We are Dutton Plumbing take great pride in being an independent, family-owned company. It enables us to operate much differently than a big corporation or franchise. I’d like to take a moment to tell you about the owner and my boss, Eric Dutton.
Those of us who work for Eric know him as a tough taskmaster though with a soft heart and sense of humor. While dead serious about running his business at the rarefied heights of service professionalism, Eric doesn’t take himself too seriously. No conversation with him goes for long without a deluge of wisecracks that more often than not poke fun at himself.
Eric hails from Weedsport, a small town in upstate New York. His parents got divorced when he was 10 and couple of years later he moved to California with his mother, who got remarried to a plumber. Eric helped him out with the grunge work of plumbing. He dug holes, hauled pipe, cleaned up after dirty jobs, etc. Those tasks earned him a few bucks, but he didn’t have any particular ambition to follow in his stepfather’s footsteps.
After high school he went on to junior college and got intrigued by some business courses, but before that could develop into any career path his stepfather got stricken with a serious illness. The family needed a provider, so at age 19 Eric found himself taking over the family plumbing business – which consisted of little more than a pickup truck and just enough loyal customers to eke out a modest living. Before long Eric succumbed to the restlessness of youth and left the plumbing business to start a motorcycle shop with a partner.
His hiatus from plumbing lasted three years. Eric says they were making money fixing motorcycles and having a lot of fun — maybe a little too much fun. At least that was the opinion of a young lady named Teri, with whom Eric was romantically involved.
Teri had been the girl next door, literally. Her family moved to the adjacent house when she was about 14. They passed through their teens together as friends but were not romantically linked at first. “My girlfriends hated her and her boyfriends hated me,” Eric recalls. But as they matured they started dating and, to make a long story short, are now approaching their 33th wedding anniversary. Teri works as a police officer with the LAPD and they have raised two sons, Brandon, and Ryan, both of whom have worked for Dutton Plumbing.
In 1987, with their first son on the way, Eric gave up the fun-filled motorcycle gig and returned to the more stable field of plumbing. “I had a pickup truck and tools, no employees and no brains,” he quips. Eric started his second round as a contractor plumbing tract homes. He made a living, but after about a decade he turned his attention to the service and repair end of the business, which he found more to his liking.
That’s because Eric likes people and loves his family. A residential service business was more conducive than a construction business to align his business with his personal values.
“Our core value is that of a family culture,” he says. “We are a family here and treated as such. I believe in win-win. I never want to take advantage of someone, which I’ve seen too much of in this industry. I feel responsible for our people. I try to pay them well, inspire them and give them a lot of freedom and flexibility. I trust our people and they like that.”
The family culture also extends to Dutton Plumbing’s relationship with you, our customers. “Seventy percent of our business comes from existing customers,” Eric notes. “I want us to be the ultimate service experience for our customers, to amaze and shock people with the service we provide. Money is secondary to me. I like it, of course, but what really motivates me is a passion for being the best.”
Our business has grown steadily since Eric began focusing on the residential service side of plumbing. On any given day Dutton Plumbing has as many as 30 service vehicles responding to problems in a territory that extends from northern Los Angeles to Ventura and everywhere in between.
“We’ve achieved a lot with our business but it’s unfair for me to take the credit. It’s because we have a strong team of ridiculously qualified people,” Eric says.
If you haven’t done so already, take a moment to meet our team. Eric Dutton recognizes our technicians as the most important people in our company, because they are the problem solvers who interact directly with you, the customer. Our office staff exists to support them to the hilt and we operate lean in the office compared with the field.
Even though the business has grown enormously, Eric Dutton insists on retaining some of the old-fashioned ways of operating. For instance, when you call, you’ll reach a live operator, not an endless series of menu button options. When an issue arises, it usually gets resolved with a single phone call to the person in charge. It doesn’t fester for weeks or months while filtering through layers of management. We subscribe to a “satisfaction guaranteed” philosophy of customer service. If you have a complaint, we’ll do everything in our power to do what’s right by you.
Everyone who works at Dutton Plumbing is taught to embrace our motto, “The plumber you’d send to your Mom’s house.” That is the essence of the family business Eric Dutton has built.