While he’s not busy with his day job working on hydronic heating systems, commercial and residential plumbing, backflow prevention and gas work, Chris Massaro (@nwo_plumber) loves playing guitar and recording music. Admiring the recent tattoo to commemorate his daughter’s birth, “I was in a bunch of bands throughout high school and recorded an album once. I don’t get around to it as much as I used to or like to, but I’m definitely making more time for that now,” says Massaro, owner/lead tech at Aqua North Plumbing and Heating Ltd., Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
I take that back. Massaro also enjoys hanging out with friends and family, golfing and mountain biking. And, he definitely needs to get that grill time in—grill, smoke, BBQ. “Sometimes in that order, in one cook. Most of the time I do use the smoker though. I’ve been on a pulled pork kick lately. My favorite is some nice pork shoulders on the Traeger. It’s the ultimate dad activity, in my opinion,” says Massaro.
The work\life balance has been a struggle for Massaro; he realized one day that when you are running your own small business sometimes there isn’t a balance. You have to make the time and prioritize it. “Do what’s important to you and make time for the people and activities you love. And most importantly, take care of yourself! Because you’re worth it. Time stands still for no one so spend it wisely,” says Massaro.
And that’s why staying physically fit and active is important to Massaro. “I’m always lifting, bending, up and down the stairs all day so it’s helpful to have a training regimen that supports that. And, it really helps to keep me in mental shape as well,” say Massaro.
Even more important is eating right, says Massaro. “We use a lot of energy in a day in the trades so we have to keep that fire fed. All of this allows me to stay energized all day and still have plenty of gas in the tank when I get home for family time,” continues Massaro.
Massaro’s foray into the trades started when he starting working for the family business as a plumbing apprentice at the age of 13. “Made best friends with my shovel and we went to work. Thankfully, I graduated from digging trenches and went on to start really learning about the ins and outs of the trade,” recalls Massaro.
Over the next few years, Massaro spent most days plumbing residential systems with a few commercial jobs sprinkled in here and there while working for my father. “It was nice to be doing a bit of everything and not just strictly one area of the trade, which I felt was important to be a well-rounded tech.
Once Massaro had a few years under his belt, he did a lot of remote northern work for fly-in communities. “Those big jobs we did up there really sharpened my time and material management skills,” says Massaro.
In addition, the high school Massaro attended offered a cooperative education program where he was able to gain work experience hours toward his apprenticeship if he chose to stick with plumbing. “I would go to regular classes for the morning periods then co-op at Aqua North in the afternoon,” says Massaro.
As a side note, Massaro says that if your local high school offers a cooperative education program, he highly recommends getting involved. “It’s a really pressure-free way to get your feet wet in whatever trades the school offers,” says Massaro. “I always try to take on one co-op student per year and leave them with a positive experience in the trade. I feel that’s the best way for kids to feel out what they want to do. And, don’t be afraid to ask questions!”
Next, after getting all of his trade school and work hours complete, Massaro then wrote his exam for his certificate of qualification in plumbing. Shortly thereafter, Massaro bought the family business, and the rest is history.
As fourth-generation plumber, Massaro has had some great mentors in his career, with plenty of help and guidance from his father and grandfather in learning new and old ways of plumbing. “If my great grandfather was around then I’m sure he would have some real old school stuff to show me.”
And while Massaro doesn’t consider himself a role model, he’s always willing and ready to help others to do their best at work, and life in general. “I’ve learned a lot over the years and sharing the experiences and knowledge with up-and-coming tradespeople is paramount,” says Massaro.
For Massaro, he loves building something from nothing and executing the job. “Sometimes just sitting back after the job is done and being like ‘damn we really did that.’”
The perception of the industry needs to change, says Massaro. “I think the wheels are turning on that as we speak but we’ve got a long way to go.”
Social media is that vehicle for the instrument of change as it’s an easy way to showcase contractor work, and connect with other professionals. “There’s a solid amount of tradespeople out there doing an amazing job. If we can show people that there’s more to plumbing than just plunging toilets, fixing leaks, and back-breaking work, then I think that’s a win,” says Massaro.
Whether it’s new and better tools, techniques, business knowledge, etc., Massaro has learned so much on social media. “It’s awesome that we can connect with people and have such a great community sharing tricks of the trade, meet-ups or even debate if it’s tape then dope—which it is—or dope then tape,” says Massaro.
In the end, as Massaro sets his sights on his career and further enriching his life, a good bucket list item to check off would be getting a recreational pilot’s license. “Always wanted to get into aviation in some way.”
The sky’s the limit.