In a typical year, Repipe Specialists takes on over 5,000 repiping projects in single-family homes and dozens of multi-family projects – like entire neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and hotels. It’s simply the largest single-family home repiping company in the United States. Jeff Butler, President of Repipe, explains why.
How did Repipe Specialists do it? It’s a plumbing company specializing solely in water pipe replacement, or repiping. It was founded in 1991, with its primary corporate office in Burbank, California. Nowadays Repipe has over 50 satellite locations in 25 major metro areas in 12 states across America.
A typical Repipe job involves an estimator from the company visiting the home and assessing the project, followed by Repipe representatives doing a walk-through of the house with the customer. From there, the actual repiping takes a day or two. Repipe typically uses either piping made from PEX, a high-density plastic especially suited to these types of projects, or occasionally copper.
With inspection, patching, and texturing, the job is usually completed in two to three days (four to five at most).
So far, so good. And with its wide customer base and a service that’s utterly necessary to the upkeep of any building, any observer would expect the company to secure itself a steady flow of work.
But Repipe has done much better than that, and there appears to be good reason for the company’s rise to the number one spot in America over nearly 30 years of growth.
A unique business model
Jeff Butler, President of Repipe Specialists, says that the company has a business model that’s unlike any other in the industry, one where a licensed owner is actively involved in every single project that the company handles. Butler himself started in the piping industry some 28 years ago with the observation that a typical plumbing company set-up would simply not be able to guarantee quality as it grew to a larger and larger size. He noticed that the typical employee unfortunately didn’t seem to really care as much about the customer as the typical business owner did.
Butler’s solution to the problem, of having an owner directly involved on every job, led him to a system where Repipe brings small business owners into a network of Repipe shops. This method allows owners to be close to every customer. Obviously, with a company that reports 150-plus repiping jobs weekly, no one owner could accomplish this. With independent shops and business owners, quality customer service exists at all levels. Customers benefit from consistent care only possible with a company like Repipe.
The secret sauce
When asked about the company’s systems for dealing with suppliers, Butler explains that local shops typically obtain their own supplies, but abide by the quality standards set out by Repipe. A common denominator is that these shops are also enthusiastic proponents of quality work that aligns with their own standards and integrity, something Butler says binds everyone together within his company. Butler acknowledges that this approach is “the secret sauce that allowed [Repipe] to grow,” and he says that, throughout the industry, there is no other company that does things the same way.
Another aspect that Butler feels separates Repipe Specialists from its competition is the way it approaches workplace culture. As Butler defines it, “We never hire good people, we only hire GREAT people!” At every level of the business, Repipe does whatever it takes to find people who really care about their work and are great at what they do, and in keeping these hiring standards, the company has found hundreds of loyal and dedicated employees, sales people and shops who have worked with the company for years.
Butler describes the culture as one where there are high expectations of everyone involved – but with everyone involved also being treated fairly and with respect and honesty. Operating in a “completely open and transparent” way with employees makes for a work environment that is considerably calmer and more confident than you’ll find in the average workplace. Employees have confidence because they aren’t terrified of making the odd mistake when they see that it can lead to great learning opportunities at every level.
Finding great people
Butler also feels that when you have a staff of great people, employees tend to perform at a higher level which naturally leads to them being paid quite well. But Butler finds that the company’s biggest challenge currently is finding the great people that make up the Repipe Specialists team. Butler observes that in today’s culture it still holds true that “you have to want to be great in order to be great,” and it can be tough finding people who adhere to this philosophy. However, Butler is quite satisfied with the workforce the company has put together over the years, and finds that from top to bottom in the company, “Everybody’s in the game to get the job done right.”
When Butler began his first business (a painting company), he remembers that all customer jobs were done on a binding handshake, without contracts: a philosophy he has carried over to Repipe Specialists. When Butler and his team commit to a customer’s project, they will keep that commitment, and in doing so, rarely have a problem collecting payment. It’s because of this philosophy that the company has “virtually no accounts receivable,” according to Butler.
Work with, learn from
The company works with a lot of plumbing shops around the country, Butler says, in order to both work with and learn from these smaller shops. As a quid pro quo, Repipe brings all it has learned to the table and shares it with the smaller businesses, allowing for success beyond expectation. The company also puts its skills at the disposal of local salespeople and representatives, which in turn enhances the top-notch service to the customer, so everybody involved in the business wins. Butler sums up the company’s philosophy: “We want to do every job the right way. We want to feel great about every job, knowing we did what was right for that customer, regardless of whether they are aware of the details or not.”
The company has seen many industry awards, Butler says, including being named by various outlets as one of the top remodeling businesses in the country, and being listed as one of the top 30 home improvement businesses in the country. Butler also points out that Repipe is “by far the largest single-family home repiping company in the country,” crediting its business model with enabling it to grow robustly, year after year, while keeping the quality of work consistent.
Repipe grew 54 percent in 2018, with around $45 million in revenue for that fiscal year; looks good for 30 to 40 percent in 2019; and sees further growth on the cards as it looks beyond the end of the year. Butler reveals that the company will be focused on opening in more states, “as fast as we are able to expand.” Butler also notes that the multi-family piping division is also growing in many areas of the country, doubling in size every year.
With a clear vision of what makes this company’s offering different and better, Repipe has set out to bring its signature approach into as many homes as possible, and if its history of success in the piping industry with this strategy is a signifier for what lies ahead, the company looks to be on track for continued growth and achievement. And that’s for as long as pipe repair and replacement is needed in the modern home.