Billy Cromedy IB
Billy Cromedy, left, owner of Advantage Contracting, Philadelphia, recently was invited to the White House for a Business Council roundtable regarding the fiscal cliff.

Billy Cromedy still doesn’t know how he got invited to the White House. Cromedy, president of Advantage Contracting, Philadelphia, was brought to Washington in December 2012 as part of a White House business council meeting with minority business leaders from across the country to discuss the “fiscal cliff” and other matters related to small business.

“I don’t know if they drew my name out of a hat or what,” Cromedy said. “I probably think they were picking by region.

“I got invited by email, which is really odd, I thought. I said to my wife, ‘I don’t think this is real.’ But then I got a follow-up call a couple of days later.”

And Cromedy was off from there. He walked to the White House from his hotel for the Dec. 4 meeting, which lasted three to four hours, he said. He filled out all the necessary paperwork for security clearances, and didn’t get a finalized itinerary until the day before.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” he said. “I would’ve dropped everything. At the end of the day, it gave me a chance to voice my opinions and I know a lot of the other business owners felt the same way. Once you get past the initial ‘I’m going to the White House,’ you have real concerns.”

After the meeting was over and everyone went their separate ways, Cromedy said White House officials still kept lines of communication open with them, including hosting conference calls to provide updates on the “fiscal cliff” situation.

“They really wanted us to come back to our hometowns and share their message with our local people and our business communities,” he said.

Dan White, director of special projects for MEP Solutions Inc., an Avondale, Pa.-based full-service contractor, and friend of Cromedy, said he was “quite impressed” when he found out Cromedy was invited to the White House.

“He was a great selection to be a part of the panel,” White said. “I knew he would give them honest feedback and that he would represent the small business class well.”

Tom DeMuis, president/CEO of Wm. J. Donovan Co., Philadelphia, has known Cromedy for about three years now and said he was happy to see him selected for the White House discussion because he “represents himself and our industry so well.”

Building Back Home

Back in Philadelphia, the 37-year-old Cromedy is continuing to make progress with Advantage. The son of a World War II veteran who spent his days as a trash collector to put food on the table, Cromedy said he learned the value of hard work from his father at an early age, something he’s carried with him to this day.

“I believe Cromedy to be one of the most straightforward and up-front people I’ve had the pleasure to deal with, and that’s saying something when you work in contracting,” DeMuis said. “He works hard to maintain his reputation and grow his knowledge of the business and has a tremendous work ethic.”

Named to the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2009, Cromedy employs around 15-20 people at any given time, he said. Advantage, founded in 2005, performs ductwork installation, sheet metal fabrication, and HVAC equipment purchasing and supply.

Coming from a finance background, Cromedy founded the company with Greg Doyle, who eventually left the company, leaving Cromedy as the sole owner.

The driven Cromedy took it upon himself to learn as much as he possibly could, even going so far as to install ductwork in his house himself to gain a better appreciation for the job.

“I went to probably every SMACNA [Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association] seminar there was over the course of two to three years,” Cromedy said of his first few years. “I went to every single additional training seminar, anything I could go to to kind of soak it up and it kind of came easy because you can rely on a lot of your field guys. What I do more is manage money. I have a better-than-working knowledge of sheet metal, but we hire union guys who know their jobs and the technical side very well. I had to learn it from a different perspective. I never put the stuff in, but I had to understand what they did. At the time, I was probably 29 and you’re working with men who sometimes are twice your age, but they were very forgiving and wanted to teach me.”

Bright Future

And that gained experience, combined with Cromedy’s finance background, is turning Advantage into a big player in the Philadelphia market. “What separates him from others and makes him a great owner is his authenticity and integrity,” White said. “Right from the start I could trust him and knew that he would always follow through with what he said. He’s honest and cares just as much about the people around him as he does his business. In this business it’s rare to find someone with all his qualities.”

Going forward, Cromedy is confident in what Advantage is going to be able to do not only in Philadelphia, but in their region. He says he tells his employees that it’s time for the market to be theirs.

“We’re going to be a major player here in Philadelphia,” Cromedy said. “I’m a good judge of, I guess, my market, and from the meetings I’ve had, the people I’ve talked to, we’ve scratched the surface, but I really think we’re going to be one of the top contractors, not only in Philadelphia, but on the East Coast. We’ve got some new ventures and partnerships that we’re working on. We’re going to be very viable as far as our size, our profitability, and our expertise. It’s an exciting time for me, moving into 2013 and moving forward.”

And no matter how much Cromedy moves up the ladder, White is confident he’ll always stay the same. “He’s the same person he was when I first met him,” White said. “No matter how much success he has achieved, his integrity has always remained.”

Publication date: 2/25/2013