The plumbing manufacturer welcomed members of its award-winning Ambassador Program to its global headquarters for a two-day immersive event, featuring hands-on training, installation competitions, product ideation and more. Oatey Co., a leading manufacturer in the plumbing industry since 1916, hosted its third annual Ambassador Fest plumbing influencer event last week in Cleveland, Ohio. A key Read more
The plumbing manufacturer welcomed members of its award-winning Ambassador Program to its global headquarters for a two-day immersive event, featuring hands-on training, installation competitions, product ideation and more.
Oatey Co., a leading manufacturer in the plumbing industry since 1916, hosted its third annual Ambassador Fest plumbing influencer event last week in Cleveland, Ohio. A key perk of its award-winning social media Ambassador Program, Ambassador Fest is two-day immersive event for Oatey Ambassadors, focused on providing Ambassadors with robust training and hands-on experiences to enhance and expand their skills as tradespeople and digital content creators.
This year’s Ambassador Fest attendees included Evan Berns, Colin Luttrell, Nick Parlet, Jeff Keller, Nick Meritt, Justin Noftle, Jesharelah (Shay) Lorette, Danielle Browne, Thomas Young, Robert Broccolo, and Germaine Nelson, collectively representing a diverse range of plumbing and building expertise from across North America.
Ambassador Fest, which took place June 8-9 at the Oatey University training facility, featured opportunities for participants to learn about Oatey’s company and products, as well as to share their perspectives and insights from the field. Among the training experiences provided were solvent welding training, an in-depth product expo with Oatey product managers, and tours of Oatey’s manufacturing and distribution facilities. Ambassadors also participated in product feedback discussions, a product ideation competition and the first-ever Ambassador Olympics event, a hands-on application competition. At a meet-and-greet at the company’s headquarters, Ambassadors were spotlighted in a panel discussion and enjoyed networking conversations with Oatey associates. The Ambassadors also helped cheer the Cleveland Guardians to victory on Thursday evening.
Colin Luttrell, sole proprietor of ColinThePlumberLLC in Rochester, N.Y., joined Oatey’s Ambassador Program in January after following other Ambassadors on social media for years. During his first-ever visit to Cleveland, he says he was blown away by the Ambassador Fest experience. “Oatey’s Ambassador Fest is a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” said Luttrell. “After watching all these wonderful people online for years, being able to meet them in person and experience Oatey University first-hand was something I’ll never forget. I can’t say enough about the Oatey staff – their passion for what they do is what makes it so awesome.”
In contrast, this was the third Ambassador Fest for Danielle Browne, a 17-year industry veteran from St. Johns, Newfoundland in Canada, who is better known as “Twig” or “the littlest plumber” within the plumbing social media community. According to Browne, who was a member of Oatey’s inaugural class of Ambassadors, this year’s event was the most robust and engaging yet. “I have been honored to attend Ambassador Fest every year since 2021, and each year I learn more, build more meaningful connections and leave more inspired than ever about my craft. I’ve never encountered a brand more committed than Oatey to supporting the trades, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to represent them as an Ambassador.”
For the Oatey team, the feeling is mutual. “It was our privilege to host our Ambassadors in Cleveland for Ambassador Fest,” said Katherine Lehtinen, Senior Vice President, Brand and Digital Marketing at Oatey. “Oatey is committed to supporting our end users and the skilled trades, and it is our hope that Ambassador Fest and our overall Ambassador Program help our Ambassadors continue to grow, advance and find opportunities, just as they help us to do so.”
For additional information about Oatey’s Ambassador Program, visit oatey.com.
These days have been pretty busy for Bulldog Contractors. “When COVID first appeared, there wasn’t enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. And once stimulus checks hit, there was a huge spike in work flow. We have been very blessed and fortunate to be working through the pandemic,” says Jeff Keller. A licensed Read more
These days have been pretty busy for Bulldog Contractors. “When COVID first appeared, there wasn’t enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. And once stimulus checks hit, there was a huge spike in work flow. We have been very blessed and fortunate to be working through the pandemic,” says Jeff Keller.
A licensed master plumber, Keller works for his father in running Bulldog Contractors in northeast Texas. Bulldog Contractors is a well-rounded company that strives to provide a one-stop shop for its customers, and that’s why Keller specializes in service work for plumbing, electrical and septic, and carries multiple licenses in electrical and septic as well.
Yet, the career path for Keller wasn’t always defined early on. When Keller was in high school, he wanted to be a veterinarian based on his love for pets and animals. “I honestly didn’t have the grades for it, so if I had to guess, I would be in the oil field chasing that dollar,” says Keller.
But watching his father succeed in business—and life—was huge for Keller. “I honestly never thought of following in his footsteps growing up. But as I got older, and needed a summer job, I fell in love with the overall variation of different types of jobs and people I encountered on a day-to-day basis,” says Keller.
To Keller, his father was his biggest motivator. “He put me on a higher pedestal than I would have liked growing up as a kid, but in the end, it turned out very well and it kept my mindset on track. Also, some very deep guidance was from my grandfather—on my mother’s side—as well. The advice, stories, and memories that I have retained has been priceless. If I could be half the man my grandfather was …. they just don’t make them like they used to!” says Keller.
Keller has never looked back as his love for the trades has grown over the years. “In the service industry, you just never know what you are getting yourself into that day,” he says. “I like the uncertainty. The jobs are never identical. It keeps you on your toes and the mind busy,” says Keller. Oh, and as for Keller’s love for animals? “With my current career, I get to see multiple houses a day and their pets; I bond with them and that’s a cool small aspect of my day.”
Moving the Trades Forward
Concerning to Keller about the trades, though, is the quality of work and labor. “With the trades dying, so does the manpower to get projects completed. So, it’s a rat race to get in and out and onto the next one. Years or even sometimes months down the road we are fixing issues that could have been resolved if some time and quality was put into a job,” says Keller.
One of the biggest concerns for the trades overall is to infuse young, skilled labor into the trades. “It’s all about advertising and education; they go hand-in-hand. We really need to be getting into the school systems and reaching out to the youngsters. With the way this world is going at this moment, this will be a never-ending battle and a hard one to tackle. ANYTHING is possible, though!”
And when those recruits are ready, Keller suggests not going to school—unless required—to learn the trades, especially if you are going into the service industry. “What a service technician knows and understands isn’t taught in a book. Get into the trade, get your eyes and ears in the field, and become a sponge. Learn everything you can,” says Keller.
Work/Life Tilt & Spare Time
Balancing family time and work is often tough to navigate. Keller’s family understands that sometimes the phone rings and he has to take the call, yet he will always make time for them. There will be work and money to be made, regardless, says Keller and his family is the most important thing that he has and cherishes.
“Some days I make a lighter work load to pick the kids up from school and take them on a field trip, or doctor appointments. I took my middle girl, Elyse, out to ice cream the other day, just us. The little things are what they will hold onto and remember for years to come. My father did the same for me and I plan to pass that onto my family, as well. You must make time for your family because the kids will be grown and gone before you know it,” says Keller.
For Keller, though, it’s hard for him to sit still so you’ll normally find him in the shop tinkering around mostly cleaning and keeping it organized, and playing with the kids. “The same with my yard, I’ll go mow dirt if I have time! It’s my quiet place if you know what I mean. On the weekends, I enjoy my main hobby, which is fishing—mainly night fishing so the wife and kids sleep through most of it while I’m gone,” says Keller.
Social media has opened many doors for Keller that he would have never imagined. “If someone told me 10 years ago, I would be traveling all over the country—anything from factory tours to trade shows to attending early tool/product releases, I wouldn’t have believed them. I appreciate all the new friends and connections I have made. It’s a true honor.”
What people may not know about Keller is, “I’m a nerd when it comes to numbers and efficiency of my house. During a day I might check the water pressure of my house 2-3 times. Same goes for my current water heater temp—digital display on heat pump unit. And my solar input and output. I keep a close eye on efficiency.”
The last time Jeff Keller said “today is a great day”? “I took off work super early, surprised my wife and we went out and about for the day, no schedule at all.”
So, as the story goes, a sales rep out west who had spent decades selling a competitor’s plumbing products is hired by General Pipe Cleaners. After initial training, he returned to his territory with a smattering of cables, cutters and drain cleaning machines to get him started. The first time he demonstrated the Flexicore Cable Read more
So, as the story goes, a sales rep out west who had spent decades selling a competitor’s plumbing products is hired by General Pipe Cleaners. After initial training, he returned to his territory with a smattering of cables, cutters and drain cleaning machines to get him started.
The first time he demonstrated the Flexicore Cable, he called the company to complain that the pipe snake, “just didn’t feel right!” It felt “limp”, not “springy.”
As Dave Dunbar, National Sales Manager with General Pipe Cleaners explained, “the Flexicore engineering process has the effect of making the cable feel less springy than hollow cables.”
It took a few phone calls to get things straightened out with the rep, but then six months later, he was complaining that the cables lasted so much longer than his former brand’s that he was only selling a fraction of his previous replacement snakes. A small fraction.
It was this story that interested a few of our contractor friends. Why would it be springy? Is it really that stiff and is that a good thing? Would it really last longer?
Knowing General Pipe Cleaners would be at the WWETT Show this past spring, I introduced the General’s team to a few drain cleaning contractors that we are big fans of and have worked with in the past. It was my hope that we could create some valuable and interesting content based on the original story and the contractors having never used Flexicore.
It was soon after the show that we asked for them to send a few of their Flexicore cables to a few of our ProStaff team members to get their thoughts on the cable. They obliged and three drain cleaning pros were sent the cables to use on their existing cable machines, which for transparency, were all competitor drum machines.
As you may know, the Flexicore cable is the result of a process, where instead of coiling a hollow cable, they tightly wrap spring steel around a 49 strand aircraft quality wire rope. This provides the cable additional strength when it is under torque.
Each member of our team received a variety of Flexicore cables based on their typical daily drain cleaning challenges with the request to use them over a couple of months and provide feedback. The team of contractors included Felix Delgadillo, DrainGuys (Chicago), Terence Chan, Impetus Plumbing (Vancouver) and Jeff Keller, Bulldog Contractors (Texas), all are longtime drain cleaning professionals in their area of the country.
As expected, those daily challenges included providing both residential and commercial services, addressing clogged kitchen drains, clogged bathroom drains, clogged outdoor drains, and clogged sewer lines using today’s best technology to unclog lines to keep the water flowing.
While Keller, Chan and Delgadillo confirmed that this was the first time using the cable, Chan stated what all three mentioned, “I’ve never used the product but very excited to see what it can do.”
Chan went on to say, “Initially seeing the product, I was a bit leery how it may hold on to the heads, but it did, really well. In fact, I’ve had trouble with heads from a competitor and the Flexicore held.”
“The screws to hold on the head versus a snap lock is a nice addition,” said Keller.
One of the unique byproducts of the Flexicore process is that the cable stiffens and gets stronger under torque, which Delgadillo agreed, “the cable feels less springy and it does get quite stiff when the operator needs it the most.”
Keller continued, “it caught me off guard and took some getting used to. Most if not all drain cleaners/plumbers are used to listening to their machines and the feel of the strain on the cable to evaluate the blockage, so this was a bit different, but did a solid job.”
As discussed in the WWETT video, when a drain cleaning machine rotates a pipe snake down the drain and it hits a clog or stoppage, tension or torque builds up in the cable. Because of the direction the drum is turning, the reaction of the outer coil of spring steel is that it wants to contract due to the tension. However, because the wire rope is in the way, the only thing that it can do is tighten, which makes it stiffer and stronger and the cable much less likely to kink or break when in use.
Chan concluded, “I would recommend this to peers in the field as it got the job done. I’m curious to see the long-term difference versus some of the cables we typically use and recommend everyone make sure they have the cable sizes they need for their machines.”
We second that Terence! Be sure to size your cables correctly so it all works perfectly.
While the contractors are still using the cables in the field, it was a unanimous decision that more time in the field was needed to truly understand the value of Flexicore cables and how it holds up long term versus other options.
We will continue to check in with the team to provide updates later in the year.
Felix Delgadillo – He has been in the plumbing trades for over 15 years. Most of his experience has been in remodels & new construction for both commercial and residential. He is passionate about new construction and wanted to expand professionally to the service side. In 2019 he started his second company, Drain Guys, LLC. Drain Guys specializes in commercial and residential sewer cleaning, camera inspections & locating.
Terence Chan – He is a plumbing, heating and gas contractor out of Vancouver, BC, Canada. His company is Impetus Plumbing and Heating. Impetus stands for a force that makes something happen, which stands for everything their name defines them to be. We make everything happen and will never say no to any job. This company wants to be seen as the next up and coming generation that will make a difference and disturb the status quo in the current trade.
Jeff Keller – Bulldog Contractors allows him to work alongside his father Carl and other Bulldog team members. For over 35 years, Bulldog Contractors have brought areas of Northeast Texas first class plumbing and septic service, experience, and quality work with exceptional results. They are committed to exceed the expectations of our customers with quality service and expertise on every project we do. With a lot of repeat business, they have built long-term & trusting relationships over the years.