Publisher Terry Tanker sat down with Aaron Gaynor, owner of Eco Plumbers, Electricians and HVAC Technicians. The Columbus-based firm was a Tops In Trucks Fleet Design Contest winner. The two discussed overcoming adversity, starting over, and executing new business plans.
1. Do you have a favorite hobby?
I run. It’s my meditation. And, I work. I love what I do.
2. What's your hidden talent?
3. What would people be surprised to know about you?
4. What’s your secret ambition?
I want to change my family's legacy forever.
5. How did you get in the business?
I'm a plumber by trade. I started in 1997 out of high school. My buddy and I started a new construction plumbing company in the early 2000s called Precise Plumbing. We thought we were the best plumbers and thought we should own a business.
6. How did that work out for you?
It worked for a while. We said we're going to go be technicians, then managers, and then entrepreneurs. We did grow a business to about three and a half million dollars in the new construction market but lost that business in 2006-7 to bankruptcy when the housing market crashed.
7. What happened?
We grew up in a time when we thought the building market was never going to end. We had one customer that accounted for 60% of our business. When they went under, we got crushed. We lost jobs, vendors didn’t get paid, and we went bankrupt. And then I lost my house, lost my car. I mean, I lost everything. Everything that you thought you had was gone and we tried to fight and keep it, but eventually the banks had us.
8. What did you do next?
I ended up back at my mom's house at 28 years old, sleeping on her couch as a single dad with my three-year-old son. And I just remember sitting on the couch trying to get my bearings. Even though he was too young to understand, I said, "I promise you this won't be your life, I'm going to figure it out." And I just got to work. I started Eco Plumbers for $50 and that was 17 years ago. This year we should do 70 million with about 280 employees
8. What were the big things you learned?
I didn’t want to be a tax ID to all the vendors. I wanted to be a service provider so I could control my own destiny. I realized I didn’t know how to run a business and I knew I needed help and got it from a lot of people over the years.
10. How did you come up with the name Eco Plumbers?
I was looking for something new in the industry, something that could inspire me, something that would be different. I wanted something I could compete with, something unique and different in the space. At the time “green” was popular but already trademarked. I went through some training on water conservation, energy, solar, thermal, and tankless water heaters. I thought Eco would be great. This resonates with me. It resonates with the brand.
11. How did you get into HVAC and electrical?
I wanted an opportunity to keep growing the business. At some point, if we didn't expand trade lines or do horizontal or vertical growth, we would saturate the market. And then one of my core values and the core values of the organization is, “grow or die.” So, it was about creating opportunity and growing more, and creating safe trade lines that could expand our market share and create more opportunities for people in the business.
12. Congratulations on being one of our Tops In Trucks winners. How many vehicles are in your fleet?
Currently, we have 211. We have box trucks, pick-up trucks, and service vans from Ford, Dodge, and Ram.
13. How did you develop the design?
We wanted to rebrand the entire company, so we hired three firms to help us. One worked on the design for the fleet, an advertising agency helped with the integration across the company, and the third was a firm that wrapped the fleet.
14. How did you introduce the design to your team?
We wrapped two Ford Transits so we could see the results on actual vehicles. We used these at our internal launch events, where we announced the rebrand to our team and then celebrated!
15. How did you select the colors for the design?
Our dominant brand colors from the old logo and branding were green and blue. We updated these to contemporary hues that continued to capture our eco-friendly brand story and related to the services, plumbing (water/blues), heating (warm air/yellow greens), cooling (cool air/blues), and electrical (energy/yellow greens).
16. When did you start to implement the design?
We started rewrapping our vehicles in December 2022. To meet our goal, we were doing this to eight to ten vehicles per week. We wanted to have a portion of our fleet wrapped and have it coincide with our official external brand launch on Monday, January 3, 2023.
17. What type of investment have you made in the rebranding campaign?
The investment in the fleet marketing campaign is currently $535,000 for design and wrapping. With the final 28 remaining vehicles, predominantly large box trucks and heavy-duty trucks to be completed, and other items, such as trailers and jetters, the investment should come in at approximately $650,000.
18. Have you seen a return on investment?
Yes, since this is branding, and we do view our trucks as billboards. We know that the new design is getting tens of thousands of impressions weekly!
19. How have your employees responded?
It was very positive. We threw a launch party for senior leaders that was a reveal of the new company name, new logo, and new truck wrap. The project was kept fairly secret, except to a few working on it and those outside of the company that were advising us. For our service and office team members, the new branded trucks were revealed with complimentary breakfast trucks. Our team members also received T-shirts with the new logo and the theme for the launch which was, "The Future Is Now".
20. How have customers responded?
We are hearing from many customers, media reps, and other friends in the home service industry that they like our rebrand. We receive texts from customers and business partners, some of whom are also customers, with photos of our trucks at their homes, or wherever they see them.
We used the Ford Transit side view on our introductory billboards and some of these will appear all year long. Also, the buzz from social media posts has been exciting. We'll be working as quickly as possible to film our trucks driving in the neighborhoods and in the communities we serve, and to update our TV ads.