Tony Dunaway was becoming all too familiar with the corporate culture of late nights, short weekends, and time away from family. Working as a General Manager for a large national plumbing contractor, Tony’s main duties consisted of travelling around the country and helping the company’s smaller branches grow more profitable.
Growing tired of the travel and being an employee number on a spread sheet, Tony and his wife Paula decided to embark on their own journey and help grow a business for themselves and create their own company culture where core principles like ‘teamwork’ and ‘family’ could actually be lived through the business, not just used as generic talking points in a boardroom.
In 2012, Tony and Paula began looking for a local family plumbing business to join and eventually take ownership of. With Tony’s experience in the plumbing industry and Paula’s history of working in retail and passion for customer service, they were confident in their abilities to grow a family business. Luckily, they didn’t have to look very far. Tony’s dad, Ernie Dunaway, had been running a very successful, yet very small plumbing business himself for over thirty years. “At that point BEST Plumbing was one truck in his garage and his office was his kitchen table.” Said Tony. “So we got a website up, started answering the phone, started hiring guys, and really started to focus on growing the business.”
The fast growth that the company enjoyed soon after Tony and Paula joined can be credited not to an expensive marketing campaign, but to good old-fashioned customer service. “It’s all about referrals. It’s all about word of mouth.” Said Paula “It’s the consistent great customer service and great plumbing. They go hand-in-hand. It’s a great product and service that we consistently offer to our customers.” Tony added, “We try every day to break the preconceived ideas of what a plumbing appointment should be.”
Today, BEST Plumbing, located in Loveland, is one of the most prominent plumbing businesses in the tristate area. With 18 employees, customer service is a way of life. When BEST Plumbing sends a plumber to your home, you can rest assured knowing that the plumber is licensed. Unlike large corporate contractors, Best Plumbing does not pay their guys a commission. “We’re not there to sell you a product.” Said Paula, “We’re there to fix your plumbing.”
The ‘Teamwork’ aspect that Tony so direly missed in his previous job, runs through the blood of every employee at BEST Plumbing. To be hired, it’s not enough to just be a licensed plumber. Great customer service skills are also required. “We can’t hire just anybody. We want to make sure we’re hiring the best people. Before we hire someone, I think to myself, ‘Would I feel comfortable sending them to my Grandma’s house.’ That’s the big test for me” Said Tony.
It’s not uncommon for a team member to complete a job in Goshen at 2:00 and immediately call his teammate in Milford, offering to help him complete his work. BEST employees are known for being extremely helpful and willing to go the extra mile because it really is a great place to work. “A lot of companies say they value quality of life. But we truly do.” Said Paula, “Our weekends are free. We’re flexible with our schedule because we’re family.”
Last March began BEST Plumbing’s toughest test to date when Covid began to make it’s impact. “We were scared. Our guys were scared.” Said Tony, “And we were going into people’s homes, so our risk of exposure was pretty high.” Luckily, months before Covid, Tony and Paula invested in web-based software so that the plumber could video record what they were doing and communicate with the customer while they were in the other room, essentially turning a plumbing repair into a Zoom meeting. “We were contactless before Covid.” Said Tony. “We made our customers aware of it. So it was no big deal for our guy to be in the bathroom while the customer was downstairs.” Added Paula. This change in their operation was just another way that Best Plumbing exemplified what is most important to them: Taking care of their customers and employees.
“I worked in the corporate world long enough to know what I didn’t want this business to be, more than what I wanted it to be.” Said Tony. “We actually live it. And we take that family feeling into our customer’s homes.” Added Paula
Family, teamwork, and customer service. Many people talk about it, few actually live it. BEST Plumbing is shining a light on what a business can achieve when it truly cares about its customers and employees.
Garrett is a resident of Milford.