Arnie Schweiss has been in the plumbing industry since 1947.
About 25 years ago, he decided to retire and sold off all his equipment. After about 3 months of retirement, he realized he had made a mistake and started up the business again. He’s still going strong today and has no plans to retire again. He still goes to work in his own shop every day to this day.
Early Career and Born Entrepreneur
Arnie grew up on a farm. When he was a newlywed in 1945, he and his wife lived on the farm with his father and helped him run the farm. His father did not own the property and the landowner would often cause trouble for Arnie’s dad.
Across the street from them was more farmland for sale. Arnie encouraged his dad to buy that land for them to run on their own without a difficult landowner and invest in new technologies like tractors instead of using horses for farming. But his dad had lived through the depression and, understandably, was nervous about taking financial risks. After much discussion, Arnie told his dad “I’ll give you two weeks’ time. Either the horses go or I go.” His dad wanted to keep things the way they were, so Arnie set out to find a new trade.
Arnie’s brother was working for a plumber and helped connect Arnie to someone who needed help. Before he was hired, his new boss asked him if he knew anything about plumbing. Arnie said, “Not really. I know the difference between a monkey wrench and pliers.” The plumber hired him anyway. He worked with the plumber for about 5 years and decided to go into business for himself.
Branching out on His Own
His early jobs in his own shop included cleaning out a lot of farms’ septic tanks. He was one of the first to offer that service in the area. He was able to use his farming background to serve a new segment of customers.
His process was without any advanced technology or powerful equipment at first. He started with a rope and pail and then went to a hand cranked machine. Every time new drain cleaning technology would come out, Arnie would upgrade it. Today, Arnie still has 3 jetters along with his smaller machines. He bought his most recent jetter, the Spartan Ultimate Warrior High Flow, this past spring.
Arnie’s Advice To Fellow Plumbers and Drain Cleaners
Arnie believes that success is all about hard work. Some folks today don’t want to work hard. When someone tells Arnie they want to start their own business he has this advice:
“Don’t. Don’t start your own business if these are true: 1) You don’t get out of bed until noon 2) You don’t want to get the lead out and work harder and 3) You need to have time for your wife & small children.”
Arnie said he was able to run his own shop because his first wife was very understanding. He worked from daylight to dark, and taught his kids to do the same. After school, his sons would come home and put on their work clothes, and Arnie would take them along on jobs to teach them the value of hard work and doing a good job.
Arnie Has Fun Too!
There were a few times, however, when he would let loose. He and a friend decided to take a day off work and have some fun in the early years. He told his boss that his grandma had died and he needed a day off (so that he and his buddy could mess around town). Three months later, Arnie came back to the office after a job and his boss said “Your wife called. Your Grandma just died…again.”
But Arnie doesn’t regret it. He’s stayed active his whole life.
In his younger days, he did a lot of dancing. He and his wife would go out to the polka clubs and dance. Arnie enjoys playing his concertina. He started when he was 12 years old and never stopped. However, he was such a nuisance with it that he was often sent to the cow barn to practice.
His first wife died a long time ago and he remarried some time later. His second marriage has been wonderful and has helped keep him feeling young. The kids get along just like regular brothers and sisters. Arnie and his wife have 9 adult children, more grandkids than he can count, and 3 great-grandchildren.
Words of Wisdom from Arnie:
“People today are too clean,” Arnie says. He remembers one time he was doing a lot of cleaning in hog barns and dairy farms. When it came to lunchtime, he just pulled out his sandwich and ate it, didn’t even think about washing his hands. And he’s still going strong!
Join us in honoring Arnie Schweiss, one of Spartan Tool’s oldest and most loyal customers!