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Spotlight - Dan Nicholson, Nicholson Plumbing LLC

image Danny Nicholson in his office.

HOUSTON - Dan Nicholson has spent most of his life around and in the plumbing industry, thanks to his dad, a local union and even the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Each contributed to Nicholson’s skill and eventual decision to strike out on his own in the industry and build a plumbing business he could pass on to the next generation.



How were you introduced to the plumbing industry?
    My father was in the plumbing industry in Pasadena. I went out to job sites with him a few times, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I figured I would eventually become a plumber. After high school graduation in 1979, I immediately joined the Plumbers’ Local Union 68 apprenticeship program, which at that time was a four-year program. After that, I became a journeyman plumber and worked out of Plumber’s Local Union 68. I worked for the same company for close to 28 years on and off – at least three seven-year stints – and worked for other major plumbing contractors when work got slow. After that, I went to work at NASA in 2005.

How did you become involved with NASA?

    They hire plumbers and all trades to maintain their campus. They were looking for a plumber at one point, and I decided I’d like to give that a try and find out what NASA was all about.
    It was nice because I got to see behind the scenes over there. It’s an old facility so there is plenty of work to do – a lot of maintenance, repairs and replacements.  I stayed there for seven years, and at that point, I had been thinking about starting my own business. I took my Master License exam, passed it and started Nicholson Plumbing in 2011.

Was it an easy decision for you?
    I was nervous to start, but I had reached a point in my life where it was either do it or don’t. I wasn’t getting any younger, and my finances were coming together; my house was paid for at that point, so I decided why not?
    I started out by myself working nights and weekends. It took a little while for word to get out; mostly at that time, advertising was word of mouth. It started growing in 2012; an opportunity came up for us to plumb a small commercial building, which my son, Bryan, talked me into doing.

Does Bryan work for you?
    He does. Bryan is the third generation of my family now to work in plumbing, although I never thought he would get into plumbing or be a part of my business!

How has the business evolved over the years?

    We’ve grown bigger with more employees, we’re doing bigger jobs and more jobs, and we have four trucks on the road now.

What are some of the lessons you have learned in the past seven years?

    I’ve learned to be patient and to stay positive. I still have to work hard. Nothing is given to me; I have to earn everything.

What do you think the secret to your success has been?
    Hard work and good employees ­ – actually, the key to success is good employees. I have 10 employees and I’m looking to grow.

Who has mentored you along the way?

    As far as coming up as a plumber, I’m going to say it was one of my all-time favorite plumbers, Bill Benable, who is retired now after working for the same company I did. He was the first plumber I ever worked for and I learned a lot from him as far as work ethic and plumbing. There is something about working with your first plumber; you always remember that guy.

Do you have the opportunity to mentor others?
    I have, mainly employees and apprentices that have worked for me over the years.

You’ve also mentored Bryan and brought him into the industry. What do you think is the most important thing you have tried to teach him?
    Honesty. He treats people the way they would want to be treated, and he works hard.

What are your future plans for Nicholson Plumbing?
    We want to start a service end of our company, and of course we want to grow our construction field. Multiple locations could happen some day, but that’s down the road. I want to move to New Braunfels someday, so that’s a possibility.
    Bryan loves his position here and he wants the business to grow. He’s in it for the long run and he plans to take it over when I retire. Without him, we wouldn’t be anywhere, honestly. I say good employees are the key to success, but also a good family is important, too. His office skills are great.

Share about your family.
    I have a wife, Lisa. Besides my son Bryan, I also have a daughter, Brandy, and two granddaughters. Brandy used to work for me, but she got too busy running the girls back and forth to their cheer and dance practices, so she had to call it a career. My sister Peggy doesn’t work for me, but my mother, Gracie, who is 90 years old, always says she wants to come work for Nicholson Plumbing!

What kind of hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not working?
    I like to take care of my yard, and I golf. My game is pretty good; I’d say it’s average to a little bit above average, maybe. Bryan plays also, and his game is really good. He lets me win once a year – usually on Father’s Day!
    We travel a little bit. We like to venture off to Vegas to play craps.  I also like to go to California; my wife has brothers out there, and we like to go visit them. Lisa and I like to go to the Golden Nugget or Lake Charles a few times a year, too. I would like to go to the Appalachian Mountains someday.
    I have two antique motorcycles that I’m rebuilding right now. They’re little Honda CT70s I got on eBay. They’re small mini-bikes, the kind I always wanted when I was a kid. One is a 1969 and one is a 1971 model. One of them I built from scratch part by part, and the other I just bought from a guy in the Dallas area. One is for me and the other is for Lisa. I thought I would buy them so we could have them to play around on.

Do you have any collections?
    I have a collection of coins. My most special coin is a silver dollar I was given by my grandmother that turned 100 years old when I turned 20. Now it is 136 years old, and it’s the most precious coin that I have.

Is that the most precious possession that you have?
     No, that would be my two beloved mixed breed rescue dogs, Shelley and Harley, that we’ve had for years. We usually always have one or two dogs around and have for the past 20 years. This third generation that we have now, we’ve had one of the dogs for four years and the other for about six. We love them dearly.

What are your plans after retirement?
    I plan to relax, play golf and travel a little bit and drive my wife crazy. Lisa and I are both homebodies; we just like to sit at home and enjoy our backyard with a glass of wine. We have a nice pool back there, and our granddaughters like to come over and swim and play. I hope for good health and a nice relaxing retirement.
    Nicholson Plumbing is a commercial plumbing subcontractor in Pasadena. –mjm

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Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net