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Couple finds reward in risk of owning Monroeville business

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:48 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Matthew and Kathleen Valkovic, owners of PIRTEK Monroeville, check their inventory. Their business has been ranked as one of the best nationwide by the franchise.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express Matthew and Kathleen Valkovic, owners of PIRTEK Monroeville, check their inventory. Their business has been ranked as one of the best nationwide by the franchise.

When Matt Valkovic was laid off from his electrical engineering job at Westinghouse 10 years ago, he and his wife, Kathy, had three children in college and bills to pay.

Matt Valkovic figured he had two options — either apply for a job or make one for himself by starting a business.

“The risk is that starting (a business) later in life, you're taking your assets that you're planning for retirement ... vs. going to work for another company,” he said.

But the Delmont couple opted for the risk, and after 10 years of owning their own franchise in the Monroeville Business Park, they're seeing the reward.

When they were considering a variety of advertisements for restaurant franchises in 2004, Kathy Valkovic found a website for Pirtek USA, a national company that replaces and repairs hydraulic hoses for heavy machinery. It was the first franchise opportunity they found that matched her husband's engineering background.

Because the Valkovics operate the only franchise in western Pennsylvania, among the challenges of attracting new clientele was a lack of name recognition. That, paired with a parochial “do-it-yourself” attitude among industrial business leaders in the region, made their first year a tough one, Matt Valkovic said.

But the list of clients has grown, and Pirtek corporate heads have taken notice.

“Matt and Kathy started out in Pittsburgh a little slowly. However, they really made up for it once they passed the first year and have become very successful in the last few years especially,” Pirtek USA President Morgan Arundel said. “They are great franchisees. I just wish I had another 100 just like them.”

Operations manager Don Gudenburr was hired as a technician the first year the local business opened. He said that through all the ups and downs, the couple have treated their employees well.

“The technicians really try to do whatever they possibly can to help Matt and Kathy,” Gudenburr said. “They're great employers to work for and great people in general.”

The couple, who have been married for 34 years, plan to add their 10th employee to the staff this year and to move the business to a larger building a few doors down on Seco Drive.

“It's all about risk, and I think that's where the passion comes in, to making (the business) work,” Kathy Valkovic said. “Ten years later, we're still standing. So that's a good thing.”

It's good enough that they recently signed an agreement with Pirtek officials for the next 10 years.

“We're taking on a larger rental space and new people,” Kathy said. “So the risk continues.”

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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