It likely isn’t very often that co-presidents of a 62-year old business are honored with a regional award for entrepreneurship and innovation and it’s rarer still for a plumbing business to be considered innovative, but Neptune Plumbing co-Presidents Adam Wallenstein and Michael Wallenstein are in rare company after being one of eight nominees to earn Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award for the East Central region.
Adam Wallenstein, a Solon resident and member of Temple Emanu El in Orange, moved back to the Cleveland area from Denver in 2008 to return to the company his grandparents started in 1957 and Michael Wallenstein, a Cleveland Heights resident, came back from Denver himself in 2010. Both were named co-presidents of the company, located in Bedford Heights, in 2017.
The Wallenstein brothers were nominated for the yearly Ernst & Young award by their bankers at PNC, where they were among hundreds of nominations for the regional award. After a round of interviews and meeting people from the award committee, they were among about 30 finalists, which meant another round of interviewing with judges, this time at the Ernst & Young headquarters. Now, the winners of the regional awards are scheduled to head to Palm Springs, Calif., in November to compete on the national level.
Adam Wallenstein said the brothers were selected because the judges were impressed with the growth the business has had since the two took over.
“It’s kind of a big picture of the company,” Adam Wallenstein said. “From what we kind of learned from them after the fact, was that it was a third-generation business and a plumbing business. Traditionally, people don’t think of plumbing as an innovative business, it’s stagnant, for lack of a better term. What they were impressed with was, our growth since Michael and I have been involved in the company and also how we’ve diversified and expanded on the company.”
The Wallensteins said traditionally, Neptune Plumbing
has been a new construction company, usually in commercial or industrial plumbing. Now, Neptune Plumbing has three main divisions: the construction division, which is still a large component of the company, but they also have a design and prefabrication division and 24/7 service division, which mostly focuses on commercial and industrial service.
“Before, where we would walk away from new construction projects (after they were completed), we now continue our relationship with a 24/7 service division,” Adam Wallenstein said. “What we heard from Ernst and Young about why we’re considered and in the running, was our innovation and how we’ve adapted to the economy, to the industry to maintain and grow.”
The service division was initially conceived during the economic recession in the late 2000s and while Neptune Plumbing’s construction division is still a large part of the business, the service division gives the company a hedge in the event of a rough economy in the future. Though the two earned the regional award and have a successful business, they aren’t resting on their successes.
“Right now, the plan is to grow on the service and prefabrication (divisions), those are both areas we’ve been growing but want to continue to grow,” Adam Wallenstein said. “The construction side is still the larger piece of the company. Part of the reason – with the service side as well – is that it’s a little more recession-proof. If people aren’t building, at least they’re maintaining. ... That’s kind of our game plan, not only to hopefully be able to maintain the company in economic downturn but also to be able to grow and flourish during those times as well.”