It’s another Monday morning at Affordable Plumbing and Heat — and the phones are ringing off the hook.
“The heat is out at my house.”
“My hot water heater is on the fritz.”
“Why is my house so cold?”
It’s a typical morning for owners Greg and Heidi Smith and their manager, Tom Mudd.
“We have an opportunity to serve the community,” Mudd said. “The rest follows.”
“The rest,” in this case, is the long-established reputation of being a professional organization, performing quality work, building satisfied customers and then gaining monetary rewards as a result, Mudd said.
Affordable Plumbing and Heat is a full-service, 24/7 plumbing and heating company in Colorado Springs. Greg Smith is a master plumber and has been for 30 years. Affordable has 12 plumbers on staff. Of those, two are master plumbers and nine are journeymen.
Master plumbers have earned high-level certification. The process to become a master plumber, according to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, is that applicants for a license must have obtained five years of full-time experience, or 60 months or 9,780 hours of practical experience.
They must also submit letters of verification, apply for a license and pass the examination.
There are lesser requirements for journeyman status, including 6,800 hours of practical experience. For the residential plumber plumbing license, a person needs 3,400 hours of practical experience.
Heating certification is similar, with trade school as a basic requirement.
“The guys need to get a lot of hours,” Heidi Smith said. “Here in Colorado, we have pretty tight regulations.”
Affordable Plumbing and Heat will help customers with the full length of plumbing and heating needs, from leaky faucets to collapsed sewer lines. The business will repair and replace furnaces and fix leaky gas lines.
“We’ll repair or replace your toilet to replace all the piping in your house,” Heidi Smith said. “We’ll do everything from the ground up including light commercial, except new buildings.”
The business started with Greg Smith working alone, and then later he partnered with others, Heidi Smith said. After that, he sold his portion of that business and started Affordable Plumbing and Heat in March 1995.
“I had a full-time job elsewhere until I was working 80 hours a week,” Heidi Smith said. “Then I came here full-time.”
Their six children worked at Affordable Plumbing and Heat and some still do, she said.
The business has grown to $3.1 million in sales and service in 2013, Mudd said. At its height, the business did slightly over $4 million in sales and service, Heidi Smith said.
She recalled the change in business climate after Sept. 11, 2001 when “the whole country froze.” The company then started focusing more on service.
Affordable installed plumbing and heating to tract housing during the boom of 2005 and 2006, but by the time 2008 rolled around, “even the customs died off,” she said of new custom homes.
Affordable Plumbing and Heat then switched its focus to remodeling and service, Heidi Smith said. She stressed that “someone working out of their van” may offer lower price quotes, but not the highest quality.
“It’s all about being balanced,” Heidi Smith said. “You can’t have the best people and be the cheapest.
“It costs money to do background checks and pay people.”
Mudd stressed the safety component of Affordable Plumbing and Heat. Customers must feel safe when the plumber or heat technician arrives at the house, he said, so the business performs full background checks on prospective workers before they’re hired.
Also, plumbers and technicians must perform quality work to inspect and service furnaces to ensure they’re safe to the residents of the home, Mudd said.
Management checks the work of Affordable’s employees and also follows up with a phone call to the customer after the job is finished, Heidi Smith said. Through the job, company management maintains contact with the customers.
“Some people are doing this to just make a living,” but Affordable Plumbing and Heat strives to offer the best customer service, she added.
“To be the best, we stay in contact with our customers during the whole process,” Heidi Smith said. “That way, you’re building a relationship with that customer” and that includes receiving useful feedback.
Affordable Plumbing & Heat has been voted a “best-of” winner in Colorado Springs for the past three years, something she’s proud of, she added.
Part of the process
To complete a job, the business must obtain a building permit from the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department.
“We answer to them. Our work gets checked by them to make sure we’ve done the work properly and safely,” Heidi Smith said. “If it’s done incorrectly, it could be very dangerous.”
Prospective customers can research plumbing and heating contractors who obtain permits through PPRBD.org, as they decide who to hire, she said.
Both stressed the quality of the employees they have working at Affordable Plumbing and Heat, some of whom have remained there for 10 years or more.
“We have had a lot of people leave and have asked to come back,” Heidi Smith said.
“We don’t claim perfection, but we have the ability to hire the best people and make sure the job is done correctly and safely. If a mistake is made, we have the wherewithal to own it.”
And fix it to their customers’ satisfaction.
Affordable Plumbing and Heat
Info: 1304 Market St., 471-0713
In business: 18 years
Number of employees: 32