It was a proud moment for Bill Fite when he went to his grandmother to seek her approval to resurrect his grandfather’s plumbing business name of Fite Plumbing. She was excited about the revival, telling him to “absolutely bring Fite Plumbing back out!” With her blessing, the second iteration of Fite Plumbing opened on January 1, 1989. Since that time, Fite Plumbing has grown out of a home shop in Monrovia to a building on Main Street (Route 40) in Plainfield. As the company grew, there were many changes, big and small, that went along with that growth. One thing never changed. Fite Plumbing has always been a family business.
From their childhood in Monrovia, Erika Fite Fraits and her brothers, Zach and Logan grew up surrounded by family and the plumbing business. “I always worked for Dad,” Fraits said. “I started doing filing and answering the phone, then I was navigating in the field running materials from the supply house to job sites. I could get myself anywhere since I was about 16 years old.” She began as a full-time employee in 2011. From commercial and residential services and remodeling to new construction for residential, commercial, and industrial projects, Fite Plumbing is a full-service plumbing company with a reputation for standing by its word and doing quality work. Fraits said, “We really value what our clients and contractors think about us.”
About five years ago when Bill Fite’s conversations began to lean toward the topic of retirement, it was time for another change, a substantial change. “This company had been my dad’s life and passion, but I saw it was time for him to move into a new phase in his life. My father never pushed me,” Fraits said. “But he did say that I had always been the one (to run the business).” For her, it was an easy decision. “I like the type of work we do and the nature of the field,” Fraits said. She says over the years she discovered her love for plumbing in construction. She also discovered a passion for learning how businesses run and operate. “I wanted to know what makes certain businesses succeed and why others fail.”
Two years ago, the idea of Fraits taking over the business turned into a succession plan. “I told Dad I was going to take it and run with it.” She stepped into her passion, reading, taking seminars, and following the careers of successful men and women. She also stepped into leadership roles in the company while she had the benefit of her father’s guidance at hand. “Dad has been a great mentor, especially in business,” Fraits said. “He’s learned it firsthand and shared that experience with me. He has been the key.”
Along with her learning about running a business, it was important to her that she follow her father’s example and know how to do every in-house job. Over time she has conquered all the jobs and their responsibilities except one – estimating. However, like most things, Fraits is learning on the job. She is not just hands-on, but up to her elbows to ensure a solid understanding.
As the first step in the transition, they developed five- and ten-year plans and set goals for the business to expand and grow. Fraits discovered an interest and capability in strategic planning and making projections. She found that making plans and putting them in place was as fulfilling as being the owner and having the flexibility with her two children, Cora and Graham.
While she appreciates the plumbing profession, she said, “My passion has become the business and running the business. I want to make Fite Plumbing a well-known name in the service industry and the construction industry.”
TRANSITION AND CHANGE
From the time she joined the company full-time in 2011, she has wanted to grow the business. She saw how important employees were to the success of a business. “I wanted to create a culture where employees wanted to work,” Fraits said. Once she began transitioning into a role of greater responsibility, she began to develop new processes and systems and put them in place.
To be able to provide all the services she wants Fite Plumbing to offer, Fraits focused on employees and employee benefits. She said the company pays for schooling and some certifications. “It’s important, I believe, to provide an opportunity to gain experience, have training options, and grow,” she said. “On the job and outside.”