Having started plumbing at age 14, Derek Olin began his career working for a meager $1.50 per hour.
After receiving his Virginia Master Plumber license in 1983 and working in the business for 15 years, Olin decided he wanted to be his own boss. He passed his plumbers contracting test and started Olin Plumbing in Tampa, Fla. What began in May 2009 has now grown to four employees and four trucks covering the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
Olin Plumbing’s trucks aren’t hard to spot. All four are wrapped with a simple yet effective blue-and-yellow design. Olin worked together with Tampa-based Good Guy Signs to create the design for the trucks. The eye-catching color scheme and the picture of the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge (a well-known area landmark) were Good Guy Signs’ ideas.
Olin decided he liked the simplistic look and wanted to add a touch of family to it. So he came up with the idea to have his daughter, Jennifer Olin, lean on him with the slogan: “I lean on Dad. You can, too” inscribed to the right of the picture.
He also came up with the idea to have all profits from the company’s backflow tests go to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
“It started out being an advertising strategy to promote the business,” he says. “Through the years I’ve realized the customers I do the backflow tests for end up using us for their repairs and plumbing services.”
Olin states the tests have generated so much additional plumbing work that he doesn’t mind losing money on them because the company is giving back to the community.
“We do about 60 to 100 tests a month and I write a check at the end of every month,” he explains. “Right now, I’m writing a check to the hospital for $350.”
Olin refers to his service trucks as “shops on wheels.”
“I stock more dollars on the truck than most other people do, but that saves me money in the long run,” he adds.
Of Olin’s four trucks, two are 2009 Ford F350s with 12-ft. boxes, one is an Isuzu NPR with a 16-ft. box (pictured above) and the other is a Ford Transit that is specifically used for backflow testing.
“It’s about convenience for us and for the customer. I like having everything I need to make the repair without having to go back to the supply house, which costs time. As the old saying goes, ‘Time is money,’” he says. “We don’t want the customer waiting on us. We get to the job and there isn’t any excuse why it shouldn’t get done.”
In addition to its trucks, Olin Plumbing has success with bus-stop bench advertising as well as a listing on Angie’s List.
“I’m proud of my trade,” Olin says. “If you have a plumbing problem, you want a plumber. You don’t want a service technician.” Olin puts a variation of this on the side of his truck. “We do things that other people don’t, such as drain cleaning. Every drain we clean, we guarantee for a year. We try to give a little bit more than the other guy out there and we stand behind everything we do.”