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Insights from an Experienced Professional on Gold Coast Plumbing Trends

Recent discussions with colleagues about my opinions on the future of Gold Coast plumbing businesses inspired me to write my thoughts for 2024 based on gut feelings and long experience. 

Like every year, but particularly in 2024, plumbing companies on the Gold Coast face challenges and opportunities. Understanding these nuances is critical for businesses aiming to thrive.

The Shifting Construction Plumbing Sector

The construction plumbing sector is beginning to experience a downturn due to economic factors, cost increases, skilled and experienced labour shortages, plus reduced new highrise and housing developments.

For plumbing businesses, pivoting towards maintenance, renovation, and retrofitting services is becoming increasingly crucial to maintain steady growth.

The Rise and Risks of One-Man Plumbing Businesses

In recent years, there’s been a noticeable increase in solo one-man plumbing ventures. Daily, I spot a new dual cab plumbing ute cruising by, adorned with eye-catching names, advanced signage, and vibrant wraps

It makes one wonder just how many of these enterprises will continue to incorporate ‘Gold Coast’ into their trading names, further saturating the local market.

Many of these businesses are managed by relatively inexperienced plumbers who have freshly graduated from their apprenticeships and are equipped with their new QBCC contractor’s licenses. Often, there’s a misconception among these young professionals that this license is a comprehensive indicator of their expertise in both plumbing and business management, viewing it as a guaranteed path to success and prosperity.

Sadly, many have focused on high-volume housing projects. However, this strategy carries significant risks, as the instability in the housing construction sector has led to numerous builders going bankrupt and continuing to do so, leaving these small-scale plumbers unpaid and in debt. 

Diversification and cautious client selection are more important than ever for these businesses.

 Unfortunately, many of these businesses rely on cash flow, and when it dries up, they discover they’ve never made a profit, and no money is left in the bank account.

They will soon discover how their “friendly” plumbing supplier is no longer their best mate.

Growth in Maintenance Plumbing

In contrast, the maintenance plumbing sector will continue to grow. 

In recent years, poor quality construction plumbing installation carried out to a lowball price instead of the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 requirements ensure a never-ending supply of failing plumbing infrastructure. 

Coupled with an aging building infrastructure, replacement requirements increase as they age. Heightened environmental consciousness drives demand for sustainable and efficient plumbing maintenance services. 

Companies specialising in these areas are likely to experience increased business.

Unfortunately maintenance plumbing always suffers from one-man plumbing businesses racing into the market when their construction work dries up and undercutting to get work.

Consumer Spending Trends

The current economic climate has led to a more cautious approach from consumers regarding home maintenance and plumbing services. 

They are prioritising necessary repairs and seeking cost-effective solutions. In these circumstances, the one-man plumbing businesses flourish, undercutting and driving prices down.

Plumbing companies need to align their services with these changing consumer preferences.

Embracing Emerging Technologies

As highlighted in our recent blog, 2024 Plumbing Technology Trends: How AI and Emerging Innovations Are Shaping the Future, the plumbing industry is at the cusp of a technological revolution. 

From AI-driven diagnostics to advanced water conservation methods, these innovations are set to transform how plumbing services are delivered and managed. Staying abreast of these technologies and incorporating them into services can provide a competitive edge.

Strategies for Thriving in a Competitive Market

  1. Know Your Numbers: Keep your budgets updated every three months as material prices and overhead costs are ever-changing. Ensure you know your sold-hour cost, billable hours and break-even points. There’s no sense going to work every day and making no money because you have yet to learn how much it costs to run your business.
  2. Prioritise Preventative Maintenance: Emphasize regular maintenance services to prevent significant repairs, aligning with consumer demand for essential and economical services.
  3. Adapt to Market Needs: Keep up with sustainable practices and new technologies to meet evolving market demands.
  4. Strengthen Customer Relationships: Build long-term client relationships by focusing on excellent customer service. Remember, for most customers, service is the essential tool and what they recall. Remember, most customers only complain about price when they experience poor service.
  5. Operational Efficiency: To sustain profitability in a tightening market, it’s crucial to streamline your business operations. Keep a vigilant eye on overhead costs, especially for rapidly escalating expenses like insurance. It’s also essential to make pragmatic investments in equipment based on business needs rather than personal prestige and ego. For instance, consider the cost-effectiveness of hiring equipment, such as mini excavators, from specialised companies instead of owning them, as this can be a more economical choice.
  6. Digital Marketing: Develop a solid online presence to attract new customers and establish your brand. Don’t get sucked into employing digital marketing companies when much of it you can do yourself.
  7. Don’t Worry About Your Opposition: Other plumbing companies are not your clients, so don’t worry about what they do. Just focus on your own business fundamentals.
  8. Learn To Say No: The reality is some people are just not your clients and never will be. They have no loyalty, and you simply don’t need the stress of working for them. If they don’t accept your prices and want to tell you how much you should charge and how to do the job, don’t work them because you will likely not get paid.
  9. Don’t Sharpen Your Pencil: Reducing your prices because a builder or residential client has said you are too expensive and need to meet the going rate for plumbers is nonsense. There’s no such thing as a recommended rate or a going rate. Know your numbers, and don’t be pressured into price wars you can never win.
  10. Train Your Employees: I know all the arguments about not training employees, but ongoing employee training is an investment, not a cost. Let’s face it: football teams continually train to improve their performance. Not training employees leads to poor performance on the job, which creates tensions with clients and undermines the confidence and morale of employees. Use every opportunity to train employees, whether formally or informally. Well-trained employees create confidence on the job, which translates into business profits.
  11. Effective Business Leadership: If you have to tell someone you are the boss, you have a significant problem. Humility in leadership fosters a positive and collaborative work environment. Acknowledging mistakes and being open to feedback are signs of a strong leader.

Professional Development and Training

Continuous training and professional development are crucial in keeping up with industry advancements, including emerging technologies and regulatory changes. Never stop learning. Never stop challenging yourself. As the old saying goes, you learn something new daily.

Long-term Prospects for Success

Despite current challenges, the long-term prospects for Gold Coast plumbing companies are optimistic. Adaptability, a customer-centric approach, employee training and an eye for technological innovations will be essential to thriving in the coming years.

Realistically, 2024 represents another year of challenges and opportunities for Gold Coast plumbing companies. By embracing change, focusing on customer needs, and leveraging the potential of emerging technologies, these businesses can navigate the current landscape while preparing for future success.

On reflection, the core fundamentals of business have stayed the same since I began my business in this industry back in 1986. Despite the evolving landscape, the foundational principles remain as relevant today as they were then.

The essence of what makes a business successful has stood the test of time.

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