As a fourth-generation plumber, Bob Sweet grew up around plumbing—inheriting from his parents an entrepreneurial spirit as well as a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of other people. In 2001, he founded Streamline Services, a family-owned company that offers plumbing, electric, heating, and air-conditioning solutions to communities across the Raleigh region of North Carolina. With 26 years of experience in the plumbing industry, Bob leads a growing team of nearly 40 seasoned experts who serve customers in Raleigh, Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties. For both Bob and his team, people lie at the center of everything they do, consistently upholding the company’s core values of honesty, respect, dependable service, open-mindedness, and loyalty. Among Streamline’s over 20,000 customers—the majority of whom they’ve served for years—the company’s reputation for their commitment to their people-first philosophy is well known. Bob recently spoke with The Top 100 Magazine to tell us more about his background, his company, and the importance of making their customers smile.
What was the inspiration behind starting Streamline Services?
My family has been in the plumbing industry since the 1920s, and my dad started his own plumbing company at age 19. Even when times were tough, he and my mom kept at it and always tried to do what was right. They treated people fairly and their bills were paid as a result. That was the best lesson I learned from them. Although my dad didn’t want me to follow his path, once I had the opportunity to work with him, I fell in love with all of it—the trade, the history, and the tradition. So, I decided to pursue plumbing as a career and open my own company. I started out by myself with only one truck, and business has been growing ever since. My mom still works with me, as does my oldest son. Whether we are taking care of the smallest thing in a customer’s house or the largest system in the area, it’s all about building long-lasting relationships and a foundation of processes within the business.
Why did you choose to name the company Streamline?
When I first started out, I decided to join forces with a business partner—bringing our two businesses together with the goal of adding all the services we offer now. At first, we only specialized in plumbing, but people would ask if we provided other services. I didn’t want to rely on subcontractors because I wanted to make sure that our customers were well taken care of, so we eventually chose to expand and include more services. This decision allowed us to maintain control over the quality of work as well as the customer experience. Our staff understands that some of our customers are dealing with inconvenient situations, so each time we answer the phone, we ask, “How can we make you smile?” We want to give them options, help them make the right decisions for their homes, and leave them smiling after the job is done. If customers have an emergency and need assistance outside of business hours, team members are available by phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Streamlining means “optimization,” and that’s what we did—we optimized our services to make the lives of our customers easier.
Would you say that your desire to make a real difference in people’s lives is what sets Streamline apart from other companies?
Absolutely. For us, it’s all about relationships. We’re focused on people and on providing that Streamline experience. The products we carry are no different than any other provider of home services, but what makes us unique is the way we treat our customers. Our philosophy is to slow down and build relationships. We’re dependable, humble, positive, dedicated, eager to learn, and process driven. Those are the virtues we measure ourselves against every day. However, to us, business is about so much more than running service calls—it’s about making a difference by being involved in the community and giving back to those who need it most.
Can you give us an example of a memorable time when you helped a client?
I remember a Christmas morning when my boys were very young. I got a call from an older couple who said that a pipe had broken under the sink, and there was water coming from the walls and flooding the kitchen floor. I rushed out there, fixed it, and got back before the kids even knew I was gone. As a service provider, I feel that sense of fulfillment every time, but it was really a great feeling to know that I had saved that couple’s Christmas.
It’s clear that you genuinely care about your customers, but that care also extends to the people you work with. Tells us about this.
It does. It’s exciting when I get to help somebody reach goals they’ve been struggling to achieve or to learn something new, especially if the person has been in the trade for a while. However, it’s even more exciting to work with young people who have not yet discovered their potential. When they start to accomplish their goals—buying their first house or succeeding in other things in life—they think, “Wow, I never thought I’d be able to achieve this!” It might be something as simple as shutting the water off for a customer on Christmas morning, but it’s the little things that lead to the bigger things in life. I just love helping and taking care of people.
President and Founder