Chris Nguyen found success early in his working life. The opportunity to move into what he called high-income, retirement-enticing opportunities were there for the taking.
But it wasn't enough.
"(That) didn't really give me the ability to kind of shape a company and shape a culture," Nguyen said from his office at 1-800-Plumber + Air in the Portland, Ore., area. "That's the most important part: Being able to create something that I can be proud of."
Nguyen's office is filled with his favorite artwork. He loves theater, movies and travel (pre-Covid-19), and enjoys hiking in Oregon's great outdoors. Friends and family matter. A lot.
His resume? It includes experience improving income streams for the DDR Corp. through targeted revisions of operations, and marketing at lifestyle and specialty centers in Chicago and the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.
He coordinated a $60 million redevelopment in the San Francisco Bay area for Rouse properties. And he was Director of Operations for a real-estate development firm in Portland, Ore.
His first job in his working life 20-some years ago was as a plumbing and HVAC technician for multi-family apartment communities. Early in 2020, he turned inward in an attempt to mesh all his experience with his goals.
"I think my top motivator is the need to feel like I've accomplished something and did something good,' he said.
He felt he could do that by opening his own business. Nguyen's overriding goal was to find something fulfilling for himself—and his team. He cast a wide business net, talked to financial services firms along with HVAC and plumbing franchises. He did extensive market analysis.
"(I) wanted to do something that was highly important and always necessary," he said. "And I can't think of many more things than plumbing."
As he researched and talked to people, he found he shared a philosophy with 1-800-PLUMBER +AIR.
"We both believe in continuous improvement," Nguyen said. "We believe ending every day a little bit better than we started it."
Nguyen operates with values anyone can appreciate, and apply to any purpose in life.
"We believe in doing what's right," Nguyen said. "And sometimes that isn't necessarily what's right for an owner of a business, but it might be right for the team or for a particular customer."
"We believe in doing what's right. And sometimes that isn't necessarily what's right for an owner of a business, but it might be right for the team or for a particular customer." - Chris Nguyen
He started what he called his "grand experiment" when he opened his plumbing and air franchise on March 2, 2020. In the year of Covid-19, that was not the best time for a startup. But Nguyen persevered through the challenges this difficult year presented. In less than one year, the company has grown to nine employees and is close to $2 million in revenue.
He called 1-800-PLUMBER +AIR a "fantastic partner," saying their support helped him succeed.
"We listen to each other and we implement each other's ideas," Nguyen said.
The fact that 1-800-PLUMBER had already partnered with ServiceTitan, the cloud-based software system for the trades, was a benefit. Nguyen integrated ServiceTitan into his business from Day 1.
"Having access to the ServiceTitan platform took care of a lot of the needs that I had seen on the customer side of things," Nguyen said. "Managing portfolios of commercial real estate, you do a lot of work with plumbers and HVAC technicians and others, and there were some communication gaps that I can completely understand.
"I found that having access to this platform really kind of filled in a lot of those gaps and helps us maintain the level of communication with our customers that we strive for."
Nguyen's company does not limit itself to small jobs. It works on larger projects that include rough-ins and multi-day projects. He cites ServiceTitan's help with billing, customer records and communication.
"It's been fantastic," he said. "I see a lot of opportunity for growth with ServiceTitan in the management of project workflows."
Nguyen understands that ServiceTitan had typically been focused on service and replacement and is growing commercial service capability. He sees potential.
"Because even over the short period of time we've been using it, which has been nine months now, we saw some amazing changes in the system," he said. "I look forward to what's going to happen."
His financial goals are focused on 2021 and growing from seven to 14 trucks and increasing revenues to $3.5 million.
"And I think those are both achievable goals," Nguyen said. "But I think the largest and the most closely held goal that I have is that we built a company that has a team that feels, one, (they are) proud to be part of that team, two, (they are) fully engaged and feel like they're used to the fullest of their potential."
Put another way, Nguyen said: "We want to make sure that we can go to bed every night, not only feeling a little bit better, but also feeling good about what we did for the day and about who we did it for."