BizTimes Bubbler Executive of the Week: Dan Callies

Dan Callies, president of Oak Creek Plumbing Inc.
Company address: 640 E. Ryan Road, Oak Creek, WI 53154
Industry: Plumbing services and kitchen and bath remodeling
Number of employees: 20
Family: Wife, Denise; daughter, Samantha, 17; and son Joey, 15

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year? 
“We ‘righted’ our company, meaning we right-sized it. As positions became vacant, we did not fill them. We utilized our existing staff to take on more and diverse responsibilities. We also priced right. For a few years, we got in the habit of buying jobs. We would lower the margins to get the job just to keep the guys going. We believed we were having a ‘going out of business sale,’ but we didn’t know it. We dug into the numbers and started pricing the jobs right based on the margins we needed to cover overhead and maintain a profit. This last year, our revenues were down 20 percent, but our profit was up 200 percent. Do less and make more. Not a bad business model.”

What’s new at your company?
“We are always looking at new products and services we can provide to our clients, such as aging in place items for the bath or kitchen. Taking the tub out and putting a walk-in shower is more popular now than ever before. We are also doing more walk-in bathtubs for the folks who want to stay in their home longer and be safer. We are also looking at products that can give our clients peace of mind, so plumbing emergencies and potential water damage would be a thing of the past. This includes battery back-up sump pumps or whole house back-up generators to whole house sensing valves that will turn off the water main if it senses water in places it doesn’t belong (basically the floor). We are always updating our kitchen and bath showroom to show some of the latest design and product trends from our preferred vendors and manufacturers.”

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year? 
“We will be looking for a couple more field staff and an outside sales/design consultant. We are investing heavily in our IT system. We will be providing our field and sales staff with tablets to provide a better customer experience and also increase administrative efficiency that will be able to take place without conversations. Our field staff will have more timely and accurate information to provide our clients with better solutions.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year? 
“Training and implementing the new software and hardware technology so the system will work for us instead of us working for the system.”

What’s the hottest trend in your industry? 
“Mobile technology and staying connected with our field staff. Being able to e-mail documents for product specifications and troubleshooting. Also being able to have our field staff log into our software to look at client history to see what has been done in the past to provide a better solution for their issue.”

Do you have a business mantra? 
“I have two: ‘Do more with less’ and ‘The customer is not always right, but it is our job to make them feel right.’”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?  
“Michael Gerber, the author of ‘The Emyth.’ I read this book about every year. Every time I pick it up, I feel like Michael is talking to me about my company regarding a different issue we are experiencing.”

What was the best advice you ever received?
“Take care of the customer and the customer will take care of you.”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career? 
“We did a bathroom remodel project a few years back. We gutted the bath area down to the studs. We replaced the tub and installed new wallboard and an acrylic wall system. That night, we received a call from the client saying that their cat was missing and they were hearing ‘meowing’ under the tub. The curious cat must have been checking things out when we were outside prepping the material to install. When we went back into the bathroom, the cat must have gotten startled and jumped under the skirt of the tub to hide. We went back to the job site that night and opened the wall back up and it took a little coaxing by the owner but Morris the cat came out unharmed. This story had a happy ending.”

What do you like to do in your free time? 
“Traveling around the country and taking a yearly trip to Disney to spend time with my wife of 21 years and my two children. I also enjoy playing the drums. I’ve been in some local party bands that have played at Summerfest multiple times. Also, I get calls to do pick-up gigs for some local blues and jazz bands.”

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