Emily Buckley, editor in chief
For two decades, Lee and Amber Draper of Smithfield have run their plumbing business, Lee’s Plumbing, based on the values of treating every home they work in as though it is their own and treating every customer like family.
Lee started plumbing in the late-80s in California under another plumber. He returned to Cache Valley and worked in another job before cycling back to plumbing and zeroing in on completing his education. Together, Lee and Amber planned and prepared to run their own business. Amber studied accounting while Lee did his apprenticeship and have now been working side by side for 21 years.
Early in their business’s life they did a lot of new construction work, but after the 2008 recession they changed their focus to strictly repair work, which Lee likes because it allows him to not only help people every day in “crisis situations,” but also keeps the work interesting as he analyzes and solves problems.
Lee takes pride in completing each job with prompt, quality workmanship. He says the key to running a successful business for the long haul in a small town boils down to customer service. “It really matters how you treat people,” he said.
Amber added that having a strong, skilled team makes a big difference. Some of their plumbers have been with them since the near beginning of Lee’s Plumbing, and Lee has trained all of his plumbers himself.
“Lee takes so much ownership over every single job we take,” Amber said. “It’s important to him to make sure every job is done up to his standard, that’s why he personally trains every one of his plumbers.”
This benefits customers as his plumbers are confident and experienced in their trade and are able to solve problems effectively and efficiently.
Amber says their commitment to customer service starts from the very first interaction with homeowners. “We in the office try to make sure we connect with the customers before and after each service call to make sure they received the service they needed and expected.”
The Drapers now have six plumbers and two additional office employees to help keep their operation running smoothly.
Another thing that Lee says sets his business apart is organization. “Each of our service trucks is set up the same, then we have a drain cleaning truck, and another that is set up for remodels.” One of their trucks is heavily loaded with high-tech equipment, jetters, sewer cameras, locators, and tools. “When we go out to do a main line, we come loaded for bear.”
Lee says one of the most common misconceptions about plumbers is that it is a job for someone without an education. “That’s just not true,” Lee said. Plumbers have to have 8,000 hours of on-the-job training on top of four years of trade school.
“I think some people think you can strap on a tool belt and buy a truck to be a plumber, but that’s not how it works,” Amber said.
Lee’s team of plumbers meet together regularly to discuss problems and share things they have learned on the job. “It’s a continual learning process. Things are complicated with every new technology that comes along. You have to know some stuff — it isn’t as simple as it seems,” Lee laughs.
Asked if there is anything they want to add to their story, Amber speaks up: “I just think Lee is the best plumber around. I really mean that.”
TIPS FROM LEE: A few ideas from the master plumber himself.
- WORST THINGS TO PUT DOWN THE DISPOSAL: Eggshells, tough fruit and vegetable peelings, or anything heavy and sharp when it accumulates.
- FLUSHABLE WIPES ARE NOT FLUSHABLE: If they don’t dissolve in a Mason jar of water as toilet paper does, they don’t dissolve in the pipes and can lead to severe blockages. This also goes for things like dental floss and other non-dissolving materials.
- HIGH-QUALITY PLUMBING SERVICE REALLY IS WORTH THE COST: If a plumbing problem really is a simple fix and you can do it yourself, Lee totally supports that, but keep in mind that the knowledge and skill of a well-trained plumber can be the difference between comfort and disaster in the long run.