My grandfather and his brother (my great uncle) started Boulden Brothers in 1946. Our services have expanded since then to include Boulden Brothers Propane, One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, Mr. Sparky Electric, and of course, Boulden Brothers Plumbing and Drain Cleaning. Right now it’s me and my brother, so there are still Boulden brothers at Boulden Brothers.
I can’t say that I always knew I was going to be a part of the family business. Although I was too young to ever see my grandfather working there, I did have a chance to watch my dad, who had been there since 1959. He bought his first oil truck the year he started, and later bought out the business in 1962. I think I realized that I wanted to pursue this line of work towards the end of my time in college. Once I graduated, sure enough, I got started in the business.
I have some pretty big shoes to follow—my dad was a pillar of the community. He’s still alive, but he has since retired. He was always very involved with the community and he instilled the importance of that into me and my brother. Right now, my brother focuses on the day to day operations in the propane business, while I spend more of my time in the day to day operations of services (plumbing, heating, air conditioning, electric).
We don’t have children who are involved in the business, but I think they are learning the Boulden Brothers way just like my brother and I did—they learn how we do things by observing our interactions with others. I have a freshman in college, a junior in high school, and a third grader. My brother’s kids are in third grade and kindergarten. We haven’t consciously talked to them about joining the business. Certainly, we would hope that some of them might decide to join us in the future. However, we want them to choose a field that they are interested in. If they want to do something else, we don’t want them to feel obligated to join the business. We want the to work here because they really want to.
The products/services that we provide at Boulden Brothers complement each other. With our propane business, we have a chance to provide customers with a heat source. With heating and air conditioning, we have a chance to make sure that our customers’ equipment runs at peak efficiency as reliably as possible. Plumbing and electric are nice sidelines so that we can provide all the services in the house. If our customers have residential plumbing, heating, air condition, or electric needs, we can do it all.
To some degree, all the areas that we’re in are crisis type businesses. People don’t call us because they want to have a chat about their water heater—they’re calling because they have a problem. That also gets compounded because the propane and heating/air conditioning businesses are very weather driven. A lot of activity must take place in a short period of time. When you add urgency to the equation, things can quickly become challenging.
We run into people who are at wit’s end for two reasons: First of all, they call us because they have had some sort of breakdown and it is hot or cold in their house. Secondly, some customers have dealt with other contractors in the past and they’ve had a negative experience. When they come to us, they expect we will be just as difficult to deal with. We’re lumped in with other home improvement contractors, some of which would do things that we would never do. That can make potential clients leery. To help our customers feel confident, we have warrantees and guarantees in place. We firmly believe that customers shouldn’t have to worry about being taken advantage of.