CAPITAL REGION – More than a decade after getting involved in the Capital Region Chamber, Andrea Crisafulli, president of Albany’s Crisafulli Bros. Plumbing & Heating Contractors, is now leading the chamber’s board of directors.
“The Capital Region Chamber is not your typical chamber — it has a much more regional approach and isn’t just about business opportunities, but communities and the people in them as well,” said Crisafulli, who is serving as chair of the board. “It aligns really well with my company’s values.”
Crisafulli is the third generation to oversee the family business, which was founded in 1939 by her grandfather, Carmello, and offers residential plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical service and installation, as well as mechanical contracting services.
“I’ve wanted to be involved in the family business my whole life,” said Crisafulli. “I’ve always felt drawn to the excitement of it and taking care of customers.”
In 1988, when Crisafulli was getting ready to graduate Russell Sage College in Troy, she decided to talk to her father about joining the family business.
“At first he said no and I was devastated,” she recalled. “Since he was old-school Italian, he didn’t think women belonged in construction.”
Later that year, Crisafulli’s father had a change of heart and let her join the family business.
“Having our name on our building and a fleet of 200 vehicles is a lot of pressure,” she said. “I want to make my current family members proud, and my father and grandfather, too. You want to perform well when it’s your family name.”
Since Crisafulli joined the company, some of her proudest accomplishments include overseeing the addition of an electrical and sewer division, and rebranding for the company’s 75th anniversary in 2014.
“I was terrified to rebrand and change the company’s logo,” said Crisafulli. “We needed something more contemporary while still having a local, family feel. Thankfully, it was super effective and is still our current brand today.”
Crisafulli also spearheaded the company’s decision to open a Glens Falls office in April 2021.
“We have a home in Schroon Lake and always had vehicles working up there, and our neighbors would call us asking for work, so it became a natural expansion,” she said. “Glens Falls is a thriving area and there’s a lot of talent there, too.”
Crisafulli remains dedicated to providing career opportunities to the company’s more than 200 employees.
“There’s nothing I love more than seeing someone go from being a receptionist to becoming a project manager,” she said. “There are so many places for our employees, and we like to see what their strengths are and what they’re passionate about, and create opportunities for them.”
Company Vice President Alan Ayers said Crisafulli is always motivating employees.
“Andrea constantly challenges us to be our best selves in a manner that is empowering and not critical, raising the bar but assisting each of us to conquer it,” he said. “I firmly believe that there are hundreds, if not thousands of people in our business and in our community who have been greatly impacted by Andrea’s example of positive leadership and authenticity.”
‘A VERY REAL HIT’
One of the biggest challenges for Crisafulli Bros. has been the lack of people entering the plumbing, heating and cooling industries.
“It has an impact on our ability to service customers during extreme conditions because we can’t take calls if we don’t have the manpower,” Crisafulli said.
In an effort to combat the difficulties of the current labor market, Crisafulli said, the company offers entry-level positions and apprenticeship training, and works with area organizations such as Capital Region BOCES.
“Workforce development is my passion, and there are so many people who have skills that are well matched for our company. We just have to figure out how to bring them into the fold,” she said. “We need to talk about the trade and service industry in elementary school to let people know that the demand is huge, and after four years they could be making $60,000 annually without any [college] debt.”
Another obstacle Crisafulli Bros. has faced is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had lasting effects on the company, according to Crisafulli.
“We get about 130 service calls a day, so it was a full-time job making sure we had the personal protective equipment our employees needed and putting all of the health and safety protocols in place,” she said. “It’s been a six-figure hit to our bottom line having to pay staff who are out with COVID-19 or who have to quarantine [due to exposure].”
The supply-chain issues also impacted the business, as they had to seek out other models and manufacturers for their equipment.
“Thankfully we have over 20,000 square feet of warehouse space, so we were able to stock a ton of products, but keeping product in-house is costly,” she said. “We found that the best way was to continually order product to take care of our customers.”
Rising gas and oil prices have also hit the company hard, resulting in a more than 40% increase in costs from 2021 to 2022 for the Albany office.
“That’s a huge increase, especially on top of rising material, fuel and COVID-19 costs,” Crisafulli said. “It’s a very real hit to businesses everywhere.”
WHAT LIES AHEAD
This year, in addition to continuing her focus on developing the Crisafulli Bros. team and providing exceptional service to customers, Crisafulli is also looking forward to advancing the Capital Region Chamber’s strategic plan.
“The Capital Region Chamber has provided a significant impact on the over 2,600 businesses it represents, uniting and representing our business community throughout the region,” she said. “As chair, I hope to amplify that impact through my role and voice as a business leader helping our community grow and our local economy thrive.”
Mark Eagan, president and chief executive officer of the Capital Region Chamber, said Crisafulli has successfully propelled her family business forward in a predominately male industry.
“Andrea is a respected business and civic leader who loves our community and is passionate about our Capital Region communities realizing our true economic potential,” Eagan said. “I look forward to seeing how she’ll use her knowledge of business and our community, and her leadership skills, to help us advance core goals within our strategic plan.”
Crisafulli said the Capital Region Chamber isn’t focused only on businesses but on the entire community as well.
“It provides catalytic leadership on so many issues, projects and opportunities in our community, and simply put, the Capital Region Chamber gets things done,” she said. “I’m still amazed at the range of initiatives, resources, programs and advocacy provided by the Capital Region Chamber. Membership isn’t simply good for your business, it’s good for the economic health of our greater community. There is no stronger business network locally or regionally.”
COMPANY: Crisafulli Bros. Plumbing & Heating Contractors
EDUCATION: Russell Sage College
WOULD LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AS: “A leader who empowered people and a steward to the community.”