Since 1906, Petri Plumbing & Heating has been serving Brooklyn, New York’s, HVAC and plumbing needs.
Upon graduating college in 1977, Michael Petri, president of Petri Plumbing & Heating Inc., started working full-time for the company, which was founded as Brancale and D’Amico Plumbing, Tinsmithing & Hardware by his great-great uncle and great-grandfather, and never looked back.
The company still operates out of the same building it was founded in, and its personal and professional plumbing and HVAC service has been known by Brooklyn through the generations. They’ve even kept some of the same customers.
FIRST GEN: A photo of Petri Plumbing & Heating from 1906, when it operated at Brancale and D’Amico Plumbing, Tinsmithing & Hardware. (Courtesy Petri Plumbing)
SECOND GEN: Petri Plumbing & Heating after its building renovation and rebranding. (Courtesy Petri Plumbing)
In fact, around three years ago, the company tore out a bathroom installed by Petri, his brother Gerard, and his father in 1972. Then there they were, all these years later, making that same bathroom handicap-accessible for the same client.
“I have a lot of fun with this. There’s a lot of enjoyment to what we do,” said Petri.
They didn’t get there by doing the bare minimum — they’ve changed with the times, gone above and beyond in their service, and kept business-operations professional yet personal.
“Our award is longevity,” said Petri. “If we weren’t good, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Petri became the president of the company in 1995, which is also the year (after a few names derivate of its current name) Petri Plumbing & Heating became known as “Petri Plumbing & Heating.”
OLD SCHOOL GUY: Michael Petri has been president at Petri Plumbing & Heating for 50 years, and has had to evolve the business with the times. (Courtesy Petri Plumbing)
RECOGNIZE: Petri trucks like this have been recognized throughout Brooklyn for decades. (Courtesy Petri Plumbing)
The company really started its evolution back in the ‘90s by incorporating flat rate pricing. Every year after that, it just became more efficient. In 2015, Petri Plumbing & Heating rebranded itself; since then, the business evolves with whatever new trend or topic enters the industry.
Serving the third-largest city in the country certainly keeps the residential service and repair company busy. But residential means something different in New York City.
“What used to be an apartment building is now 100 co-ops or condos. So we might do 10 co-ops in 100 family buildings … the distinction is really different now,” Petri said.
Staffing numbers and growth remained consistent even during the pandemic for the company — currently standing at 22 employees and 13 trucks, with 8-10% growth revenue each year.
It isn’t surprising for a company that’s been around since the early 1900s and has weathered the likes of the Spanish Influenza, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and more.
“That’s the nature of the trades … We are somewhat recession- and disaster-proof,” Petri said.
Petri Plumbing & Heating
Part of why things work so well at Petri Plumbing & Heating is because of how professional they keep it.
“We don’t have technicians, we have service experts. And we go out of our way to call our team service experts … We have clients, not customers,” Petri said.
Petri Plumbing & Heating has a whole protocol that they do with any service call: dispatch sends the call to a service expert, the dispatcher calls the client and gives them an ETA, and then the service expert is expected to call the client and let them know when they are 15 minutes away.
The in-between for all of those service experts, CSRs, and managers is dispatch manager Jeannine Rock, who said it’s the least stressful work environment she’s worked in.
“We don't stress each other out for no reason … We help each other out and we work through it, and it doesn't feel like it's a stressful day,” Rock said. “I love the people I work with. It’s very family-oriented. We work well together.”
It’s professional down to the way they hire.
“You have to go through like three different interviews with us before you get to the final stage where we are going to make you an offer,” Petri explained. “We present an offer letter … that’s inclusive and tells you what our expectations are and what they in turn should expect from Petri Plumbing. And then they have to pass the background and driver’s license check.”
It’s even professional down to the way they dress.
“I take the trades very seriously. Anyone who knows me knows that’s the way that I am,” Petri said. “My guys are in uniform. They dress clean. My trucks are state of the art. Everything’s neat. My offices are neat. That’s the presentation I want the trades to have.”
Being Successful: Evolving
Petri Plumbing & Heating is rebranding the trades through the comfortability they strive to provide to their clients and employees, how they present themselves, and their word.
“No matter what it is, [Michael’s] always willing to help. I mean, Monday through Sunday, no matter the hour of the day, you send him a message or a call and he’s always there. He answers, he calls you back,” Rock said.
And Petri leads by example; he isn’t the type of boss to ask something of his employees that he hasn’t done himself.
“You can’t BS people … Our word means something. And that's what I think the most important thing is,” Petri said.
Back in the day when Petri and his brother worked with his father and grandfather, there weren’t even contractors. There were handshakes.
“You have to be true to your word in order to be successful. And offer truly outstanding products and services that exceed expectations each and every time, to your clients,” Petri said.
The service experts will even ask the client if there’s anything they can get them before they get there, like a coffee or a newspaper.
That comfortability transcends to Petri employees as well. Labor is at a premium. So Petri and his managers strive to make it an appealing place to work. Though the company runs seven days a week, usually service experts only have to work five days/40 hours a week. It’s flexible. Employees are given the hours that work for them within Petri Plumbing & Heating’s business model, and their hard work is incentivized.
To be successful, the company has also had to integrate new industry technology. Petri noted the way the dispatch boards are now run with computers or tablets.
“[Evolving] is obviously harder if you’ve been in the industry for a long time … But that’s why it’s good to have young blood/young people in the industry who adapt to the changes easier and more readily than I would,” Petri said. “You have to be technologically savvy. Even our guys, we expect a lot from all of our service experts. They have to be savvy on the computer with our dispatch system.”
Petri Plumbing is working every day to hire young blood … literally, every day.
“There’s never a day where we don’t interview or have resumes coming through our office,” Petri said. “You can never stop interviewing. It’s just part of everyday business now, especially with the labor force being so tight in the trade industry. You might go through 100 resumes or 50 interviews before you'll find one that pops. And that's the way we do it.”
Or they do it through spreading the word of the trades. Just last year, a private school in the city decided to broaden its career day with the trades, and invited Petri Plumbing & Heating to present.
“Companies like ours will jump through hoops to get good people. But it’s not impossible. You just have to keep at it and develop a program that not only entices individuals to become a part of our team, but keeps them for a long time,” Petri said.
When asked about the future of Petri Plumbing, Petri joked that he hopes at some point he can just get out of the field and into the office. (He’s 68.)
FATHER AND SON: Chris Petri and Michael Petri representing Petri Plumbing & Heating. (Courtesy Petri Plumbing)
For his part, his son, Chris Petri, operations manager at Petri Plumbing & Heating, is looking to promote the company as a place people know and continue to respect — one that customers trust and that employees think of not as a job, but a career.
“You’re going to work hard. You’re going to get dirty. There’s going to be long hours. But there’s nothing more fulfilling than when a person calls you up with no heat in the wintertime and you get it up and running for them,” the elder Petri said. “You can’t get a better feeling than that … I just hope it continues. I see a bright future if people believe in the trades.”
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