Frank Winters grew up in California in a family of mechanical tradesmen. His grandfather, father, uncle and five cousins are all HVAC sheet metal workers. When he moved to Michigan from California 15 years ago to be near his son, Wesley Winters, he went to work for a plumbing contractor in Plymouth, Mich., for $8 an hour.
After a few years, Winters started working for a different plumbing company. However, he had always wanted to work for himself, so in 2008 he cashed in a $10,000 401(k) and made a go for it. He opened Birmingham Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in September of that year. At first, when there was no work, he parked the truck, passed out business cards, and went door to door.
“Occasionally a homeowner would have an ongoing issue that I would be able to fix on site,” he says. “At the same time I approached fire and flood restoration companies until one then another asked me ‘How far will you go?’ and ‘When are you available?’ My response was I will go wherever you want and whenever you want!”
Since then he gets work referrals from those companies daily and has grown his own company along with it. His son, now 24, runs plumbing calls for the business.
The Birmingham, Mich.-based company now has 14 full-time employees and 11 trucks on the road, covering all of southeastern Michigan. The original truck (pictured right) is a 2006 Ford E-350 box truck, which Winters still drives today. Also on the road are a 2007 Dodge Sprinter which serves as a spare truck, a 2011 Ford E-150 extended van that the heating service manager drives, and seven 2014 Dodge ProMasters (pictured left) purchased last year. Two additional Dodge ProMasters are in the process of being wrapped and will be on the road soon.
“The ProMaster is our favorite truck because it is easy to work out of and stand up in,” Winters explains. “It is also really good with gas mileage.”
The wraps on all trucks were done by Associated Print and Marketing in Madison Heights, Mich. The design was done by Winters in collaboration with Wixom, Mich.-based D&D Onsite Design and Graphics.
“We were looking for branding and advertising recognition from the wrap,” he notes. “We used the flag because we love this country and the shower head to make people think plumbing. Ninety percent of our work is plumbing and 10% is HVAC.”
In addition to the mobile advertisements, Winters mails out postcards with the local C&G newspaper. The company, belonging to the Western Wayne Plumbing and Mechanical Association, does residential service, repair, remodel and restoration plumbing, heating and cooling, and commercial PHC service.
“We have done many projects for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and work in the homes of many local professional sports players and Detroit celebrities,” he says. “I believe what really sets our company apart from others in the area is that we have assembled the best plumbers and HVAC techs around — our people set us apart.”