Mr. Rooter Plumbing Thrives Through the Pandemic as an Essential Service
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Mr. Rooter Plumbing Thrives Through the Pandemic as an Essential Service

Mr. Rooter Plumbing Thrives Through the Pandemic as an Essential Service

Mr. Rooter Plumbing is one of the largest and fastest-growing full-service plumbing and drainage companies in the world. The secret to achieving this is more than providing service excellence. Our success is a direct result of the expertise and longevity of our franchise owner base over the past 50 years. These hardworking professionals share their collective expertise with the network to benefit other franchise owners, creating iterative learning and best practices that have led to rock-solid brand loyalty.

The franchise business model has empowered our franchise owners to create a company that has stood the test of time – and a customer portfolio that other brands aspire to have.

The early days

Mr. Rooter Plumbing was founded in 1968 as a sole proprietorship by the father-and-son team of Lee and Ira Russell. The company started out with two locations: one in Oklahoma City and one in Austin, Texas. In 1972, as the business gained momentum, the Russells decided to incorporate, opening the door to unprecedented growth in the professional plumbing industry. 

Even in those early days, the Russells knew that franchising offered the ability to scale up a business quickly, and that it provided opportunities for independent owners to build businesses for themselves, but not by themselves. Like many early startups, some of the inaugural franchise owners were family members, but it didn’t take long for others to want a piece of the action. David Duck, who took over the Oklahoma City franchise location in 1975, is still operating that location today. By 1986, Mr. Rooter Plumbing had 44 franchise locations.

In 1989, Neighborly founder Don Dwyer acquired the majority stake, and the company has been a brand staple ever since. Since inception, Mr. Rooter Plumbing has experienced consistent growth in year-over-year sales – including 2020, which saw more than $360 million in gross sales. Today, our independent franchise owners employ more than 3,000 individuals across North America. We don’t expect the pace to slow any time soon, particularly because premium plumbing service providers are an essential workforce.

Why franchise?

Plumbers who own an existing business usually choose to convert to Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise ownership for one of two main reasons. The first is that our company offers strong brand recognition with a long track record of solid business success. The second is that we offer vendor programs through our ProTradeNet division, a resource that can help take a business to the next level. After all, while plumbing business owners are experts at performing plumbing work, many aren’t experts in the logistical and distribution skills needed to operate a successful plumbing business.

2020 lessons

If 2020 taught us anything about business, it’s that technology can play an essential role in customer service. The pandemic forced us to evolve our processes and accommodate the need for contactless customer interaction, including signatures and payment. Going forward, we’ll still practice electronic interactions, including online scheduling. But as we implement systems that may remove personal touchpoints, our franchise owners remind us that the customer experience is far more critical than the transaction.

Franchise owner feedback welcomed

Mr. Rooter Plumbing treats franchise owners like family. We operate by a Code of Values predicated on respect, integrity, customer focus, and having fun in the process. As a company, we pride ourselves on business transparency and constant communication through meetings, webinars, newsletters, emails, and texts. We believe in continuous improvement, so we encourage feedback. We survey our franchise owners to understand the areas we can improve—and we act on what we learn. And we use the Franchise Satisfaction Survey from Franchise Business Review.

The forecast: more growth ahead

The home service industry is still very fragmented, and no single major household name dominates this space. Mr. Rooter Plumbing is one of 28 home service brands under the Neighborly umbrella, which creates a unique market position for us. Neighborly’s brands are in millions of homes each year. The customer who needs an electrician will also need a plumber, and vice versa. We continue to invest in systems and processes that help our franchise owners share these customers locally.

Our franchise owners are located all across North America, with some markets completely sold out. We recently conducted a study to determine available markets and found that we have as many as 300 territories available. We expect to see substantial growth from our existing franchise owners, but we’re also excited at the opportunity to bring in new owners who will be a perfect fit with the Mr. Rooter Plumbing family.


Doyle James is President of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

Published: April 24th, 2021

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