How Plumbing Pays Off
Integrity Plumbing makes ‘quality without question’ its mantra
Starting your own business is typically a gamble. After all, the U.S. Small Business Administration says that only around 25% of small businesses make it through their first 15 years of existence.
So, by mathematical accounts, Matt Reyhons was taking a sizable gamble when he started his business, Integrity Plumbing, LLC (Integrity), back in 2005. After all, he had, by many accounts, a great job leading the plumbing department of a large mechanical-contracting company. Matt was leading a team of about 60 plumbers that was doing several millions of dollars annually in revenue.
But Matt, who has his business based in Sugar Land, Texas, just outside of Houston, needed a change.
“After about five years, I asked myself: ‘Why am I doing this for someone else?’ ” says the U.S. Army veteran. “I always wanted to own my own company and try it for myself. So, I set out on my own and built my company. I had learned more about what not to do, so I was able to take those lessons and come up with my own formula.”
Part of Matt’s decision to leave his former job was also based on personal financial planning.
“It was a risk, and luckily I had saved some money and made some investments. I told myself that when this stock I had invested in hits $10 a share, I’m going to start my own business,” he recalls, saying that the day after he turned in his resignation letter, the stock had climbed to $10.50 per share. “That’s a sign,” he thought.
Unfortunately, not long after founding his business, Matt was faced with an unanticipated problem—the housing crash.
Though the plumbing industry is considered an essential business during most times, it posed some unique problems for the startup.
He was lucky at first because, when the recession hit in 2008, he and his team were working on a seven-story medical office building.
“That carried us through 2010, and after that things started slowing down, and we had to scale back and lay off a little bit, but we were still getting jobs, though they weren’t as profitable,” Matt explains. “The problem was a lot of residential contractors were trying to move into the commercial market, and that drove the prices way down. But we got through, and we started picking back up again in 2012.” Now Matt is proud to say that he hasn’t laid off an employee for eight years.
Though he saw revenue drop from $900,000 to $500,000 the following year, by 2012 Integrity was up to $700,000. Revenues have risen by about 15% every year since then, and Matt projects that they will hit $2.5 million by the end of this year.
Now the company has 16 full-time employees and one who is part time.
“Houston is booming,” Matt points out. “We’re one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.” And business is strong, even in the times of COVID-19.
Matt learned his trade directly after serving in the U.S. Army. After his service, one of his jobs was to remove asbestos covering from the exterior of pipes. “That’s what really piqued my curiosity,” he says.
After the Army, Matt applied to become an electrical apprentice as well as a plumbing apprentice. “The plumbing company called me back first, and that’s how I got into plumbing,” he says.
He holds a Master Plumber license, as well as related Master Medical Gas, Master Water Supply Protection Specialist and RMP (Responsible Master Plumber) certifications.
Matt takes training very seriously and offers four years of paid on-the-job training and paid apprenticeship school.
“We’re really heavy on quality and education,” he says. “What we do is hire people with little or no experience and teach them the trade how we do it instead of trying to correct mistakes or have to re-teach something that wasn’t taught correctly. We teach everything from the ground up.”
Matt points out that his employees learn groundwork, top outs, fixtures, piping installation, and copper, steel, gas and waste piping. He also makes sure each person understands how to read blueprints.
“I had a third-year apprentice that came from another company, and all he knew how to do was copper. He didn’t know any underground or fixtures,” he says. “Our third-year apprentices would teach him stuff, and he was mind blown.”
David Bodungen, who has been with Integrity for 12 years as a Foreman, says that the intense training is not something he has seen in a lot of other companies. But he says it pays off on the job.
“In four years at Integrity, they learn,” David says. “You’re hands-on, and at most companies it’s not usually like that. At most companies you’re a helper, grabbing someone’s tools. I’m a real stickler on quality. If it ain’t straight, it’s got to be redone. And our motto is ‘Quality Without Question.’ ”
Quality especially comes into play when dealing with medical gas. Integrity has done work for about 30 urgent care clinics around Houston.
“Unfortunately, before plumbers were able to do med gas, there really wasn’t a standard,” Matt says. “The checks and balances were not in place at that point in time, and people ended up dying because, in a hospital setting, you might think you were giving a patient oxygen when you were actually giving them nitrogen. Thankfully, we have systems in place now to make sure that can’t happen.”
Integrity even hires a third-party, independent certifier at the end of medical gas jobs after his team has done its own testing to ensure that there are no cross connections.
Matt says that all of his employees are OSHA 10 certified and all foremen are OSHA 30 certified.
His excavation foremen and members of the excavation team are certified as an Excavation Competent Person.
“A lot of plumbers end up losing their lives from excavation collapses,” Matt says. “It’s really unfortunate because it shouldn’t happen if you do it right. It can be very safe, but if you do it wrong or skip the steps, it can be a fatal mistake. It always makes me mad when I see plumbers take short cuts. It’s really unnecessary.”
Pride and Companionship
Both Matt and David are extremely proud of the projects they have done throughout the Houston metro area.
In downtown Houston, the Integrity team did the plumbing for the local headquarters of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which is a three-story, 23,000-square-foot building.
They have also worked on the Regal Benders Landing movie theater, which is 124,000 square feet, with 24 auditoriums, including one that is 4DX. They worked on the installation of compressed air, scent and water to the seats, effect bars, and batten bars in the ceiling, which are all for special effects.
“You drive by it and it makes you feel pretty good,” David says of Integrity’s various projects. “I tell our team to bring their kids to a movie there, and when you’re done say, ‘I did this.’ ”
Matt sees the fruits of Integrity’s labor when he’s simply driving around the metropolitan area.
“That’s the cool part about being in business and working in Houston for so long,” he says. “I can drive around Houston and say, ‘I did that building and I did that building.’ ”
That sense of pride has helped create a bond within the team, Matt contends.
When Hurricane Harvey devastated much of the region in 2017, the Integrity team came together and helped employees and their extended families to excavate their houses. They also pitched in to help rebuild the home of a firefighter who was working around the clock.
Working together on meaningful community projects has created a sense of family.
“A lot of the guys have become good friends, and they are friends outside of work,” Matt says. “It’s not unheard of or unusual if one of our employees has a crawfish boil or a barbecue or a Super Bowl party to see 90% of our employees, with their families, at those events.” Adds David: “It’s a real family deal. If you go somewhere else, you’re a number. That doesn’t happen here.”