CINCINNATI — TP Mechanical, a mechanical contracting firm specializing in plumbing, pipe fitting, sheet metal and fire protection, marks its 60th anniversary this spring. The company, which prides itself on safety, teamwork, servant leadership and a winning attitude, provides comprehensive contracting, mechanical and pre-fabrication services to the healthcare, hospitality, education and public sector industries in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, areas.
“We couldn’t have done it without our steadfast employees and their commitment to excellence,” said Scott Teepe Sr., CEO and Chairman of the Board.
“We appreciate the faith and support of the construction managers and property owners who put us on their projects. We’re so thankful to those who have helped grow TP Mechanical over these 60 years. My father started it all with just a bucket of tools and his plumbing know-how. We’ve come a long way since our humble beginnings, installing water heaters for Sears and have grown from a one-man operation to a work force of 350.”
Founded in 1953 by Bill Teepe, the company began as William J. Teepe Inc. In the beginning Bill Teepe, known by his best friends as the “Super-Plumber,” focused only on the plumbing side of the business. Eventually he brought on Bob Neil to handle the bookkeeping and estimation and Robert Daniel, his truck driver. “Our first invoice was for $14.47,” remembers Nathan “Denny” Dennison, the original accounting and office manager from 60 years ago — now retired.
Over time, Bill worked closely with his two sons, Steve and Scott Sr., to teach them his trade and grow the family business.
“My favorite memories of working with my father are those of him teaching me everything he knew,” said Steve Teepe, former TP Mechanical CEO. Steve worked as an apprentice from 1971-1974. Then, Bill turned the company over to Steve and his brother, Scott Teepe Sr. The brothers, partnering as CEO and president respectively, grew the company from 10 employees to 175. They also brought on the mechanical HVAC and fabrication capabilities and renamed the company Teepe’s River City Mechanical.
The brothers give some of the credit to Messer Construction with helping launch Teepe’s River City Mechanical by awarding the company a plumbing job for the 25-story Lytle Towers project in downtown Cincinnati. Eventually, Teepe’s River City Mechanical merged with JA Croson in Columbus, Ohio. Then it was acquired by AMPAM in 1999 to become AMPAM Midwest. In 2003, Scott Sr., together with his employees, purchased the company back from AMPAM to become TP Mechanical Contractors Inc.
TP Mechanical attributes its continued success to its proprietary apprenticeship program. Many of TP Mechanical’s devoted team members have worked with the company for more than 20 years. The apprenticeship program is a four year program in which students earn a graduate and an apprenticeship certificate in plumbing, pipe fitting, sheet metal and fire protection.
“We probably have about 50 to 60 apprentices,” said Scott Teepe Sr. “In these programs 90% are taught by internal management. Field superintendents, executives, they are all taught by the folks that work at the company. It’s sustained by our company within our own company.”
The current leadership team — including Bill Riddle, president; Tim Hoover, vice president for Columbus Operations; and Steve Blust, vice president of Kentucky Operations — started working for the company as apprentices and entry-level employees. Today their hard work and dedication to TP Mechanical has become the experience and expertise behind the company’s superior reputation in the Midwest construction industry.
“When starting the program, we looked for an apprenticeship training program that would serve the company’s needs and growth,” said Scott Teepe Sr. “The apprentices we hired were doing more residential type applications, and we are a commercial contractor. So that is why we started our own program, so the apprentices would serve our company needs. Plus, we were getting into the HVAC business, and there was nothing out there in that area that was offered.
“The apprenticeship program is to help us grow and develop our talent internally,” added Scott Teepe Sr. “It’s one of our core values — servant leadership. This is a forum in which we can share all the knowledge and information we have in the company. It’s not uncommon for people that graduate to end up teaching in the program a year or two later.”
Besides recent high school graduates, the apprenticeship program at TP Mechanical is attracting people that have graduated from college, but can’t find a job and have an interest in the construction industry.
“There is a definite career path here at TP,” said Scott Teepe Sr. “Our president of the company started at $4.25. Myself and the current president started as apprentices. This is an example of how you can move up. And a lot of people have gone into supervision and project management and estimating.”
Safety first, always first
TP Mechanical earned recognition in this year’s Construction Safety Excellence Awards (CSEA) from the Associated General Contractors (AGC) organization. The Cincinnati-based company rose above 65 construction companies to take the National second place award in the Specialty Division and first place award for the state of Ohio in the Safety Award category. The AGC’s Construction Safety Excellence Awards program recognizes construction companies that have developed and implemented premier safety and loss-prevention programs.
“I credit the relentless dedication of every member of the TP Mechanical team. They strive every day to uphold the highest standards of safety,” said Bill Riddle, president of TP Mechanical. “We’ve created a company culture that views safety not just as an obligation but as a way of life. Today we’re proud to say we’ve worked more than 2 million hours worked without a lost-time accident. That’s a powerful testament to the commitment of our people.”
“The AGC’s Construction Safety Excellence Awards program is the most elite in the industry, so it was quite an honor to receive these awards,” said Rick Absher, Safety Director. “Due to our work force’s daily commitment to our core value — safety first, always first — our jobsites are the safest in the Midwest.”
TP Mechanical started focusing on safety in the late 90s. The first step was to hire a full-time safety manager.
“We never had someone that was fully in charge of safety,” said Scott Teepe Sr. “Some companies use HR for this, but we made that leap of faith … I needed to trust someone with this knowledge and experience to follow the lead.
“If you don’t adhere to our safety standards, you get two warnings. The second warning is to let the person know he or she probably won’t be working here in the future if it happens again,” added Scott Teepe Sr. “It’s something we take very seriously because we don’t want to lose a life or have a catastrophic injury.”
To ensure all employees buy into safety, safety is a culture at TP Mechanical and even simple activities to prevent injuries on the job make a big difference.
“One of the things we do is stretch and flex,” said Scott Teepe Sr. “We started this in the field, and we enforce it. We found by stretching and exercising, we have reduced OSHA recordables that were muscle and back strains. We also do stretch and flex in the offices too. We use this time to gather and communicate with each other during this time, so we use safety as a form of communication. We also do pop safety quizzes out in the field, and if you qualify by participating, we give awards during our annual picnic.
“Everyone here knows safety is their responsibility,” said Scott Teepe Sr. “We have employees here carry OSHA 10-hour training cards. That is mandatory. Anyone that manages people has to have 30 hours. We hold that in high regard. Safety is something that catches on here.”