Western Style Winner: Four Star Plumbing, San Clemente, California
Teamwork makes this company what it is today.
In honor of the name his late father came up with, Robert Frank, founder, president and active technician, decided to keep the name Four Star Plumbing and make it his own.
“Our name was inspired by the standards that hotels and restaurants were rated,” says Kelli Frank, vice president, CMO, co-owner and wife of Robert Frank. “Five-star ratings were nonexistent in the 1960s when his father started the company. A four-star rating meant that a consumer could consistently expect a high level of service, special care and treatment that was a step above.”
As a kid, Robert Frank spent his summers helping his dad on various plumbing jobs. While learning the trade, he saw how demanding the job could be. But, he also saw how rewarding it was. In 1984, he completed his two-year training at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, then his journeyman’s license through the city of Los Angeles. At the age of 19 Frank graduated as the youngest journeyman in his class.
During the mid-1980s, Frank took a job with the Los Angeles plumbers union in both residential and commercial plumbing. This included new construction, remodel as well as service and repair. Robert Frank’s father unexpectedly died in 1992 and soon after the business was dissolved. Unfortunately, there was no succession plan in place.
At 25, Frank took his dad’s old 1974 Chevy, moved to southern Orange County and received his C36 plumbing license. While restoring his father’s old truck, he worked for a few local plumbing companies. Two years later, the 1-ton Chevy Silverado (with a utility bed) was service ready. His goal was to start his own Four Star Plumbing shop in honor of his late father.
Accounting for growth
Two years later, his garage was converted into the new Four Star Plumbing.
“Robert knew starting a business meant long hours, hard work and sacrifice,” Kelli Frank says. “As a sole proprietor, you have to be your own salesperson, too. Placing ads in the local coupon magazines and joining the Chamber of Commerce — where he is still an active member — was a great start.”
In 2004, Four Star Plumbing Orange County had grown out of the garage and into a commercial warehouse in San Juan Capistrano. By the end of 2007, Frank found himself with a flood of new business and struggling to keep up with the increased administrative demands.
“Although, the housing market crash hit Orange County hard, Four Star Plumbing was still growing,” Kelli Frank says. “In the summer of 2007, Robert and I decided it was time for me to leave my sales job and join the business. We knew together we could make this company something special. Our goal was to develop a company around Robert’s service quality and best practices. We knew we needed to build a team that would be an extension of Robert’s reputation and reliability.
“In July of 2008, the focus was to create a company that would outlive us both and leave something for our children. Developing our brand message included: an online presence, updating the logo, and adding a tag phrase and new uniforms. It was imperative all field technicians properly represent the brand and uphold our reputation.”
Kelli Frank credits the company’s website as a factor in the rapid growth.
“Our website is innovative, interactive, informative and the reason for increased business,” she says. “Adding Yelp and social media to the mix came with some unique challenges, for sure. With consumers turning to the internet to find or review a business, there was now a need for reputation management and search-engine optimizing was critical, not to mention being mobile friendly.”
Hiring the right people
For any business anticipating growth it is important to hire a staff that can grow and change with the business. It’s crucial to attract the right candidate and hire the right people.
“We hire based on character and trainability,” Kelli Frank says. “Our training includes written tests, role play, presentation, product knowledge, field training, customer service and sales classes. But it comes down to leadership. That is what sets the example of ethical business practices. Your employees are a reflection of you and your leadership. What we have learned is in order to have loyal employees, they need to feel valued, safe, well-compensated and heard — everyone needs to know their voices count.
“Over the last 10 years, Robert and I have been dedicated to creating and implementing various training books and safety classes, employee handbooks, benefit plans and even an annual company event. Regular weekly huddles allow employees to offer feedback and suggestions, and it can double as ongoing training.
“Each of our employees are educated and tech savvy. Our entire team has contributed to our efficiency and technical advancements. All these changes took a one-man operation and turned it into a truly professional revenue-generating plumbing company.” RJ 2.0
To read about where the company is now, its vehicles, wrap design, uniforms and overall cohesive look, as well as how it juggles growing a business and raising a family, check out RJ 2.0’s September eBook.