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.”