Humility in Excellence
Bantam’s Plumbing Company Inc. provides comfort to clients year-round
Brett Banton may be a man of few words, but his actions speak volumes about his passion for serving clients with personal attention and strong customer service.
For the past 17 years, Brett has served as President of Bantam’s Plumbing Company Inc. (BPCI) in Ashland, Virginia. The company was originally founded in 1998 by Brett’s father, Larry, to serve local commercial businesses in providing plumbing services. With the acquisition of Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in 2014, the company added residential plumbing and residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).
Adding Herman Allen—a 50-year-old business with an excellent reputation in residential services in the area—was Brett’s brainchild. “A few years after taking role of president in the company, I knew we needed to diversify,” he says. “By acquiring Herman Allen but keeping it as wholly owned, separate subsidiary, we expanded into residential plumbing and added a new service line (HVAC).” Today, BPCI provides large-company service but with the personal attention and lower prices of a small company.
Reputations matter, and in 2018 and 2019, Herman Allen won three Contractor of the Year Awards in several categories by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s (NARI’s) Central Virginia Chapter. Brett explains, “The ability to provide plumbing to the building owner then continue that service with the resident or tenant provides 360-degree care to our clients.” BPCI can install a new plumbing or HVAC system and continue to service it throughout its lifetime through a company with an industry-recognized reputation.
The company’s primary projects include restaurants, retail, medical/dental offices, mixed-use buildings, multifamily housing and hospitality. As a licensed plumbing, gas and mechanical contractor, BPCI offers services for tenant fit-outs, remodels, new construction and additions. A recent project, the New Manchester Flats in Richmond, evidenced a larger-scale project for the company. The project included the ground-up construction of a four-story, 140-unit additional apartment building at the complex. This new construction effort was exciting for Brett, who was proud of how his team flawlessly executed a project of this scale. “We provide personalized attention like you’d find with a smaller firm, but offer competitive pricing because we keep overhead costs low,” Brett says.
Small Town Values
Brett instills in his team that providing quality service at a competitive cost is key. “We do what we say we’re going to do and work in accordance with our clients’ schedules. We accommodate them and try to move projects along. Schedules and budgets are very important in our line of work.”
As far as a favorite type of work, Brett prefers restaurants and dentist offices. The enhanced infrastructure work involved is niche and complex, which he finds exciting. “Our services at dental offices are challenging—we install compressed air, vacuum lines and medical gas under slab.”
But, Brett is equally excited about the next step in the company’s growth journey, which is already underway in adding commercial HVAC services to its current capabilities the company can provide its clients. A first for BPCI, the company has recently ventured into this work with a Dunkin’ shop in the new Dominion Energy’s headquarters and for two Tractor Supply Company locations in the greater Richmond area.
Celebrating the Trade
There is a very real shortage of qualified or licensed people available to perform plumbing and HVAC services, among other skilled jobs where special training is required. “I remember being told in high school that unless you go to college, you won’t have a successful career,” Brett says. As his father before him, Brett believes tradesmanship is an art that should be celebrated. Although he went to Radford University to learn the skills required for running and managing a business, he would not give up the valuable lessons taught to him by his father and the talent required to perform trade services.
Trained by his father, Brett worked at the company from a young age. Of all the lessons learned, one remains key. “My dad really understood plumbing. His experience translated to an understanding of the trade that is unmatched. He was hands-on in teaching his staff the right way to do things.”
He has taken this approach to heart as reflected in his own leadership style. “I know plumbing inside and out. When you are coaching people and they know you have done their job before, they tend to respond better and respect you.” He empathizes with his field staff and helps offer solutions to many of the problems or challenges they face. “My door is always open; they can come talk to me anytime they need advice.”
To train employees in the “BPCI way,” the company offers an apprenticeship program for both HVAC and plumbing. According to Brett, there is a shortage of qualified technicians in the Tri-City area, but that is not the only reason for their program. “If you have even a quarter of your staff come up through the ranks with an apprenticeship, it is ideal. You can train them in your style and grow their allegiance if they are onboarded after completing the program. It covers both talent recruiting and retention.”
This is his family business, and Brett looks forward to—one day—teaching his sons about the industry in hopes they will be interested to assume leadership roles. “I have two sons, Mills (12) and Bryant (9). They are still young, but soon I’ll bring Mills to the office.” Brett intends to introduce his oldest son in the exact way he learned—cleaning the shop, putting tools away and slowly learning the trade. Brett is greatly anticipating this day, joking with his son that it is time to start training because, at his age, he was already water piping entire houses.
BPCI’s commitment of support doesn’t end with training its employees. The company donates professional services and volunteer hours (and dollars) to many organizations throughout the local community. These include the Forward Foundation, Henrico Police Foundation, and Rebuilding Together Richmond. Specific to supporting kids, BPCI has partnered with M4K Richmond, Western Regional Youth Association and various local sports teams represented through Hanover County Parks and Recreation.
Supporting his trade, staff and community is paramount to Brett, as seen in his driving passion and commitment, principles which have afforded the company continued growth and success.