FAIRFIELD, OH — Swimming in the extremely murky 60° water with waves constantly smashing her face when she would come up for air, Linda Hudek began to question her sanity, as she asked herself, “Why on earth did I sign up for this? What happens if a shark comes around? Would I get in trouble for punching that guy for kicking me in the face?”
You see, Hudek participated in the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim some years back in the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay. It was a 1.5-mile swim, “and stupidly it was my first major open water swim,” she recalls. “They hauled more than 800 of us out on to two ferries from the mainland out to Alcatraz Island, where they stopped and said ‘jump in.’”
It was very cold, says Hudek, but also a very “cool” experience. “If and when I do it again, I’ll be sure to drink way more water, practice more and maybe wear more than a bathing suit,” says Hudek.
Contractor of the Year: Say What?
Upon hearing the news that she had been selected CONTRACTOR Magazine’s “Contractor of the Year,” Linda Hudek, Master Plumber, LH Plumbing Services LLC, responded, “Why me? There are certainly better candidates out there that do better work.”
But it’s that selflessness and “Can Do” attitude that separates Linda from the rest. And that “Can Do” has become a mantra for Hudek as she strives for excellence in her professional and personal life. Both Hudek’s mom and dad—Herma and John—taught her from an early age how important a solid work ethic was. “I saw firsthand how my dad had to overcome adversities within his company and our trade in general, and he always persevered,” says Hudek.
Hudek’s father’s “Can Do” attitude, which was adopted from his time as a Seabee in the U.S. Navy, was passed down to both Hudek and her sister. One of their mottos for a long time, “He’s been screaming ‘Can Do’ since I was a little girl. He calls me his ‘Can Do Kid,’” says Hudek.
And, Hudek’s faith was a big part of her upbringing. “My parents’ faith in Jesus Christ, keeping us in church and teaching us about God has shaped me into who I am today,” continues Hudek.
Hudek began working in the trades at the age of 17 with her dad in commercial new construction plumbing. Although she had plans to attend the Ohio State University at the time for agricultural studies, Hudek decided it was plumbing that was enjoyable and challenging, and it really helped her come out of her shell as an “awkward” teen at the time.
“I began working for my father the summer before my senior year of high school just to have a job and I decided that I really loved it. Although much to his displeasure at the time, he didn’t want me in such a rough environment,” jokes Hudek. “I enjoyed the new challenges on a daily basis and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with physical, tangible work. I also loved the constantly varied workplaces and meeting new people on each and every project. I went to college at night and also obtained an Associates in Business Management degree while working for him, as well,” says Hudek.
It always seemed like a natural progression for Hudek to eventually run her own company and work for herself one day. Hudek went through a brief phase when she thought about working for someone else or even pursuing a career as an inspector, but none of that fit the bill at the time. She was not interested in taking over her dad’s company either. “I wanted to start something of my own, that was wholly mine and that no one could ever say was handed to me. If that sounds a little prideful and vain, well I’ll be the first to admit those faults,” says Hudek.
Getting It Done
Heading into year 13, Hudek has owned her business since 2010, not without its challenges. Much of her early work as a sole proprietor was still commercial new construction plumbing. There were definitely times when she was concerned with finding projects to bid on, recalls Hudek. “As a few years went by, I began to transition more into service plumbing, and there were many times that I was frustrated that the phone wasn’t ringing.”
With that “Can Do” attitude, Hudek kept charging forward. For Hudek, networking with other contractors was huge. Within her own field and in her local area, Hudek always offered to help other shops—usually one-person shops like her own—that needed help on a project or were overrun. Hudek mailed advertising flyers out to various areas in her county.
When Hudek eventually transitioned into service, she would also ask her local plumbing supply house to refer her to customers that might call. She tried participating in local ad campaign mailers, which, by the way, she would never do again due to the quality of customers that would respond.
She branched out into drain cleaning; many other contractors who don’t like to do it or just don’t have the equipment would refer Hudek for those jobs. And, word-of-mouth advertising was critical as the years progressed.
Hudek has been in the shop location of her dreams, and has since migrated to a majority of service work in both commercial and residential sectors with some plumbing remodeling. In addition to residential and commercial service plumbing and drain cleaning, her talents include natural gas, sewer and water line replacements, backflow testing, and plumbing projects that require scuba diving.
Hudek joined her local Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) chapter as a board member, became the Vice President of PHCC Ohio, and currently is the sitting PHCC Ohio President. The PHCC progression started when she was asked if she would like to become Vice President after attending one of the state meetings and providing some ideas as to how to garner support for the residential licensing bill.
Hudek is very proud and honored to be President of PHCC Ohio, which lobbies the state legislature—and often national—to protect and benefit not just the trades, tradesmen and companies, but the end consumer as well. “The health of the nation is always top priority,” says Hudek.
“Currently, we are working on passing a residential plumbing licensing bill in Ohio and opposing another bill that would harm Ohio businesses—including plumbing contractors,” says Hudek. “We also support our up-and-coming young plumbers through scholarships, competitions and apprenticeship programs, and I am continuously looking for new ways to reach out to young people in order to promote the trade as well.”
Inclusion & Perseverance
Overall, Hudek would like to see more women—and men—entering the trades. She will be the first to say that the trades are not for everyone—you need to be physically fit, you need to be able to get your hands dirty, you need to be mechanically inclined, and not every job will be rainbows and butterflies, says Hudek.
“But what you often have is steady income, honest money, and a trade where there is such as huge variety of avenues to take. You can specialize in backflow testing, you can aim to do new construction, or you can gear your company toward remodels, drain cleaning, boilers, etc.—the sky is the limit.”
Hudek considers herself a mentor for anyone wanting to join the trades. If you are willing to work, willing to learn and can turn a wrench, says Hudek, you can be taught. “And if you’re a woman, there’s a place here for you. I’m a woman, but when I’m on the job, I’m a plumber first and foremost,” says Hudek.
Admittedly, there are many days Hudek comes home late, tired and filthy. “I frequently ask myself if it’s all worth it—both plumbing by itself and owning my company as well. Plumbing can be difficult, labor intensive and exhausting on some days and on others it’s more on the technical side and troubleshooting,” says Hudek.
Yet, Hudek finds that the finished product of providing a necessary service to homes and businesses outweighs the negatives. “I enjoy the latitude and variety that this trade provides for me. I made so many mistakes when I was a younger plumber and to see the knowledge I have acquired and the progress I have made is supremely satisfying. I enjoy being called to get a business or home back up and running as it should,” says Hudek.
Throughout it all, the trades have provided Hudek with a good life, a life that allows her to do things she enjoys the most. “In the summer, I love to scuba dive and swim. Right now, I get in the hot tub and I pretend I’m diving. I also enjoy being outdoors in general—hiking, kayaking and swimming. Reading is also a great respite for me; action movies are great, too.”
Hudek also collects vintage Chanel handbags and buys and sells them as a hobby. She loves to dress and act as femininely as possible outside of work. “It helps me balance that part of me,” says Hudek.
One last thing: when asked once about the last time she said it was a great day, “I was running a new gas service outside in the sunshine on a job with no one on site to bother me—just me, the track hoe and some Nine Inch Nails.”
Social media has introduced Hudek to more contractors, both near and far. Networking via social media has brought her mentors, introduced her to new equipment and products that have helped her business immensely, and also helped her reach more customers. You can follow Linda on Instagram @thebrunetteplumber.
Source : ContractorMag