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Founders' Stories: A Lesson in Quality

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Service Physics is constantly seeking to push the boundaries of quality. It's our hope that 100 years from now, someone will look at or experience something we've created and say "Wow, who did this?!" Here, founding member Steve Crowley shares a boyhood story about joining his father at work, discovering the value in a job done right and done to withstand the test of time, and how that early experience helped shape the Service Physics method.

I’m the son of a plumber. At the age of 9, I began joining my father with some weekend moonlighting. I had 3 primary responsibilities:

  1. Carry the heavy tools and fittings that he transported in recycled duck sauce and MSG buckets, given to him by the owner of the local Chinese food restaurant

  2. Watch in silence

  3. Don’t inform my mother of my exposure to excessive cursing

On one occasion, we were in a dungeon-like basement of a typical Boston two-family home (a “double-deckah,” as we say). There was a back-up in a drainpipe. My father had diagnosed the root cause – “arterial sclerosis” – in 100-year-old piping in the basement that was behind some drywall; essentially, 100 years of sediment clogging things up and forcing water out through a joint in the pipes. We cut out the drywall, and then the segment of pipe suffering from this affliction. His attention to detail, careful measurement, and safety were known to me, but on this occasion, I noticed how he gleamed while soldering the pipe and smiled as the wax flux absorbed the solder into the seam, and when he wiped any visible evidence of solder from the joint, he said, “Look at this, kid. It’s perfect. Beautiful.”

It occurred to me then that this “perfect” thing of beauty was about to be covered behind some new drywall, and that nobody besides us would ever know. I said, “Dad, why does it matter if it’s beautiful, if we’re just going to cover it back up?” I thought this was a good question, but I could see that it didn’t immediately compute for him.

After a few seconds, he said, “100 years from now, someone is going to need to fix this pipe again. They’re going to take down the wall, look at this work and say, “Wow. Who was this guy?”

This lesson has become a pillar of my professional career and of the work we do at Service Physics. Any time since then that I’ve been tempted to take a shortcut or deliver anything better than the best it could be, I’m tortured by this moment and inspired to do it the right way – a trait and experience shared by my business partner, Brian Reece. We seek to push the boundaries of quality, and to hope that 100 years from now, someone will look at or experience something we’ve created in the world and say, “Wow. Who were these guys?”

Steve Crowley

Service Physics

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