Perhaps it’s not the most ideal time to make the transition to Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors—National [CP1]Association (PHCC) president, but Hunter Botto’s experience in the trades and time spent in the Navy makes him the ideal man for the job. The following Q&A gets up close and personal with Hunter Botto—throughout his journey in the trades, and his next chapter as PHCC president.
CONTRACTOR: Tell us a about the history of your company.
BOTTO: My family business has been around since the early 1930s as my grandfather and his brother— Irwin and Robert Botto—ran a hardware business, which morphed into Botto Hardware and Plumbing & Heating, a combination of plumbing, heating, hardware and appliance business. In 1950, my father, Richard, and his cousin, Irv, started Botto Brothers Plumbing & Heating, Hicksville, N.Y., and ran that successful business until the early 1960s, when the two partners decided to split. Richard continued the legacy of Botto Brothers Plumbing & Heating while Irv formed Botto Mechanical in 1963. In 1980, I joined my father at Botto Brothers. Prior to joining, I was a boiler technician in the United States Navy. My brother Roger and I purchased the business together in 1993 and we operated the business well into the 2000s. I am happily semi-retired, and in 2015, Roger introduced his oldest son, Christopher, into the business, where it is still owned and operated today.
CONRACTOR: When did you first get involved in the industry?
BOTTO: My great uncle was one of the first master plumbers in our township and I learned a great deal from his work ethic and technical savvy. I always looked up to him as he was not only a master Plumber but a skilled craftsman. Going to work with my dad at the early age of 11 was expected and I got into doing what helpers were expected to do every day—digging trenches, being a “gofer,” cutting pipe, installing boilers, bathroom renovation, and doing clean-up after the jobs were done. My time in the Navy was a vacation from the family business.
CONTRACTOR: How did you first get involved with the PHCC and why?
BOTTO: While working for the family business, my dad had retired and I took over but I had no idea how to run the business side of things. Believe me when I say this, PHCC saved my life. I was tired of competing with unlicensed contractors, utility issues, code issues, antiquated licensing issues, and poor business-minded contractors. PHCC helped me with these issues, and I have been associated with PHCC for the past 23 years, and they have treated me well and helped me run the business.
Over the years, the local PHCC president, Richard English, had asked me to attend a local meeting to help him create a new, younger vision for the industry. With a father and grandfather in the industry, Richard came from the same mold as I did, and he had a vision to get younger professionals involved. Our goal was to “raise the bar” on Long Island.
As I mentioned earlier, after years of struggling, I finally joined PHCC and got quickly involved in focusing on licensing issues within our county. I climbed up the leadership chairs of our local PHCC, while finding new talent with the same vision in promoting professionalism. I got involved as local president, attending state conventions, national conventions and meeting the leaders of this great organization. I was asked by PHCC Past President Kevin Tindall to become a zone director, which was one of the most exciting assignments I ever had in PHCC, well, until now, of course.
Through the years, I have served on many committees, attending legislative conferences, and meeting people in the know, all while running a 60-year-old family business. So here I am on the precipice of becoming the president of the oldest, most prestigious and most professional trade organization in the United States. I truly have been blessed and I look forward to the challengers at hand—just like any other day at the office like so many PHCC contractors do every day.
CONTRACTOR: Well, what a time to get transitioned into your new role as PHCC president, right? But I would think that you are up to the task and that you will be able to handle any adversity. What are some business and general life philosophies that will help you through this bumpy part of the journey?
BOTTO: We as contractors face many challenges every day. The list is as long as a city mile but we have thick skin and can handle the task at hand. This was not the plan—to be a leader during a pandemic but we have a job to do. The great staff at PHCC has adapted and has kept the ball moving. It’s like we move ahead or get out of the way—we are moving ahead! Our members are ready; they are being trained to the new normal and they are thinking outside the box to adhere to the new normal.
CONTRACTOR: How does this current situation magnify the fact that PHCC is as important now more than ever?
BOTTO: We are the leaders in this industry and have a great team who are constantly aware of the new codes and procedures that our members are required to follow. Legislatively, we are on the Hill and are one of the most respected associations in Washington. We are in front of changing regulations and are involved in major decisions that relate to our members. Also, our local and state leaders are deeply involved locally with the assistance of the National PHCC team. These members, both men and women, are our boots on the ground and work collectively with our national staff. It is so important that PHCC’s legislative contingent show their face on the Hill.
CONTRACTOR: Other than COVID, what are some challenges you see facing the industry? What are your main initiatives?
BOTTO: Membership is key. Strength in numbers makes us the most respected trade association, but making the industry aware and seeking new leaders is a major goal. We need to bring in younger industry voices and show them the benefits of PHCC. With the new technology available to all of us, it is PHCC’s responsibility to get the word out and get professionals involved. Our sponsors are also assisting wherever they can to raise the bar and conduct training for our members. Workforce development is also at the top of our list, and as the pandemic has created barriers, our online apprenticeship program is in full swing and growing every day.
CONTRACTOR: What are some things you learned in the military that you still implement in business today?
BOTTO: Working with a greatly trained team gets the job done, bottom line. All of our state and local associations are the backbone of our association. The pyramid is upside down, with the membership being at the top and the national leaders the support for states and local groups.
CONTRACTOR: How do you find enough hours in the day to fulfill all of your commitments? — family, work, PHCC, etc.
BOTTO: Fortunately, my brother was able to handle the load while I was traveling, moving the pegs forward for the industry, whether it be local, state or national issues. I have always been committed to this industry as it has allowed me to raise a family, give back to the community and grow younger professionals. My message to all PHCC members is to give back to the industry that has given so much to us. It’s all of our responsibilities to do this!
CONTRACTOR: What do you enjoy doing in your “spare" time?
BOTTO: Since I am semi-retired, I am now living in Florida. My younger brother handles the day-to-day operations, and I am always a text, email or phone call away for advice. I still maintain my licenses and will be completely retired after my tenure as PHCC president. I am a licensed boat captain and enjoy my spare time sailing when I’m not handling PHCC issues. Sailing is my passion.
CONTRACTOR: When was the last time you said, “Today is a great day”?
BOTTO: I have had so many “great days” that are too many to count. I have been truly blessed to have leadership qualities and I am always willing to make things better than I found them. I’ve always been able to keep an eye on the prize and “get things done.” I have had great leaders and associates help along the way, but my greatest days are still in front of me. Growing PHCC and creating a more active membership is my goal. Being president of PHCC has been a lifelong goal. I’m ready, we are ready and our members are ready. We are excited to handle the new normal with the great leadership we have in place.