The History of a Family Business
In 1937, Reese William Warner opened a small plumbing business called Warner & Winpigler with a friend, which they ran out of the Warner home. He soon bought out his partner, running the "kitchen table" business with his wife, Mary Jo, who handled the bookwork, and expanded to a shop on South Market St. There was plenty of work to be had with everyone installing indoor plumbing and heating systems. Following WWII, R.W. began doing work for some of the first post-war housing projects in the area.
A New Name and New Face
The business name became R.W. Warner Plumbing & Heating in the early 1950s and R.W.'s young son began working for the company while in high school. In 1960, R.W., Jr., (Bill) joined the family business full-time and the company moved to 5th Street. Bill was particularly interested in pursuing commercial, industrial and government contracts and the firm continued to grow in that direction, incorporating in 1966.
A Philosophy of Customer Satisfaction
R.W. believed that the best advertising is a satisfied customer, and he passed that ideology on to his son. "My father also recognized that the best way to ensure you do the job right and create that customer satisfaction is by having good people work for you," says Bill. In order to recruit and retain good people, the company offered excellent benefits and continuing training, and it was one of the first to offer profit sharing. The result is that many employees of R.W. Warner have been with the firm long term, several for more than 20 years. Bill took over as president in 1973, and R.W. became chairman of the board. The enterprise expanded again, moving to its current location on Monroe Avenue. Although he retired from the daily running of the business in the mid l980s, R.W. continued to serve on the board of directors and was appointed to the Maryland State Plumbing Board by the Governor.
By continuing his father's philosophy and moving forward with gainful business decisions like buying a small plumbing and heating business in Middletown from the retiring Zigler Brothers, Bill continued the firm's progress. Seeing the value of being able to offer a total mechanical package, he capitalized on acquisition opportunities, purchasing Kaempf & Harris, a sheet metal fabrication and installation company in 1986. R.W. Warner acquired Kennedy Fire Protection in 1987. Now the company had total control and could more easily schedule work that previously had to be subcontracted.
A Third Generation of Quality
In 1988, Bill's son, Matt Warner, started to learn the ropes as a project manager, and quickly worked his way up to general manager of R.W. Warner. "One of the reasons our company has succeeded across generations was the relationship my father and I had in the business," explains Bill. "He always allowed me to move forward and be creative. Now I'm doing this with Matt as he assumes responsibility for the day-to-day operations." As president and COO, Matt has made his own mark on the business. He's made sure the company has kept up with technology and has helped to write some of the business software. In 1994, R.W. Warner restructured into the divisions you see today and rededicated Warner Service to residential service, offering 24-hour maintenance and repair for residences and commercial businesses. "We are determined to grow without forgetting our roots," says Matt. "We believe it's just as important to be able to provide a homeowner with a single faucet as it is to offer high-tech mechanical packages for large projects."