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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 5 years ago

'Exotic plumbing'

An innovative plumbing firm is tackling several challenges, from customer education to finding top employees.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Executives at Florida Pipe-Lining Solutions, a Sarasota-based plumbing and pipe restoration firm, are fully behind the Gulf Coast construction industry resurgence.

But it's the old buildings, from homes to hospitals, that really get Florida Pipe-Lining Executive Vice President Randy Hromyak pumped about plumbing. That's because the firm offers what Hromyak calls the industry's leading alternative to tearing open walls and floors to reach damaged and exposed pipes. The firm, instead, restores pipes from the inside under a patented process. Florida Pipe-Lining technicians then clean the pipes with pressurized air and sand, and add an epoxy barrier coating to make the pipes work like new.

“I call it exotic plumbing,” says Hromyak. “We think unconventionally about plumbing.”

The approach has led to a mini-growth surge at Florida Pipe-Lining, a 25-employee firm run from a facility east of Interstate 75 in an industrial park off of Fruitville Road. Sales rose 33% in 2014, from $2.1 million in 2013 to $2.8 million, and Hromyak expects to easily surpass $3 million in 2015. “We had a banner year last year,” adds Florida Pipe-Lining Business Manager Craig Underwood.

One challenge Florida Pipe-Lining faces in a quest for more banner years is to find a receptive audience in a market marked by a focus on new construction. In response, Hromyak, brought on to run day-to-day operations last December, recently added a salesperson, and one of his main goals for 2015 is a branding campaign. He also plans to enter new markets in the near future, Naples and possibly Gainesville. Says Hromyak: “We want to get our name out there.”

One key branding element, says Underwood, is customer education about the Florida Pipe-Lining system. “A lot of people don't even know this alternative exists,” says Underwood, “but almost anyone can be a customer, because everyone has pipes, and pipes get old.”

That's what plumbing industry veteran Ron Coddington believed in 2005, when he heard about Ace DuraFlo Systems, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based franchise firm behind the pipe restoration process. Coddington and a business partner bought Ace DuraFlo Systems franchise rights from Naples through Orlando — a $500,000 investment. “It was new to Florida then,” says Coddington. “So we evolved really quickly. We had a hard time keeping up with the demand.”

The recession stunted the growth, and Coddington ultimately changed the name to Florida Pipe-Lining while maintaining franchise rights. Coddington sought to exit the daily grind late last year, and he hired Hromyak to lead the firm into the next growth phase.

Another challenge Hromyak and Underwood face is finding and retaining top employees. “We can't just go into some other firm and take employees,” says Hromyak. “We have to train from the ground up.”

Coddington addressed the retention challenge a few years ago, when he added a 20% profit sharing plan to a benefits package that already had a base-level fully covered medical plan. “You can't be a take and keep it all,” says Codington. “I want a company that can stand the test of time.”

Better Pace
Florida Pipe-Lining Solutions Executive Vice President Randy Hromyak has a unique window into the push and pull between the private sector and government: He's been in both. His posts over the last decade include:

Supervised loss control for a $60 million workers' compensation book of business at Sarasota-based PBOA Risk Services;

Oversaw safety inspections and insurance regulations for Sarasota County;

Ran safety and risk management for Manatee County.

Hromyak returned to the private sector at Florida Pipe-Lining last December after three years in county government. The hardest part in the transitio, says Hromyak, was the lack of a sense of urgency in county government. “We had to wait a long time to get things accomplished,” says Hromyak.

The private industry pace is more Hromyak's speed. “Here I have control of things,” Hromyak says, “and can make things happen.”

Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon

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