Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Missoula, Montana, specializes in plumbing, HVAC and boiler service, and high-efficiency systems.
Starting his own business out of necessity, or perhaps the illusion of it, Andy Mickelson (@mick_plumb) launched Mickelson Plumbing & Heating New Year’s Day, 2011. I guess you could say it’s all part of Mickelson’s fabric and mental make-up—there is no end result other than success. “I am a terrible loser; I hate not winning daily,” says Mickelson.
Turning the clock back to where it all began, Mickelson was eight years old when he got his taste of real hard work, helping out his father, a remodeling contractor. “It was easy to have my brothers and me helping out, and at that time, we were eager to get dirty and learn how to build things, and THAT has never stopped,” says Mickelson.
Soaking up knowledge whenever he had the chance, Mickelson has had many great mentors in his first shop, and the UA produces an incredible brotherhood of knowledgeable folks. “Dick Darne was one of the Journeyman that I learned the most from; he had a hip replacement, and a few weeks later I began my service career, carrying his tool bag and being his hands in the field when he couldn’t. All I had to do was listen to directions and retain the methods of his madness. The troubleshooting tactics I learned in a roundabout way were invaluable.”
Nearly 10 years after venturing on his own, who could’ve ever foreseen the situation we are faced with today? “The first quarter was one of the best we’ve ever seen, but April produced only 68% of the average business produced in the first three months of the year,” says Mickelson.
Thankfully, Montana has seen fewer COVID-19 cases than the rest of the country, and the state has re-opened for business. But that’s not to say Mickelson isn’t taking the necessary PPE precautions, and Mickelson is screening all customers at this time. “For the most part, we are not taking on work that can be postponed.”
In general, needless to say, Mickelson loves what he does—creating solutions for his customers. “Service work allows me to do that several times a day. It’s a good thing.”
But thinking of going out on your own? A heavily-involved Boy Scout leader, Mickelson suggests taking its motto to heart—Be Prepared. “Plan, Plan, Plan. There are fantastic resources available to help people prepare to start a business. USE THEM! Also, you have to answer the simple question, am I ready to be a business owner first and a plumber second? If yes, then proceed. If no, rethink the approach get your mind right. Businesses hire good plumbers, not the other way around.”
And those who are thinking of getting into the trades? “Do it, unless you have a better plan that actually pays,” says Mickelson, but he stresses that we need to kill the stigma that the trades are all about hard work. Concerning to Mickelson, those who discourage others from entertaining the idea of becoming a tradesman based on the work being too tough or man’s work. “Anyone who indulges in this tactic is merely afraid of their own deficiencies and nervous about being replaced by someone who may work smarter or harder.”
Sure, there are aspects that are hard, continues Mickelson, but with continued education and exerting oneself, reaching a higher level of employment in the trades is a real possibility. Good work ethics and attitude are noticed—one may not hear about it—but it doesn’t go unnoticed. And, share the knowledge others have shared with you. “I have always found that it is far easier to share knowledge with a willing listener than it is to intentionally with hold it,” says Mickelson.
Mickelson’s career has afforded him a good life with his wife and two kids. “Family time is my favorite. Second would be exercising my 2nd Amendment rights. Both of which usually occur outdoors.”
Yet balancing work/family life is a careful endeavor for Mickelson. “It’s really easy for family to take a back seat and be lost in the hustle. I traditionally try to make sure that work is done during the day and that my ‘Night Shift’ doesn’t start until everyone has begun to wind down for the night. All in all, business has taught me to use my time efficiently, and set priorities, Family, friends, money, seems to be a good flow.
All in all, waking up every day is a blessing for Mickelson. “I’ve told my kids for years that they are the only person who can make their day a bad day, so go into battle and aim for a great day, and worst-case scenario it’ll be OK.”