phenomenal to me and my family,” he says. “I want to pay it back and mentor and help others succeed.”