From the Air Force to Small-Business Ownership


Tiger Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical Services is a veteran-owned small business that serves residences in the St. Louis Metro East communities. The company provides everything from minor inspections and repairs to electrical services to major home upgrades; and it installs cooling appliances and plumbing, heating, and gas lines. Tiger offers 24/7 emergency service, including all holidays, as well as extended business hours. The company is based in Collinsville, Illinois, which is northeast of East St. Louis.

Tiger currently has 57 employees, and averages more than 12,000 home service calls a year. The company needs to hire more customer-service, dispatch, sales, and technical personnel to meet an ever-growing work demand. Tiger provides on-the-job paid training,

The company has found that veterans possess characteristics such as strong leadership, respectfulness, integrity, discipline, and an ability to work in teams, which are qualities Tiger looks for in employees. Because Tiger offers 24-hour emergency service, it is not uncommon for technicians to be in customers’ homes well into the late evening and early morning hours. So, when hiring technicians, Tiger looks for people who can be trusted and who will behave in a professional manner at all times.

The company looks for people who have a good sense of discipline, a great personality, and a strong work ethic because technicians and office staff are expected to work without a lot of supervision.



Jeff Gamblin, the owner and president of Tiger, served in the United States Air Force for four years, separating as a sergeant. He worked as a plumber in the Air Force; and, when he left the service, worked briefly for a local plumbing company. But he knew he wanted to go into business for himself. So in 1993, he started his own plumbing business as a “one-man band.” He added heating and air conditioning services in 2001, and electrical services in 2014.

Gamblin said that the Air Force gave him a sense of direction and purpose for his life and taught him discipline, integrity, and structure – which have contributed to his success as a small-business owner.

His advice to active-duty military who are interested in the plumbing field or in starting their own businesses: Absorb all of the skills and lessons that the military teaches you. Your military skills and discipline will go a long way in helping you find gainful opportunities in civilian life.