Jeff Logan sets, stays course for 35-year-old Scenic City Plumbing in Chattanooga

Photography by Olivia Ross / Above: Jacqui and Jeff Logan of Scenic City Plumbing. Opposite: Jeff Logan with one of the company’s service vehicles.
Photography by Olivia Ross / Above: Jacqui and Jeff Logan of Scenic City Plumbing. Opposite: Jeff Logan with one of the company’s service vehicles.

Jeff Logan's career has been about making and standing by decisions, one of which was to launch Scenic City Plumbing in 1987, when he was just 24.

"I worked out of my home," he recalls. "Low overhead -- just my truck and tools. I didn't have to have an office staff or a warehouse -- I just needed my pager.

"I held off a long time before I got a secretary, and there came a point where I couldn't do the physical labor because I was so busy with the administrative [aspect]."

That was 1991, he recalls, adding that the company has enjoyed an average annual growth of at least 10 percent since then. This year, he estimates the company is on track to gross about $3 million.

"We run a pretty lean business," he says. Nine plumbers and four apprentices are supervised by Daniel Williams, and the three-person office staff includes his wife, Jacqui.

"I'd hate to try to do this without her," he says. "She's the office manager and bookkeeper, and she knows how to fix my phone."

Important as it was, Logan's decision to go into business for himself wasn't his first of consequence. That would have been his decision to become a plumber in the first place -- made, he says, when he was about 12.

"I grew up in the trade," he says, recalling that he'd accompany his father on service calls when he could -- including a memorable one when he was nine or 10.

"He's bent down in front of me, getting ready to solder a pipe, and I'm holding the torch," he says. "We're out near Harrison Bay, and I'm looking out at a boat when I smell something burning."

Logan quickly realized he had set his dad's hair on fire. Just as quickly, he beat it out, and everything worked out OK in the end.

"He didn't have to go to the hospital," he recalls.

Logan says that when he started Scenic City, he did so having decided what it would -- and would not -- be.

"My dad did a lot of new construction, but I didn't want to take up what he'd been doing. I'm more geared to service and repair."

Logan says he got a foothold in repair work when he became a contract plumber for Sears, Roebuck & Co.

"I credit getting that job with Sears. I got really busy, hired another guy and bought another truck.

"I could easily buy more trucks and hire people, but the stress level goes up, responsibility goes up, risk goes up," he says. "We're big enough now. I'm happy where I am."

And that's another decision Logan's made -- that he doesn't need for Scenic City to be, or compete with, the Chattanooga area's biggest plumbing businesses. The plumbers on his staff work neither after hours, nor weekends.

"I know a company like mine should do that, but I don't," he says. "I know that's frustrating for customers sometimes, but that's a decision I made years ago, in order to be happier.

"To do [24/7 service,] I'd have to have two or three shifts of people working. A lot of the people I have now came from companies where they were out late, weekends, working by themselves with no support -- they're happy here because at the end of the day, they get to go home."

Perhaps the most recent big decision Logan's made with regard to his business is to sell it.

"If the train doesn't come off the tracks, I might be looking to sell in about three years," he says, adding that he's already had -- and rejected -- offers from investment and private-equity firms.

"Someone wanted to buy, but it would have been outside ownership, not involved with the business," he says. "I ruled that out real quick. They wanted me to stay and train a new manager, all nice and ship-shape. I thought that if I was going to do that, I wanted to keep ownership.

"I've got a very attractive business -- good name, great employees, good location, good staff. When I sell, it's got to be to the right management."