A Career in Plumbing: Russel Sweeney's Story
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Through the years, I've learned that there is a necessity for work-life balance. I don't live to work, I work to live, to do the things that I enjoy doing. My name is Russel Sweeney, I am the owner of Sweeney Remodeling and Plumbing here in Jacksonville, Florida. I remember when I first started running my own truck, that I would show up to a house and people would greet me and look over my shoulder, and they'd be like, "Well, where's the plumber?" And I'd be like, "Well, I'm your plumber." They were looking for somebody who fit this characteristic that just was not me.
Through high school, I was a competitive fighter. I did boxing and I was a competitive pistol shooter. And at the time I was managing a fast-food restaurant. I was in seven different directions. My father-in-law owned a local plumbing company, so when he had a heart attack, he couldn't manage his guys. So I was like, "Dude, I can totally help manage guys." I didn't know really much about plumbing. I ended up getting thrown into a truck, I didn't manage nobody. I was on the wrong end of a shovel for the first six months, and I was like, "What did I get myself into?" But when he hired me and started paying me what I was making, I was blown away. Coming from where I came from, that was something that I could lift my head up over.
I met my bride when I was 15 years old. We have a six-year-old, a three-year-old and a two-year-old. We pursue all kinds of different things. We got five chickens, one for everybody in the family. We took up beekeeping on a whim. We have somewhere between 70,000 and 90,000 bees. And during pollinating season, we open the hive up, and every now and again we go out there with a spoon and we rob a little bit of honey, which my kids absolutely love and crush, and we give it away to friends and family and stuff like that.
Somewhere in the mix, I just found out that every morning when I got up to go to work, I just really enjoyed what I was doing. I fell in love with the service and making something from nothing. By the time I was 25, I decided I wanted to do life differently than everywhere that I had been, and went into business for myself. My goal was just to build something that's bigger than myself and carve our own little mark in history.
The average age of the plumber today is 57 years old, so they are falling away from the trade faster than they're coming into the trade, and it has created one of the most in-demand businesses today. It doesn't matter what's happening in the world, everybody needs running water and flushing toilets. It's a very recession-proof job. Plumbing is just a hobby to me. I love doing it, and when I don't love doing it, I just don't do it. I just happen to love it a lot, so I pursue it pretty hard. You can drive nice cars, you can live in a nice house, you can have a nice life, just by being willing to get your hands a little dirty. Plumbing has turned me from being some little impoverished kid in a rough neighborhood into a very content, decently well-off guy, who... I literally wake up and have fun every day of my life. My name is Russel Sweeney, and I'm a plumber.