Behind the Scenes of the Five Borough Launch: Part Two
P.A.C. Plumbing, Heating, & A/C Takes the Plunge in Staten Island
Best for NYC is bringing business leaders together in each of the five boroughs to rally around redefining success in business. These events offer inspirational conversation and networking with like-minded individuals — and local food and beverages! This post introduces the Staten Island Launch — taking place at Maker Space on Thursday, November 12th — and the event’s keynote speaker, Eric Campione of P.A.C. Plumbing, Heating, & A/C. For more information about this and the other Best for NYC Launches in Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, click here.
Eric Campione, a Staten Island native and Chief Administrative Officer of P.A.C. Plumbing, Heating, & A/C, is participating in the Best for NYC campaign as a way to hold himself accountable to incorporating his values into the way he does business. “The Best for NYC campaign helps you discover or rediscover what’s important,” says Eric. “Sometimes you have goals or ideas that slip, but when you have something like the assessment to hold you accountable, it brings you back. ‘I’m choosing this answer, but I want to be choosing that answer. How do I get there?’” Eric knows from experience that returning to the important things — his community, his workers, and his family values — can strengthen and even save a business. When P.A.C. Plumbing, founded in 1979 by Eric’s father, was teetering on the brink, it was Eric’s commitment to the well-being of his employees and the vibrancy of his borough that allowed the business and the Campione family to forge onward.
Before the Great Recession, P.A.C. Plumbing thrived. The Campione family employed around 60 people and took on million-dollar projects all over the city. Things took a turn; a struggling economy brought P.A.C. Plumbing down to 16 employees. They were fighting with a dozen other contractors for the smallest of jobs. And then, tragically, the two older Campione brothers died in a car accident in 2011, devastating the family and, understandably, nearly causing P.A.C. Plumbing operations to grind to a halt. “It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. The economy had completely tanked.” Eric, who was two years out of college at the time, recounts. “And my parents had a really hard time dealing with it. They responded, ‘The business? It doesn’t mean anything.’ But Eric thought, “You know what? We need another route. Let’s try something different.”
Characteristic of the strength and resilience of Staten Island’s people, Eric grabbed the bull by the horns. He understood that the business supported too many families and thus, should remain. His plan? “Let’s focus on Staten Island,” proposed Eric. “And that’s what we did. We focused pretty much entirely on small projects here. We’re not back to where we were, but we’re on the right track.”
Today, P.A.C. Plumbing is competing to be not only the best in Staten Island, but the Best for NYC as a whole. The company’s renewed focus on giving back to the community and creating a positive workplace for its employees has given Eric (and, in turn, P.A.C. Plumbing), a different frame when it comes to success. “Highly effective people think about ‘win-wins,’” said Eric. “What we are doing is creating an atmosphere for employees that makes it appealing to work here, in turn maintaining the quality of our service. That’s a win-win. And being the best for the city means embracing that, in my opinion.”
To keep his workers motivated to deliver high quality services, Eric demonstrates appreciation by paying fair wages, prioritizing the training of his workers, and giving back to the borough they all call home. Eric’s salary is remarkably close to that of his lowest paid worker. He’s not in the business to make money for himself, but to ensure prosperity for his entire team. “The way that my father’s always thought — and it’s an ideology he brought into this business — is that he doesn’t want to lay anybody off. He’d rather take a pay cut and allow other guys to work, and make sure that they’re happy. I swear, he would go months without a paycheck. So, you know, money — it’ll come. But I don’t think about how it comes, I think about how to be a solid organization. And then it’ll come.”
“What we are doing is creating an atmosphere for employees that makes it appealing to work here, in turn maintaining the quality of our service. That’s a win-win.”
Eric has also instituted ways to incentivize his employees and reward them for their strengths. Besides arranging celebratory staff trips to a bowling alley or to Flagship Brewery, Eric draws some inspiration from The Price is Right. “Some people want time off. Some people want money. Some people want new tools, new trucks. We have a wheel that everyone gets to spin occasionally, and everyone loves it,” explained Eric. “You can win a swiss army knife, or new boots, or a half day off, or a full day off.”
In addition to fostering a positive work environment, Eric focuses heavily on giving back to Staten Island. PAC Plumbing sponsors multiple non-profits on the island, and Eric himself is a member of multiple community organizations so he can stay in touch with his neighbors’ needs and concerns. “As a business, we’re always just trying to support everybody — and let’s face it, they’re the same people who support us,” said Eric.
It is clear from the way Eric speaks that his family’s ties to Staten Island are strong. Eric gives back to the community as Chief Administrative Officer of P.A.C. because doing so is good for business but also because it’s his own community. “My father helped build half of this island. He started with one or two-family homes, and now he’s built probably thousands,” said Eric. “It’s insane.” Eric’s father helped build the very community that Eric now works to serve. In a way, Eric is doing his own building, too, by restoring the influence of P.A.C. Plumbing on Staten Island. He’s crafting a new definition of success in business. He’s renovating the family dream.
Emlyn Crenshaw is a B Corps Fellow working to grow the Best for NYC campaign at Business Outreach Center. An improv guru, Emlyn lives at the intersection of creativity, humor, and social justice.