Plumbing, Productivity, Management

Tony LaMartina never expected to pass plumbing business to his son, but now it’s thriving

Pat McManamon
July 20th, 2023
8 Min Read

It was the 1980s, and Tony LaMartina felt he had found a niche for the plumbing business he founded in St. Louis.

Business was good, and his work as a specialist in older homes, of which the St. Louis area has many, generated plenty of work. But even though he was the third generation of a fabulous American success story, Tony never expected to pass down Tony LaMartina Plumbing to the family.

“My dad said that this was going to die with him,” said Matt LaMartina, Tony’s son and now the president of the company. “I had set out on a different career path.”

For 10 years after he graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Matt worked in pharmaceutical sales – until some graduate school serendipity changed his path.

In 2011, the final year of pursuing his MBA at Washington University in St. Louis, a consulting class professor assigned students a project to complete a long-term strategic plan for a business of their choice. The carrot: The professor promised to help the student with the best grade launch the plan.

Matt focused on his dad’s business, which at the time was doing about $500,000 or $600,000 in revenue, and included his father and two plumbers.

“He was looking to kind of wind it down,” Matt said.

But Tony’s interest was piqued after seeing Matt’s plan. He and Matt sat down to discuss and analyze where the business could go and continue the family tradition. 

That tradition goes back to the early 1900s, when Vincenzo LaMartina immigrated to St. Louis from Italy. Vincenzo and his brother worked for several plumbers, usually digging trenches or moving heavy fixtures.

Even though he could not read or write English, Vincenzo started his own company. His son Jim, born in 1927, became the first in the family to become a licensed plumber. Jim founded LaMartina Plumbing in the 1950s, and his son Tony started working for the business in 1973. 

In 1982, Tony started his own company.

The emphasis remained the same as it had been from the days Vincenzo started work: the customer and customer experience. Tony’s emphasis was always service –- and he facilitated that by being the first plumber in the St. Louis area to use a cellphone. His emphasis remained on doing work in older homes that others would not or could not.

The talks with Matt proved fruitful. Matt and Tony both saw an opportunity to scale, and to advance their market.

“We decided,” Matt said, “‘Let’s see where we can take this.’”

Where they took it, before Tony passed away in January 2023 at age 70, leveraged the “knowledge and experiences (that) were the bedrock on which Tony LaMartina Plumbing was built,” according to the company’s website, along with modern tools and data. 

Now, Matt said, he’ll build on the growth, standing on the shoulders of his father.

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Potential for growth

Matt spent a couple years working independently to formulate the plan. Strategic surveys showed potential for growth, innovation and a high level of communication, internal and external.

In 2013, he joined his father at Tony LaMartina Plumbing as general manager and spent two years focused on updating and improving the technology of the business. 

In 2020, he became president. Things were clicking, and the business was growing.

“We did very little marketing, because calls were coming in constantly,” Matt said.

But as the business grew, Matt realized the company was almost being overwhelmed.

“We were trying to drink water from a fire hose,” he said.

One of the factors that led to that feeling was the software the business used was just not able to handle the growth. So in 2021, he started searching for a new software.

“We were so late in the game, and I kick myself for how late we were,” Matt said. “Instead of looking at other options, we were accommodating the shortcomings of our software.”

He decided on ServiceTitan because he recognized it could grow with the company, and because of its all-in-one, cloud-based capabilities.

“We’re always looking for products that help us elevate what we’re really passionate about, which is the customer experience,” he said. “ServiceTitan takes everything to a whole new level for our company.”

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A personal touch with ServiceTitan

That happened in ways personal and professional. His bio on ServiceTitan, which customers see, personalizes the professional. Matt said when he walks into homes, customers comment on his family.

“The first thing they’ll tell me is, ‘I really enjoyed the bio review,’” Matt said. “And then, ‘You have four kids. That’s awesome. They’re playing soccer. My kids play soccer too.’”

The personalization makes a connection, which is part of the customer experience Tony LaMartina Plumbing cherishes.

“Products like ServiceTitan help us rise above all of the other companies to provide homeowners with a great experience right from when they call into the office to when the plumber is dispatched to their house, to the confirmation emails that go out the day before,” Matt said.

Gaining a better handle on job costing was another benefit, Matt said. In 2019, he had joined Vistage, a business advisory group, and, when asked about job costing, he never could give a complete answer.

“We weren’t really doing a good job with it,” Matt said. “We were using a pricebook from a company, and we didn’t have a handle on it.”

To the point he did not have a handle on material costs, which became a bigger issue when supply chain issues hit in 2022, a fallout from the pandemic. He didn’t have a grasp on those costs until he looked at a quarter-over-quarter analysis.

“This was a problem,” he said. “So we immediately adopted Pricebook Pro and were able to get a much better handle. On a job-by-job basis, what's our gross margin? What are the materials that we're using? Not only what are the materials we're using, but generally speaking, what are the costs that those materials are for the region, for the nation? How much should I really be paying for a supply line or a stop valve?

“That gave me a lot of insight and a lot of leverage with my vendors to go back to them and say, ‘Guys, why am I paying $7 for something that most people are buying for four?’ So that was big.”

More integrations, more insight

LaMartina then added Marketing Pro to gain insight into where advertising money went, and what methods were beneficial. He also learned that instead of paying fees to an accountant to handle invoicing and to fill in the gaps between a software and QuickBooks, he could rely on ServiceTitan to do that for him.

“When we came on to ServiceTitan, it was like, ‘I can pay for a significant amount of ServiceTitan by scaling back my professional fees because of all of these things,’” he said. “Just basic integration.”

He also was happy with the integration of Schedule Engine, which ServiceTitan bought in 2022. Tony LaMartina Plumbing had been using Schedule Engine, now called Scheduling Pro, prior, but found the pairing of the two beneficial.

“That's another one of those customer experiences where you go to our website, you get to pick whatever day you want us to be there, you get to upload photos and videos, and we get that information,” Matt said. “It's a great feature for us because we get to see what we're coming into. We get to see what the faucet is and what it looks like underneath your kitchen sink.

“And the homeowner gets an appointment on their calendar when it works for them, and they're already booked in ServiceTitan.”

Ten years after Matt joined, Tony LaMartina Plumbing has gone from three employees to 13, and from $500,000-$600,000 in business to $3 million in 2023. The business will be joining Nexstar this year, and has the goal of doing $10 million by 2028, $100 million by 2033.

“That’s where we’re going,” he said.

Tony LaMartina was growing before the company joined ServiceTItan, so it’s not fair to say the software prompted all the growth. What is fair is that ServiceTitan facilitated the growth by providing efficiencies and adaptations that helped the business.

“ServiceTitan’s become the hub of our whole business,” Matt said. “I can’t imagine not using ServiceTitan to run my business.”

Or, for certain, honoring the legacy of his father and the business he started. 

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In Memoriam: Anthony Fancis LaMartina passed away January 11, 2023, at his home, surrounded by family and friends. He was 70, and had battled Frontotemporal Dementia. Tony is remembered as a father, friend and mentor whose knowledge and experiences were the bedrock on which Tony LaMartina Plumbing was built. May he rest in peace. 

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ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.

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