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Featured Contractor

Off and Running: H.L. Moe Company

Traditionally the world of unionized plumbing has been divided into two parts: Construction and service. Very few contractors have tried to perform both roles, and fewer still have been able to do both jobs well. The H.L. Moe Company is the exception, and an exceptional all-around firm they are.

H.L. Moe was founded in 1927-the same year Lindbergh flew to Paris and Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. Back then, Los Angeles was just reaching a million inhabitants. The city was growing by several hundred citizens every day, and new buildings sprang up everywhere. Herb Moe set up a plumbing shop in the suburb of Glendale to take advantage of the rapid growth of the region.

In 1964 the firm was purchased by the Davis family; the current president of H.L. Moe Company is Michael Davis, who has expanded the business into three thriving divisions, pursuing contracting, service, and maintenance opportunities throughout Southern California.

Davis notes that forming and maintaining relationships with general contractors has been an essential component of Moe's success in the construction industry. "General contractors will use familiar, effective performers. Our job is to do the work right and to maintain schedule to completion."

On the service side, Moe Plumbing Services employs 50 technicians who are dispatched via a specialized computer linkage to jobs around the southland. Each of Moe's drain service trucks contains a small hydrojet machine and a locator with video camera to detect drain blockages. The firm also owns two towable jetters for larger jobs.

The company has embarked on an extensive advertising and "branding" campaign so that residential customers will recognize the firm as the go-to for any and all plumbing, HVAC and drain-cleaning needs. Moe recognizes the need for continual evaluation of their programs and holds regular meetings to check strategies and plot a course for the future.

Most of Moe's service personnel come from nonunion "drain-cleaning" firms. At Moe, these workers are trained to perform the most important aspects of the work. New technicians receive eight full days of training over eight weeks, being taught by Moe's own staff in the essentials of service and repair. Moe has also joined with UA Local 250 to train technicians in air conditioning service.

The service side of Moe's operations is very highly organized. The process begins with a phone call from a homeowner. Callers can expect to have their request responded to immediately, with information about when service may be expected. Service trucks are equipped with GPS technology to ensure that the closest vehicle is sent to the location for work.

[My own experience with Moe's service crews came a few weeks ago when I smelled a gas leak in my home. Moe dispatched a service truck right away; the technician searched and searched but could find no gas leak-it turned out that what I smelled was the latent methane emanating from damp ground beneath my house. Because no work was required the technician severely discounted my bill and promised to be available whenever needed in the future. His appearance, conduct and performance were markedly different from other service plumbers I'd had over-this one looked like he was going to church, and his apprentice was the same. I've had people come out from other firms who looked like chimney sweeps-one guy snaked out my drain and left the clog of roots and gunk on my front lawn. If you think this experience prejudices me in favor of Moe Plumbing, you're right.]

Moe's scope of operations may not represent the future course for every signatory firm in the business, but the company's energy and success certainly disprove the notion that a plumbing contractor cannot cover all the bases of the industry and thrive.


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