Mike Anderson, owner of Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Tekamah, has been in business for 31 years. Not just 31 years, though – 31 consecutive years.
“I’ve stuck with it through the thin and the thick,” Anderson said. “Sometimes it hasn’t been easy.”
The son of a carpenter, Anderson graduated Fremont High School and wanted to get into the trades himself. He always loved watching the workers installing the electrical and plumbing apparatus in structures his father was building.
When he went to explore that field, he found it was packed by men in their 30s with years’ more experience than he had at the time. Anderson realized that one thing would never change – people would always need plumbing, heating and air conditioning.
So, still in his youth, he set out to get the experience he lacked. To that end he joined the U.S. Navy. Anderson would rate as a Boatswain’s mate and served on an amphibious assault vessel in the Pacific Fleet. After four years, he left the service in 1983 and decided to use his GI Bill benefits to get a degree at the Milford campus of Southeast Community College.
In the registrar’s office, Anderson was told there was a four-year waiting line for the courses he was intent upon studying. He told the advisor that he had waited four years already in the Navy. Upon hearing that, the advisor invoked the veteran status and moved him to the front of the line.
Anderson graduated from SECC in 1985 with an associate’s degree in applied science – plumbing, heating and air conditioning; which also includes refrigeration.
While attending SECC, he had been working part-time on the campus. He was approached by the administration to install six new painting booths in the school’s auto body repair lab. Anderson custom-designed the new stalls complete with air flow ducts. He was paid $17 per hour to do that job, he said. That would be the same as making more than $40 per hour today.
Using that experience as a launch pad, Anderson went to work for a custom paint booth operation in Tekamah. One big contract they had was with Lozier Retail Fixtures in Omaha. His talent for out-of-the-box thinking helped solve an issue for Lozier when he designed a new mist sprayer, complete with a capture system and air flow mechanism.
“The only thing that didn’t work out was I wasn’t able to patent the design,” Anderson said. “Since I was working for someone else it would have been their patent.”
After a few bumps in the road, Anderson decided to part company with his employers and went to work for their competition across town. There he made a good first impression by completing a week’s worth of assignments in one day.
Due to financial reasons, that employer had to shutter their business after a few years. Anderson, who was by that time 28 years old, decided it was time to strike out on his own. He used the contacts he had made while working at his previous employers to form a customer base. They knew he did quality work.
He has continued to build his company to the present day. As he has stated, there were thin times as well as thick.
“The economy goes in seven-year cycles,” Anderson said. “It will get up to a certain level, then things fall off.”
It is during the off times that a business owner must invest in marketing themselves and maintaining awareness. The good thing is, he was correct about the need for plumbing, heating and cooling. People always need them. Since plumbing and HVAC are related to air flow systems and fire control systems, there is seldom lack of work.
That is the favorite part of his job, Anderson said. Getting to help people and solve their problems.
“I go around and take care of problems,” he said. “Not too many people are happy when they have to call me. But, they are happy after I leave.”
He said the Tekamah community has been great to him and his children. He appreciates their business and he plans to retire and stay in the area. In retirement he will continue his other passion – restoring vintage automobiles.