Rick Mongiovi was born into the plumbing business and grew up working for close friends and family members within the industry. He learned the value of hard work and honesty from his father, an Italian immigrant who ran a bakery full-time and did plumbing on the side to earn extra income for his family. By the time Rick graduated from high school, he knew he wanted to make a career from his plumbing background, so he skipped college and went straight to trade school.
“When I went to plumbing school, I already knew everything they were teaching,” he remembers. “Because I’d already done that work at twelve years old, starting to work with my Dad.”
In 1982, at the age of twenty-one—and with only $300 in his checking account—Rick launched his own company out of his parents’ garage, slowly and painstakingly growing his enterprise over the next several decades. He chose the name Mongiovi & Son to give credibility to the venture since he was so young.
“I wanted to make it look like we were a bigger company,” he remembers. The business eventually caught up to the name when his sons, Ricky and Randy, grew up and joined the family business. Ricky runs the majority of the large commercial construction projects in the company’s plumbing division, while Randy runs the fire protection division. Both have been with the company for more than 15 years. Rick’s daughter Rachele has a key role in the business as well as its public relations and marketing manager.
The company culture is an important part of this family-owned-and-operated business. “The reason why we feel that our employees stay with us and enjoy working for us is we keep everything as a family type of atmosphere,” Rick says. Treating employees as one of the family sets it apart from bigger businesses, and the personal connection provides advantages that go beyond the standard benefits that well-funded corporations can give their employees.
“We may not be able to offer some of the benefit packages you would find at a large corporation, but throughout the years my father has offered benefits that only a family business can offer,” says Rachele Mongiovi. “He’s very generous and is always willing to step in and help employees who are in need. Some people don’t get that kind of compassion from bigger corporations. We hope our family atmosphere makes everyone feel like they’re family.”
Over the decades of ongoing growth, Rick added multiple divisions to the company, all of which fit within the umbrella of Mongiovi & Son Enterprises Inc. “Forty years ago, we were just doing plumbing,” he remembers, “and then, thirty-seven years ago, we started our excavation division. The reason for that is, when we were doing plumbing, we needed to have equipment on our jobs to perform the plumbing that we were doing. We had a hard time always getting subs to come in and work. So I decided to go out and buy my own equipment. We kept that separately, so we could track profit and losses, and if it didn’t work we would get rid of it. But that company was successful, and it kept growing and growing.”
Today, Mongiovi & Son Excavating Inc. takes on many large commercial projects. The team performs a variety of work including the clearing of land, topsoil removal, storm sewer and manhole installation, and more. This division is well equipped to manage the most challenging jobs from mall construction to subdivision development, and, the crew answers emergency calls to take care of urgent matters such as gas leaks, broken water and sewer lines, and landslides.
The company’s plumbing division, Mongiovi & Son Plumbing Contractor, L.P., under Ricky’s direction, has grown to design and install all of the plumbing for a wide range of commercial construction projects including medical buildings, industrial structures, office buildings, hotels, and apartments.
The service division services and repairs any plumbing fixture from faucets, toilets, urinals, and waste lines to water heaters, grease traps, water lines, gas lines, tempering valves, and more. Emergency repairs are available anytime day or night. The team does serve residential customers, but the majority of the work is for commercial clients including Taco Bell, Starbucks, and a variety of other major corporations.
Mongiovi & Son Fire Protection Services, L.P., run solely by Randy, is a commercial division that primarily deals with large-scale projects from distribution warehouses, retail centers, and hotels to office buildings and multi-unit housing. The team specializes in installing new sprinkler systems in these structures and offers their services throughout the construction process, from design-build to project completion.
The division was added in response to demand. “We were always asked, ‘How come you don’t do fire sprinklers? You guys should do it. You do plumbing, and you should tie everything together,’” Rick remembers. “So we started a fire sprinkler company, and then built that up to the point where we started doing fire extinguisher inspections, because that would complement everything else.”
Primarily focused on serving commercial customers, the company’s extinguisher division sells and services fire extinguishers, industrial systems, kitchen suppression systems, and emergency lighting. Crews are fully trained and equipped to inspect, service, install, maintain, repair and recharge, around the clock. The division also does group training to instruct individuals and businesses how and when to properly use a fire extinguisher.
The company’s full-service division deals with NFPA 25 inspections and fire sprinkler system maintenance, primarily for commercial customers. NFPA 25 is the standard for testing and maintaining water-based fire protection systems. The team tests, inspects and maintains fire pumps, wet and dry sprinkler systems, standpipes, backflow testing, pre-action systems, and more.
Mongiovi & Son’s alarm services division provides security for residential and commercial locations, large or small. The team installs security systems, key fob systems, facial recognition systems, fire alarms, and surveillance cameras. The division complements the other safety-related divisions.
“Four years ago, we started a fire alarm company that joins together with our fire sprinkler company to perform the testing of the equipment we put in,” Rick explains. “So we’re almost like a one-stop shop, in that whole area of construction [of] life safety services.”
Covering so many bases at once sets Mongiovi & Son apart. “You’re either a plumber in our area or you’re a separate fire company,” he says. “But we’re all under one roof, and a lot of people want to make one call and deal with all our divisions.”
Having this range helps to ensure a steady stream of business. Typically, all the divisions in the company will bid on a project, and ideally, the team will handle all the aspects of a job. Even though some bids may be rejected, one or two divisions will often win their bid, giving the company at least some work. “I think that’s why we’re busy,” Rick says.
The company has had to rely on its strengths during recent, challenging times. “The last nineteen months have been probably the biggest challenge that I’ve had,” he says. “I thought COVID was a big challenge a few years back, but this is even worse than COVID…. Three years ago, I worked less and made more. I am working more now and making less just to deal with everything.”
The worker shortage has been a serious problem. “Projects that we are bidding on are taking longer to do because there’s not enough manpower,” Rick says. The problem is exacerbated by a general lack of emphasis on trade schools.
“People are not going to trade schools like they used to, and so we’re having a hard time recruiting people and finding talent,” Rachele says. “They keep pushing colleges and school, but no one is pushing trades and how valuable those skills are and how much money they can make.”
The rising cost of materials is another major issue. The company is sticking to its original contracts, even when the cost of these jobs has risen dramatically since making the bid—but it has not been easy. “I’m eating all those costs, the material increases,” Rick says.
Despite the current business climate, the outlook is bright for Mongiovi & Son. After four decades in business, the team has the experience and foundation to weather the storm—and eventually get back to expanding, once the business climate improves.
“We’re looking to continue to grow,” Rick says, and his children look forward to continuing his legacy and plan to keep the business in the family after he retires someday.
“Me and my brothers would like to see another forty years after my dad,” Rachele says.