Flexibility serves company well - East Valley Tribune: Business

Flexibility serves company well

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Posted: Sunday, August 21, 2005 6:28 am | Updated: 8:20 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Flexibility is the key to a successful business for Linda and Chris Stanfield, owners of Stampede Plumbing Company in Gilbert.

Five years ago, the Stanfields had to make a major decision: Either continue to lose money by providing basic construction plumbing for the growing number of new homes in the East Valley, or take a step back and focus primarily on residential repair services like replacing toilets, faucets and fixing leaking waterlines on homes already built.

"We had to change our focus," Chris Stanfield said. "It was a big decision."

Also, Linda Stanfield, who worked for 15 years selling insurance for State Farm Insurance Company, made another big decision — she resigned her job to devote fulltime to the family plumbing business.

"I applied the training and experience I acquired during those many years selling insurance to operating a small plumbing company," she said.

It worked.

Today, the Stanfields who started with two employees — themselves — now have seven, they’ve gone from one to six trucks and they answer between a dozen and 20 service calls each day, averaging between $200 and $300 per visit.

They’re also looking for a larger working space, a commercial office somewhere in Gilbert where they can coordinate the growing number of requests for plumbing repairs.

"We’re still working out of my son’s former bedroom," said Linda, who with several other employees takes the incoming calls and directs outgoing service appointments primarily in the East Valley.

Chris Stanfield began his plumbing career 15 years ago. At the time, he focused on new construction, an area that, for him, seemed to offer profits as the population and home construction expanded in Gilbert, Chandler and surrounding areas, he said.

But big projects don’t always mean big profits, he said.

"There are some construction plumbing companies that were — and are — making money, but we were small and we were losing it," he said. "Focusing, instead, on smaller, residential repair services was like . . . starting all over."

The Stanfields also discovered that the new housing boom also offered another advantage for their new business — many of their calls for help from new home owners was the result of either poor plumbing construction or low quality plumbing materials used in the initial construction of some housing developments.

"Most of our business is from people whose plumbing repairs or services aren’t covered by new home warranties," said Linda, who also noted that Arizona, unlike many other states, does not require a plumber to obtain a state-approved license although plumbing companies must be certified.

Plumbing can, and sometimes is, installed in new homes by inexperienced workers using poor quality equipment and materials, the Stanfields said.

"A lot of our calls are from people who not only want to repair but also want to upgrade their plumbing in their newer homes," Chris Stanfield said.

One of their customers, Conee Cooley, purchased and moved into her home in the Gilbert and Ray roads area in Gilbert in 1999 and decided to upgrade the bathrooms.

"We discovered we weren’t using the bathtub, and we wanted to redesign the area to make it more usable," Cooley said. "I met with Chris and discussed the project. Now, it’s just gorgeous."

Dave Bittner, a financial adviser for the Stanfields, said his clients’ success is the result of several issues, none, however, directly related to money.

"They have an open book management," said Bittner of Growth Management CFO Group. "By that I mean, they have direct connections with each employee. They keep their staff well-informed about the business."

"They also know when to ask for help, especially with issues they’re not completely familiar with and, finally, they’re deeply involved in the community."

The Stanfields have regularly sponsored the annual Gilbert Day Festival and, next month, will sponsor the So Long To Summer Fest in Gilbert.

They contribute a percentage of sales to schools in Gilbert and Chandler selected by their customers and they are regular contributors and volunteers for the Boosters Club at Mesquite High School, the Gilbert Education Foundation and Gilbert Cares, an agency that helps elderly and lowincome families.

Their company has already received accolades from the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce as well as being honored by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s 18th annual Small Business Awards June 30.

"What’s really special about Linda, is the enthusiasm she brings (to the community)," said Kathy Langdon, president of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce.

Linda and Chris Stanfield

Family: Son, David, 20; daughter, Danielle, 17

Resides in: Gilbert

Business: Owners of Stampede Plumbing Company, 748 W. Stottler Place, Gilbert

Key Achievement: In five years, turned a plumbing service company into one of the busiest in the East Valley with an average of 20 house-calls a day

Success Philosophy: Give special attention to each customer, keep employees informed and give back to the community

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