Aaron Gaynor receives a Special Award for Leadership as part of this year's program.

It starts at the top.

That’s the personal rallying cry of Aaron Gaynor, who as owner and CEO of Eco Plumbers has faced his share of challenges over the years. It was through these tribulations that he realized in order to transform and grow his company, he would need to grow as a leader.

As someone who has been at the bottom and the top of the business ladder, Gaynor has learned lessons that help him connect with his employees and be the leader he is today. “Having grown this company from the ground up, I have worn every hat,” he says. “Knowing what people go through to be in the trades and the positions they are in gives you a real insight into the job and what they are doing every day. I understand what they are going through because I have been there before.”

Gaynor began his career in trades in 1997 immediately out of high school. At 23, he took his state plumbing test and became licensed as a plumber. “I went out on my own with a few close friends doing new construction plumbing,” he says. “When the economy downturn happened in the early 2000s, I learned a lot about the trials of growing a business and personal growth.” 

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His small team made the decision to start from scratch in 2007. That’s when he founded Eco Plumbers, a residential plumbing company. This year, the Hilliard-based business that helps clients save water and energy had grown to 87 employees. “I was young enough and still very ambitious, and that is when the Eco Plumbers came to be,” Gaynor says. 

While the business model emphasizing sustainability has been a hit with clients across Central Ohio, Gaynor himself been a hit with his employees by ensuring they feel they have a direct role in the success of the company. “I’m committed to growing these folks,” he says. “I understand that my team has great ideas to share, or they occasionally need to just vent. Sometimes they just need to know that their managers care.” 

Through company huddles and meetings, as well as his open-door policy, Gaynor works to check in with everyone on a regular basis. “Communicating with my team as much as possible is important to me,” he says. “You can tell by team member actions when they are engaged.”

That transparency and attention to meeting his employees’ needs has never been more evident than now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Plumbing is considered an essential business, so Eco Plumbers employees are still out interacting with the public. The company prioritizes safety by following federal health guidelines to conduct regular temperature checks on employees, enhance the cleaning of all equipment and trucks, and provide protective gloves, boot covers and masks.

The company has creatively taken a page from the medical field’s playbook, too. Eco Plumbers has implemented a video call tool called the “Virtual Plumber” on its website, minimizing contact while still meeting a client’s needs. “This allows them to get help with an emergency or advice about a plumbing issue to help them decide if they need to schedule a service call,” Gaynor says. “We are taking this day by day.”

Christine Bryant is a freelance writer.