When you have a plumbing issue, Benjamin Franklin Plumber Michael “Ziz” Zizzo comes to the rescue. In addition to being an ace plumber, Mike is an all-around fascinating guy. Meet Mike here and learn about his skills, his hobbies, and his great plumbing stories.
What do you like most about your job?
I like meeting new people every day, and I meet people from all walks of life. While it’s interesting to meet new people, I also like that my job differs from house to house and job to job. It can be toilet leaking, a total water and sewer re-pipe, or a water heater or boiler replacement.
What is your area of expertise?
I would say my expertise is in customer service, making people feel comfortable with me, with Benjamin Franklin, and that we are going to do the job right the first time. We’re going to be thorough, clean and treat your house like our own. My favorite job is bathroom remodeling. It’s a great feeling for me to turn an out-of-date bathroom into something the home owners are excited about. I can offer options in a bathroom that homeowners have never even thought about. But really, I can handle anything residential.
How did you get involved in plumbing?
When I was a kid my father worked for the NY Bell telephone and worked for a plumber on the weekend for extra money. After trying many jobs, like working with concrete and fishing for scallops, my dad suggested I try plumbing. I worked for Ben Franklin Plumbing long before it was Ben Franklin Plumbing. I worked for Stan “Swanee” Swan when it was just Swan Plumbing and when his daughter Samantha Swan was still in diapers.
This is my favorite joke: I’ve been a plumber so long I can’t remember the last time I chewed my finger nails.
Where did you learn your trade?
I’ve worked in the plumbing and homebuilding trade my whole life. I’ve picked up good work habits from a lot of good men and women. I’ve pretty much learned everything I know with hands-on training. I have to say I’ve learned the most about plumbing from my current boss Swanee. He’s very intelligent — I think he was born with a pipe wrench in his hand.
How do you consistently get better at your job?
The same way that you get into Carnegie Hall…practice, practice, practice. We have two weekly trainings in the office that I like going to. I also represent the company at BNI, a weekly Business Network Group. I always learn new things there as well.
What’s your strategy in dealing with anxious, upset customers?
You always have to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, you never know what’s going on in other people’s lives. When I get to a client’s home, sometimes people are upset with the situation. When I’m on call and an emergency comes in at 2 o’clock in the morning, I’d really rather be in bed instead. But I remember that I’m there because I know they need my expertise and help.
Why do you like to help people?
I like to help people because, at the end of the day, that’s why we’re all here—to help someone less fortunate. It’s not only in plumbing, but in daily life.
My clients think it’s the end of the world when there is a leak coming through the ceiling, or the sewer backs up, or the boiler is down. It’s a good feeling to help people get back on track.
What’s one of the biggest emergencies you’ve handled this year?
Frozen pipes. A good customer of ours spends half his time in the greater New Jersey area and the other half of the year in Florida. Well, his heater broke down, and a good majority of pipes were frozen. We shut the water off at the water meter outside. Then, we brought in our own temporary heat and a pipe thawing machine. We did have to cut a few holes in the drywall, but we were clean. We stopped the leaks and got the water and radiant heat back on.
What’s one of the biggest emergencies you’ve handled in your entire career?
A hot water heater froze and broke. That sent steam throughout the entire house. The owners hadn’t checked on the house in over a month and the steam created mold throughout the entire place. They had to tear the house down and rebuild it.
Why do you encourage customers to get preventative maintenance?
Preventative maintenance is like preventative medicine. Just like when you go to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned or you bring your car in for maintenance. Even If you don’t have a breakdown, preventative maintenance can really help.
Your home is probably your biggest investment. You should have your water heater flushed and serviced every year. You should have a dripping faucet, toilet or hose bib fixed. As, Benjamin Franklin once said “a small leak can sink a large ship.”
What’s the atmosphere like at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing?
Its very family oriented. I feel that Stan, the owner, and Samantha, who runs the office, are like family to me. If I was to move away or retire, I would always feel like they were my family. I think my co-workers would answer the same way.
Stan and Sam aren’t just interested in how the job is going, if your tools are holding up, and how my work truck is running. They are interested in my family and my personal life.
What’s your family like?
My family is everything to me. I spend a lot of time with my family. We go on vacation and we do everything together.
I have two stepchildren. My daughter Briana is 22, and my son Virgil is in 11th grade and is an exceptional lefty soccer player.
Where do you like to go on vacation?
The world is so big and beautiful I don’t have a favorite place. My wife and I have enjoyed cruises, snorkeling in the Caribbean, RV camping, Las Vegas, and Italy. Next month we’re going to Phoenix and we’re really looking forward to that.
Where’s your favorite place to go out to eat with your family?
That’s a tough one. There are so many good places to eat. One of our customers owns the Smithville Inn in Absecon NJ. The Smithville Inn is like a beautiful, old-time restaurant & bar.
Do you have any pets?
I have a little Maltese/Yorkie mix named Bentley. He’s four years old.
Have any great stories about being a plumber?
This guy wanted to trade me a motorcycle for putting in outside sprinklers for him.
I was talking to Swanee about it and he said:
“That’s a great deal. Draw me a diagram of the guy’s property and I’ll figure out a system and order the material. You can just pay me for the material and I’ll help you install it.”
There aren’t too many bosses that would actually do that. The bike is a Yamaha V Star 1100. I never rode a motorcycle before and just took a class to get my license, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
That story was great! Have another one?
I met my wife on a plumbing job — she had a gas leak. She’s an ER nurse and works in the candy store at the Smithville Inn, so she’s seen our Ben Franklin trucks when we’re there doing work. We really hit it off during the call. It was my Mother’s birthday, so I ran into her again at the candy store picking up candy for Moms b-day present. The second time I saw her, I knew she would be the woman I’d marry! Not to mention she loves day trips on the motorcycle.
What’s your favorite movie?
My favorite movie is either a black and white movie “Captains Courageous” or “The Old Man and The Sea,” a very deep movie for just having one character. Both of them are Spencer Tracy movies. The epic Godfather of course is another one of my favorites, such a classic. I also love The Deer Hunter, all The Lord of The Rings Movies, Little Big Man, 13 hours, and The Matrix.
A lot of times plumbers come to the rescue—kind of like superheroes. Who’s your favorite superhero?
Iron Man. He can fly into outer space, swim under water. He has strength, technology, gadgets & X-Ray vision. That would come in very handy for seeing plumbing problems on the ground and in the walls.