Eric Johnson purchased his first business license in Sevier County in April of 1987. He owned one pickup truck, two new pair of overalls, basic plumbing tools and had very little funds but he had a very LARGE dream. “Because of hard work, desire and perseverance, God has permitted me to be successful, even beyond the original vision of my dreams.” Mr. Johnson said.
Like most new businesses, the Johnson home was the first office. As marketing efforts began to pay off and growth continued, some financial success followed. More importantly, relationships were established with customers who are still clients today. Mr. Johnson shared “Really, the most gratifying part of growing a business is the customers, associates, employees and suppliers who have become real friends over the years. This is the greatest reward of this endeavor.”
In the fall of 1994, an old store building at 413 Eastgate Road, Sevierville, was purchased from John Cagle. Cleanup and remodeling of the property began in earnest, allowing the company to move into the new space late in March of 1995. “We had arrived!” or so Mr. Johnson thought.
The tourist industry was growing at a frantic pace in Sevier county. Little did he realize that his timing was perfect. The growth rate was so great that the new shop and office was quickly not able to support the business so a larger piece of real estate was needed. As many who live here know, real estate prices were also growing at an accelerated rate.
In February of 1996, one of the company’s long term employees mentioned that his mother had a house and 7.6 acres of land for sale in Kodak. Mr. Johnson’s first thought was “Why the heck would I want my business in Kodak?” He continued looking at other properties around Sevierville. At that time, the business plan was to work only in Sevier County. Interest in Quality’s work was coming from some of the major contractors in Knoxville, so the plan was re-evaluated. The Kodak property would let the company serve all of Sevier County and have access to Knox, Jefferson, Hamblen, Anderson and Blount counties via the interstate. The price of the Kodak property was attractive and after much thought and prayer, the decision was made to purchase the property. Exciting times!
The house and one acre were sold allowing the company to keep 6.6 acres free and clear. Sitting down with two key employees, Mr. Johnson, with their input, designed the building that they thought they needed. Next came a financial plan and soon, with the help of a local bank, they were ready to get started. A construction schedule was established and work began using several of the local contractors that the company had worked with on various projects. In June of 1998, with 24 outstanding employees, Quality Plumbing and Mechanical moved into the current location of 405 Donovans Lane, Kodak.
Those were the physical moves that have gotten the company where it is today. On the business side, when Mr. Johnson decided to start the business he thought he already knew all of the RIGHT things to do. “WOW”, he said “I soon found out that I knew very little!” He also learned that the wrong decisions came with a hefty financial penalty. There were some good choices, there just needed to be more positive decisions. To that end, he sat down with pen and paper and asked himself what would be the basic requirements of a company that would make him want to work there. Four goals came to mind. First, without a doubt, was a healthcare plan for him and his family. Second was an open and honest relationship with management. Third was a company that encouraged service and professionalism and value for its customers. Fourth, obviously, a fair wage for him as an employee. Accomplishing these goals didn’t happen overnight, but they all became a part of our culture within an acceptable amount of time.
One of the best business decisions we made was becoming a member of the National Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors 24 years ago. This decision opened the door for networking with owners of other successful companies in Tennessee and nationally. As members, we shared what did and did not work on a very personal level. It was also through our membership in NAPHCC that we became part of an apprenticeship training program which would become invaluable. Almost all of our supervisors and foremen have completed the four year training program including nine employees who are currently participating at various levels in the program this year.
Today, our company has grown to 50 employees. Currently we are participating in a number of construction projects throughout Sevier county and East Tennessee. We are very proud of our plumbing and HVAC service department. We are available 24/7 for homeowners, restaurants, hotels and all types of commercial establishments. Through the years, we have worked with most of the top construction companies as well as architects and engineers in East Tennessee. Our completed projects portfolio is too large and comprehensive to list, especially with the space limitations of this publication.
There are two main reasons that Quality Plumbing and Mechanical has been successful in serving our customers. The first is the character, professionalism and dedication of our employees. We are very thankful for these men and women, several of whom have been with us for 15 years or more. We participate in the Drug Free Workplace initiative and require TBI background checks. “We don’t want to send an employee to your home, business or construction site that we wouldn’t be comfortable sending to our own”, Mr. Johnson said.
More importantly to Mr. Johnson’s way of thinking is that these past twenty-nine years he has been engaged in an honest business venture that has been compatible with God’s will for him. God has allowed Mr. Johnson to help many of his employees and their families. God has also placed many of these employees in his life to help Mr. Johnson and his family. While he isn’t going to be nominated for sainthood or measured for a halo, Mr. Johnson knows that he and his company have been complicit with God’s will for them and is striving to remain true to His will.
Quality Plumbing and Mechanical is continually striving to improve their product by training and acquiring new technology and equipment for the office staff and field employees. Always focusing our attention on a safe and family-friendly workplace, as Mr. Johnson said, “We win together and we lose together!”
Next year we will celebrate 30 years in business in Sevier County. Many locals say that one needs to be here 30 years to be considered local, some say 50. Quality Plumbing and Mechanical is truly a “Homegrown” business. Sevier County is our home and we love it! We even love the traffic because it greases the Tourism wheel. Above all, Eric, his family and all of his employees and their families would like to say “Thank you to all of our customers and friends who have made our successful journey possible. We look forward to proudly serving Sevier and the surrounding counties for years to come!”