Having opened and owned drain-cleaning service company Drain Master at the age of 28, Lloyd “Dale” Nicholssold the company to Roto Rooter 10 years later in 1998. In 2001, he started Plumbing and Pipe Technologies, also known as Pipetechs, in Raleigh, N.C. Nichols has since grown the plumbing and mechanical business to 36 employees and 30 service vehicles, which cover the Raleigh-Durham area.
So far 15 of those vehicles are wrapped (pictured is the 2014 Nissan NV2500) and each tech has his own favorite. For Nichols, it is the 2012 Nissan 250, because of its good gas mileage and durability. The trucks were designed with the help of Elaine Morgan at Right Marketing in Durham, and wrapped by Capital Wraps in Raleigh.
“We wanted something that said, ‘We mean business,’ and that is what we got,” Nichols says. “We do work on hotels, restaurants and schools as well as homes, so we wanted an eye-catching design, as well as a clean, professional look. We also wanted our logo to show we are environmentally conscious.”
As an EPA WaterSense partner, sustainability and best practices in water conservation and energy efficiency are important to Nichols and the Pipetechs’ team. In 2012, six Pipetechs plumbing technicians enrolled in and passed the Green Plumber Certified program. “I believe certification as a Green Plumber should be mandatory for all plumbers,” Nichols says. “As plumbers, there is so much we can do for our customers to help them understand conservation issues and this certification is a start.”
A year later, Pipetechs received the N.C. American Indian Business Leadership Environmental Sustainability Award, which is given to a business that supports the environment, adheres to LEED/Green Initiatives and influences its organization or community using cutting-edge practices.
Nichols also sends each of his techs to backflow prevention and cross-connection classes. “A plumber’s main job is to protect the potable water of this nation,” he notes. “I want my techs to be the first line of defense to helping keep our water safe. There are so many of these water-protection devices, it makes sense that we understand them. This is a must for all repair businesses.”
Pipetechs conducts daily training in its new 12,000-sq.-ft. facility, which includes working models of high-efficiency water heaters and other products. This allows technicians to stay up-to-date on the newest technologies, see how each of the units work and learn how to troubleshoot problems for customers.
Nichols, who is the secretary for the PHCC of North Carolina (formerly the North Carolina Plumbing and Mechanical Association), is a part of Master Plumbers, which is its in-house training program for master plumbers. He also is on the plumbing advisory committee and assists in teaching customer and home service etiquette at the local technical school, Wake Tech in Raleigh.
“It is important our students know how to respect a homeowner and treat the home,” Nichols says. “No matter how good the work is, people will not call you back if they felt you disrespected them or their homes. If you want to retain the customer, your tech should be just as well-trained in customer service as in products and technologies.”