Local Leaders

Preparing plumbers for a leap into exciting future

John Thistleton 28 August 2019
Damien Holder

Damien Holder has introduced staff to a new era in plumbing services, at O’Neill & Brown Plumbing, specialising in the strata property space, and preventative maintenance. Photos: Daniella Jukic.

Damien Holder is excited how tradies of the future are being developed.

Over the next 10 years, they will be stronger, plumbing designs will maximise efficiencies and have the ability to be remotely monitored and a plumber will be notified and dispatched before issues become problems.

“This is all exciting stuff and we need people to develop,” he says enthusiastically. “In the digital era, people will still need plumbers, it is now a matter of getting tradies to step up to the next level.”

As National Service Manager for O’Neill & Brown Plumbing, Damien is at the forefront of the industry. He says plumbers will be adept at reading software that identifies problems in buildings before they arise.

He refers to ONB Plumbing Service’s plumbers as technicians. Each one has additional problem-solving skills to go outside the box to find solutions.

No matter how the digital world evolves in the future, people will still need plumbers. They will do far more than unblock clogged toilets. Damien will be promoting the benefits of preventative maintenance across a large client base in the strata and residential property sectors.

“We will be there helping Strata Managers and Directors, body corporates and executive committees, giving them the means to educate themselves on plumbing and preventative maintenance,” he says.

Despite the leap in skills development, core customer-service principles remain unchanged. Damien recalls standing in front of 30 strata managers from a large company and asking: “If you could change anything with your contractors, what would it be?”

Expecting comments on costs, he was surprised at the response: “All we want is someone to clean up after themselves.”

So, he looked further into clients’ expectations before settling on three fundamentals people want from tradies:

  1. Clear communication;
  2. Turn up on time; and
  3. Clean up after yourself.

He says plumbers fresh from their apprenticeship training believe it’s all about getting a new ute and equipment when in reality it is the three points above.

“Your brand and appearance will grow organically, if and only if, tradies provide the three fundamentals consistently,” he says.

Damien entered the trade as a mature-age apprentice in 2009, worked as a plumber pursuing what he was good at, working with his hands, working efficiently for cost savings, and keeping people safe on the job.

This led him into the role of Queanbeyan Council’s work, health and safety manager before he joined O’Neill & Brown Plumbing almost four years ago.

With Managing Director Rob Pantano, Damien has been developing the service company ever since.

“That allowed me to put my knowledge as a plumber, the safety within the legislation and the trade itself together and focus on the third parcel, delivering customer service and satisfaction,” he says.

Today he recruits and trains staff, prepares budgets and forecasts, quotes and problem solves, does site inspections, builds and maintains client relationships.

“I’m involved in every part of the business and I love it,” he says. “It’s not because I don’t have a brilliant team around me who are as passionate in preventative maintenance quoting, administration, reactive service requests, quality control and technician scheduling. I have all those staff members. But I’m proud to be responsible for building a little community, a culture, so it is extremely rewarding.”

Early in his new role he worked on multiple projects, such as the international Canberra Airport build, and became a project manager. In the design phase, he assisted in ensuring plumbing would not only blend with the remainder of the airport, but it would also look and operate with ease for client satisfaction and be user-friendly for people regardless if there were English barriers.

He shares Rob Pantano’s excitement in business development, identifying gaps in the market and finding solutions for problems, the harder the better, the ones most likely to cause other people to throw up their hands and walk away.

ONB team

ONB now has a foothold in the commercial and residential plumbing service market.

“We never allow a challenge to rest without offering a solution. Unlike other companies, ONB Plumbing does not hesitate to step outside of their comfort zone, as these challenges excite us.

“To deliver a solution no one thought could be rectified is an amazing feeling,” Damien says.

Although well-entrenched brand awareness had already been established when he arrived at ONB, the challenge was to now show the public that ONB Plumbing does not just operate in the commercial plumbing sector, but now has a foothold in the commercial and residential plumbing service market. He has developed a brilliant office team and with 12 technicians in the field.

He also established a second team for O’Neill & Brown Plumbing Service in the past 12 months in Brisbane.

Damien believes personal growth is the key to internal, personal happiness and business successes. He sees every job, every training seminar, workshop or event as an opportunity to learn, grow and improve the building of relationships with people and networking circles.

“It has been an amazing journey and I’m excited for the next couple of years because this is how far we have come over the last few years, the next few years will be amazing in how far we can take levels of customer service and satisfaction to a new phase,” he says.

Original Article published by John Thistleton on The RiotACT.

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