United We Stand
Kansas City plumbing contractor succeeds by putting others first
Kansas City is world famous for its legendary barbecue — there are more barbecue restaurants per capita here than any other city in the U.S. But the city also claims to have the most working fountains in the world with 200, even more than Rome. No doubt the "City of Fountains" has a market for plumbing contractors, and Rodriguez Mechanical Contractors is at the top of its game. For the last decade, the company has installed and maintained water mains for the entire city.
Rodriguez Mechanical Contractors was founded in 1976 by Paul Rodriguez at the encouragement of a friend. Rodriguez was working for a plumbing contractor at the time, and he loved what he was doing. The friend thought so much of Rodriguez that he fronted him $10,000 to start his own business.
Like many successful businesses — Apple famously comes to mind — Rodriguez Mechanical Contractors started in a garage, with a truck, two employees, and ambition. Paul's son Joe, who is currently the general manager of the company, remembers his father working tirelessly, while his mother answered the phone, did the books, and raised the kids. His father rarely took time off in those first few years, working through the night and even on one Thanksgiving.
Residential work was the company's bread and butter during the early years. Word of mouth spread about the high quality of Rodriguez's work, but with fluctuations in the housing market, he really wanted to break into commercial work. That big break came in the mid-1980s, when general contractor JE Dunn Construction® gave him the chance.
"His hard work finally started to pay off," recalls Joe. "Bill Dunn Sr. gave Dad some opportunities that didn't exist before. He opened doors that were closed shut."
At the time, minority contractors were being pushed away. It was hard to even get on the bid list, let alone get a job. "Dunn was seeking good-quality minority-owned contractors, so Dad became certified."
Over the years, Rodriguez Mechanical Contractors grew from three employees to over 150 employees today. In addition to doing utilities for the city of Kansas City, the company's signature projects include Sprint® and Cerner® Corporation world headquarters. "I'm really proud to have grown from a small residential company to working on some of the biggest projects in town," says Joe. "To this day, no project is too small or too big."
UNA GRAN FAMILIA (ONE BIG FAMILY)
Paul Rodriguez served on the United States Hispanic Board of Commerce. "He helped so many other minority companies succeed along the way, not just our own," says the younger Rodriguez.
Like his father, Joe wants everyone to succeed. He attributes the company's success to a culture that makes employees feel valued. "We have a family environment here that makes us successful at what we do. Our people care about the business. We have third-generation employees here whose fathers and grandfathers worked here. It's unbelievable."
Joe also inherited his father's work ethic and drive, certainly another key to the company's growth. "I like the thrill of the hunt. I was born into this business, and I enjoy the bidding process and winning the job. It's a very tough industry, but I love the challenge of figuring out how to produce a job and doing it safely."
That focus on safety is very important to the company culture. "Above all, we want to create a safe environment here. We care that every employee goes home every night. Nothing is more important."
The Construction industry is hard on equipment, and Deere equipment lasts.
THROUGH THICK AND THIN
Joe joined his father's company in 1990, when he started a plumbing apprenticeship. "That is when I really fell in love with the equipment," he remembers. "Back in the day, we ran a couple of backhoes. Today we run well over 70 pieces of equipment and around 14 or 15 utility crews." That includes 40 John Deere machines, including ten 60G Compact Excavators and five 333G Compact Track Loaders (CTLs).
The 60G is primarily used for installing water main in residential areas. "We've had a lot of success with them in our municipality work. They allow us to get into tight spaces, and their tracks are friendly to yards and paved surfaces. It's a great tool for us."
The 333G CTL is used for sweeping, milling asphalt, moving street plates, loading pipe, and final grading. "With all the attachments, the versatility is second to none. Our operators really like the power — that's what I hear the most comments on," says Joe.
Rodriguez Mechanical Contractors has used John Deere machines since day one. "The construction industry is hard on equipment, and Deere equipment lasts. In terms of quality and longevity, we haven't found anything better."
Local dealer support also helps keep the machines — and the company — running. "If we need a part in the middle of the night, our John Deere dealer is there. If we need to rent a piece of equipment on a moment's notice, they are there. They always have been. It doesn't matter if times are lean or times are good. John Deere has been our partner through thick and thin."
Rodriguez Mechanical Contractors is serviced by Murphy Tractor & Equipment Co., Kansas City, Missouri.