Tradespeople of Calgary: Joshua Ferguson

Lumberjack Plumbing and Heating Ltd.

When Joshua Ferguson (30) graduated from high school, being a tradesman was the last thing on his mind, especially being a plumber.

“The industry isn’t always held in the highest regards. I never grew up wanting to be a plumber. I thought plumbers were dirty people who just cleaned out toilets and that’s it,” Ferguson says. It’s a common misperception, and as Ferguson would later learn, fundamentally inaccurate.

I never grew up wanting to be a plumber. I thought plumbers were dirty people who just cleaned out toilets and that’s it.

Ferguson’s first love was music. As a talented bass guitarist, Joshua joined a band at 18. Before long he was travelling the world and making records. His band was signed to Twilight Records Japan; over the next few years Ferguson lived the life of a touring musician. When the lead singer of the band called it quits, Ferguson quickly joined a new group out of Phoenix, Arizona, not missing a beat. He wrote and recorded an album for the new band, which was signed to Warner Brothers America. Unfortunately, the music industry is fickle and, as Ferguson describes it, unless you’re getting continuous radio play, it’s hard to make it to the next level. After seven years Ferguson was ready for a change.

“It was fun and it was great, but I kinda got sick of living on a bus with five other smelly guys with attitudes,” Ferguson admits.

Ferguson’s family has a long history of being tradesmen. Despite his grandfather, father and older brother’s experience in the trades, Ferguson was still on the fence about following their lead.

Yet, working with his hands was something he’d always dabbled with during those times when he returned home from touring. Ferguson’s father was the administrator for a seniors building. There, working under a journeyman plumber, Ferguson learned some basic plumbing skills. As his experience grew, it became obvious that getting serious about trades work was the logical, practical thing to do.

Ferguson put down the guitar and picked up a wrench. He enrolled at SAIT, and from that point on, dedicated himself to his new vocation, plumbing and gasfitting. The program lasted four years during which time Ferguson was required to put in a total 6000 hours working under a journeyman plumber with a registered company. Because of previous, documented work experience the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board granted Ferguson 600 hours credit towards his first year requirements.

“The [Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board] credited me back work for plumbing work that I had previously done under a journeyman, so I got to fast track my official apprenticeship,” Ferguson explains.

Finding work wasn’t easy. Ferguson says he contacted hundreds of plumbing companies before finally securing a job doing piecework for a well-known Calgary-based plumbing company. According to Ferguson, he wasn’t treated well and decided there must be better opportunities out there. Otherwise, he’d create those opportunities for himself.

 

Lumberjack Custom Plumbing Example

Pictured above is a nearly completed dual boiler, 6 zone in-floor heating system for a custom home being built in Calgary.

Ferguson set up a sole proprietorship for doing odd jobs on evenings and weekends. It supplemented his piecework pay. He called it Lumberjack Plumbing & Heating Ltd. Unknown to Ferguson, his sole proprietorship would come in handy later on.

Then, an old classmate from SAIT asked him to come work for a new outfit he’d put together. Ferguson says that’s where he met his future business partner, Jordan Newman (31). Things seemed to be going smoothly with the new venture when in early 2014, history repeated itself: just as his band had fallen apart when the lead singer called it quits, the new venture fell apart when his classmate, the founder of the new venture, suddenly did the same.

“It was just a very awkward situation where one day I got a phone call and it was ‘Hey, I’m closing the company on Monday’ and that was on a Saturday,” Ferguson recalls. “So I text messaged Jordan and said, ‘Hey you’re going to get a call in a little bit. Don’t worry, it will work out’.”

 

Lumberjack Plumbing Van Calgary

Ferguson says eye-catching graphics, like the ones on this van, are an important part of how he markets the company.

 

Ferguson acted quickly. As of Monday he called up a lease company and bought a van. Together, he and his partner Jordan Newman stocked it with the appropriate tools and gear.

The two partners set about finding new customers and building Lumberjack Plumbing & Heating Ltd. into a successful business. Within a year the company has managed to secure some impressive projects, including a complex custom build it is currently putting the finishing touches on.

We do everything from a broken garburator, or a toilet that won’t flush properly, to faucet replacement, to a full basement, bathroom or kitchen renovation.

The company offers a full range of plumbing services. “We do everything from a broken garburator, or a toilet that won’t flush properly, to faucet replacement, to a full basement, bathroom or kitchen renovation,” Ferguson says.

Lumberjack Plumbing & Heating Ltd. is on track to do 10 to 12 custom builder projects per year, plus all the smaller projects that fill in a typical day. They now have two fully outfitted vans and a number of trucks.

The partners credit their success to a number of factors including team chemistry, memorable marketing, clear communication, lots of networking and, of course, using the best products available.

Plumbing Trades Calgary

This domestic system with hydronic air handler is an example of the kind of work Lumberjack’s owners say they like to design and build.

“We only use products that we’d put our own houses or in Mom and Dad’s house,” Ferguson says, adding, “You don’t ever want to make Mom mad. She won’t bake you cookies anymore!”

We only use products that we’d put our own houses or in Mom and Dad’s house. You don’t ever want to make Mom mad. She won’t bake you cookies anymore!

Lumberjack Plumbing & Heating Ltd. is a company poised for big things, but the two partners are cautious, not wanting to grow to cut corners or grow too quickly.

“Ultimately, we want to rule the world,” Newman jokes. It’s clear these guys have a sense of humour about what they do, which is balanced with a desire to do great work and change the stereotypes of dirty plumbers with their pants falling down.

“We’ve got a no crack guarantee,” Ferguson adds, laughing.

That is, unless you count cracking jokes, of which these guys have plenty.

Although Ferguson is surprised by the path life has taken, he’s happy and contented as a tradesman. “We’ve might have fallen into the trade, but we’ve also found things about it we love.”

If you know a tradesperson who deserves some recognition for his or her hard work, please contact us. We’d love to tell the story.

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