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Why Custom Filtration and Plumbing Co stays on top of its game

Annaville native James Michael ‘Jim’ Horman, president and CEO of Custom Filtration & Plumbing Co., started off as a plumber before opening his own business almost 25 years ago. He takes pride in exceeding customer expectations with professional service while keeping the values of a family-owned company, he told Corpus Christi Business News. Photo by Jane Kathleen Gregorio

Growing up in Corpus Christi as a native of the Annaville community, James Michael “Jim” Horman never imagined he would become a plumber, much less the current president and CEO of Custom Filtration and Plumbing Co.

“No one in my family had gone to college,” he said. “It wasn’t something I or my parents talked about. We all came from the blue collar work environment. My dad, Gary Carlan, worked hard in the construction field and did his best to provide for our family.”

His father’s ethic of hard work inspired him to achieve as well.

A few years after graduating, Horman married his high school sweetheart, Susie, and the young couple started a family. Horman decided to join the U.S. Air Force Reserves to gain direction in his life. After returning from training, he discovered plumbing and began work at the Gentry Co.

“I started working there in 1988,” Horman recalled. “It was one of the largest commercial plumbing contractors in the city. Two years later, I got activated for the Gulf War, and served in the Desert Storm from 1990-1991. The company was very supportive of me being in the military. I was so impressed by Hoyt Gentry, the owner, a great person who was a very successful plumber and businessman.”

The Gentry Co. placed Horman in the apprenticeship program, and from there, he became a foreman, running jobs. In 1994, he decided he was ready to branch out on his own, testing for his master plumbing license and starting with just a few employees.

“Learning how to transition from a licensed plumber into a businessperson can be one of the most challenging things for any craft worker, be it plumber, electrician, automotive, construction worker,” Horman said. “The greatest challenge was learning to make a profit, understanding true costs and finding reliable employees.”

Horman credits his mentors for his success through the support they gave him, naming Jim Cameron and Hoyt Gentry, a close friend’s father.

“I was inspired by the things these men accomplished in their lives and for this community,” he said. “They, along with my father, were the three driving forces that kept me going.”

They helped with advice, not just with the plumbing but also with the business.

“Though Mr. Gentry is no longer with us, his son and his employees and I developed a bond and were helpful in my success,” Horman continued. “I felt that support from them. They were the reason that I was inspired to accomplish my own goals. I felt really blessed.”

In 1996, Horman’s company officially became a corporation. In addition to regular plumbing services, Horman also contracted for a water treatment company, hence the company name Custom Filtration and Plumbing Co.

According to Horman, Corpus Christi was going through major plumbing reroutes, replacing leaking cast-iron drain pipes underneath the foundation of older homes. Insurance companies were paying plumbers to replace the old piping.

“In addition, we were also doing contract installation for water treatment equipment,” he said. “I was intrigued early on by the municipal water problems and problems of the water wells in the rural areas with high content of salt and sulphur in the water. Also, the growth of Corpus Christi via the residential boom — we were able to ride on the coattails of this opportunity.”

Horman’s eldest son, Brooks, joined the company when he was 19.

“I wanted him to learn the business from the ground up,” Horman said. “He was out in the field with the guys digging ditches under houses, crawling through the attic, serving as a helper for a long time until he finally got his plumber’s license. Now, he is running the jobs. He took the long road to become a craftsman and got into the business.”

Brooks Horman is now the vice president of construction for Custom Filtration. He facilitates the crews, handles interactions with superintendents and provides both service work and water treatment work. Custom Filtration and Plumbing Co. also carries its own line of water treatment filters and equipment.

Rounding out the family business is matriarch and wife, Susie, who takes care of human resources, payroll, accounting, bookkeeping and reception. According to Horman, Susie is the heart of the business. Daughter-in-law Nicki, wife of Brooks, has been apprenticing under Susie for the past four years.

“Nicki brought us into the digital age,” Horman said. “My son and daughter-in-law are the future of the company. They are like the doppelgangers for me and my wife. The feeling of working together and passing on this legacy to them is indescribable. It brings tears to my eyes.”

His vision for the company, which is currently 80 percent residential new construction and light commercial and 20 percent consumer, is to expand a larger percent of its services in the consumer sector.

“It’s the toughest part to achieve because consumers can be more difficult to deal with,” he said. “You have to be on top of your game. You want to have key quality employees who are well-trained, extremely professional, educated, equipped with the latest technology.”

For Horman, being a family-owned company means customer service is a top priority.

“When people call, they are talking to a family member who has vested interest in the company, so we want to make sure we fully understand what a customer is asking for,” he said. “For example, if we get a distress call that needs immediate attention, we may opt to reschedule a non-emergency customer to a different time and provide a discount for delaying the service call.”

As for the professionals who comprise the Custom Filtration and Plumbing Co. family, Horman is confident in their abilities to deliver quality service.

“We have employees who have been with us for more than 15 years,” he said. “They care, they are knowledgeable, they go through training, whether it’s here with our company or off to the manufacturer to gain the cutting edge of new technology.”

As for plumbing advice this spring, Horman recommends having a plumber do maintenance at least once a year.

“People, myself included, often don’t think about plumbing until it’s too late,” he said. “Spring is a good opportunity to maintain a good plumbing system, a good time to flush out your water heater, check for leaks and hose bibbs.”

He also suggests regularly flushing out your water heater to extends its life and replacing the anode rod, which naturally corrodes.

“If you don’t, more of the metal will corrode, creating a leak and costing you $1,000 to have a plumber replace the water heater,” Horman warned.

Custom Filtration and Plumbing Co. is located at 9233 Leopard St. in Corpus Christi. For more information, call (361) 299-6260 or visit cfplumbingco.com.

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