Entrepreneur of the Year: Bob Lee, Jr.

2016 Ovation Awards

Lee, Jr.

Lee Plumbing Mechanical Contractors Inc.
Industry: Plumbing, HVAC, electric, pipe fitting/welding/process piping
Address: 2915 60th St., Kenosha
Employees: About 100
Website: www.leeplumbing.com

Lee, Jr.
Lee, Jr.

Bob Lee, Jr., was 17 years old when he started working for his father’s plumbing business.

He had dreams of making it big in the real estate industry, but needed to save some money first.

“My dad had worked for other plumbing contractors, but my mother was the one who encouraged him to step out on his own,” Lee said. “He opened Lee Plumbing on July 4, 1976. My mom was the secretary and my dad was the boss and only employee.”

Lee joined in 1977.

By 1984, his father was pursuing his passion as the owner of a minor league baseball team and Lee and his brother, Mike, were left in charge of the company.

“We already had a pretty good reputation in the community,” Lee said. “My brother and I were able to build on that solid reputation.”

The two worked hard, knocking on doors to earn additional business. The company grew as the Kenosha community grew, he said.

Lee Plumbing has been involved in several high-profile projects in the region, including Evinrude Outboard Motors’ buildout project in Sturtevant, the WE Energies power plants in Oak Creek and Pleasant Prairie, the expansion of St. Catherine’s Hospital in Pleasant Prairie, Carthage College in Kenosha, Gateway Technical College renovations in Racine and the Chrysler engine plant in Kenosha.

“The region has grown so much,” Lee said. “We’re just happy to be a part of it.”

In addition to plumbing, the company has expanded to offer HVAC, electrical and mechanical services.

Lee Plumbing will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year. Lee’s brother Mike moved with his family to Vancouver and his younger brother Greg is in the plumbing business in Kansas, he said.

His father, Bob Lee, Sr., is nearing 80.

“I’m very fortunate to have great people around me,” Lee said. “We’re a small company, but it’s our team that really makes things happen. My father taught me early on that the key is to surround yourself with good people and delegate to them the responsibility to do what you’re paying them to do.”

As he nears nearly 40 years in the business, Lee plans to try to cut back on the work he does.

“If I’m not here, these people will keep it going on the same track, rowing in the same direction,” he said. “I’ve been letting my people take more of the day-to-day operations and letting them have more of a say in the next chapter. They are the future of the company.”

Lee says he will always be involved in the business and doesn’t have plans for retirement at the moment, but is looking forward to seeing how the company and the Kenosha community continue to grow.

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