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The Challenges of Plumbing Business Ownership

Owning a plumbing business is easy, or so many people think. The reality is a plumbing business is a business, not a hobby or a charity. Owning any business is a challenge.

Owning a maintenance plumbing business has always been challenging, as so much of what we repair is a grudge purchase. For most experienced master plumbers, the biggest challenge is other plumbers.

“You have overcharged us because I rang three other plumbers and told them what you charged us for that job, and they all agree you have overcharged us and ripped us off.” This was a phone call we received at Whywait Plumbing last week.

The Issues with Unprofessional Quotations

A call like this always makes us wonder about the competence and integrity of the three so-called licensed plumbers who said we overcharged.

For a start, no professional plumber can or should or could give a price over the phone without thoroughly inspecting the job onsite and undertaking a complete diagnosis of the plumbing problem.

The Joe Bum-Crack Plumbing Business Phenomenon

Generally, the plumbers who indulge in giving prices over the phone use it to gain entry to the client’s home. Invariably, their final price always ends up being much more expensive because they find all these additional problems after they start the job.

These “Joe Bum-Crack Plumbers” seldom last in business beyond two years. But in the short time they exist, they cause legitimate plumbing businesses countless problems with their shoddy business ethics and lack of business acumen. Sadly, another generation of Joe Bum-Crack Plumbers emerges with their brand-new QBCC plumbing licenses every few years.

Every day at Whywait Plumbing, we receive phone calls or emails from plumbers looking for a job. A significant number of these plumbers fit the category of Joe Bum-Crack plumbers who have been running their own plumbing business and discover it is much more complex than they thought it would be.

Joe’s Story: The Dream and The Reality

We have in the past employed such people, always to our detriment. The last person we employed, who could be described as a Joe Bum-Crack plumber, was a perfect textbook example.

In fact, let us call him Joe as he came into the interview perfectly dressed in answer to our advertisement for an experienced maintenance plumber. Joe was in his 50s and had done everything from working in construction to being an inspector to running his own business. When asked why he was giving up running his plumbing business, he replied that his wife had told him to go and get a real job.

Joe then described what it was like running his own plumbing business, which he had started with high hopes after 27 years as an employee of various large companies and a water authority. Joe described how he wanted to be his own boss as he knew there was a fortune to be made running his own business. Plus, he was in control of everything for the first time and could work when he chose and be at home when he decided.

Facing the Harsh Truths

The reality was much different from Joe’s perception of being the boss. Joe soon discovered that being the boss is much more complicated than it looks. Joe had found that running a business was more than being an excellent technical plumber.

Now, he was the boss. Joe was in charge of marketing, employee relations, customer relations, credit management, bookkeeping, answering the phone, dealing with plumbers merchants, and so on.

All Joe wanted to be was a wealthy plumber.

Joe knew running a plumbing business was not a path to instant wealth, as he had initially believed.

The opposite was the truth, with every minute of his time being spent on running the business. Joe was shocked at the reaction of Reeces Plumbing Supplies when his account was late being paid. Joe, as an employee, had used Reeces for years and the people behind the counter he considered as mates. He was shocked when his credit was suspended because, after all, these were his longtime mates, and he was sure they would understand that a client had not paid him, so he could not pay them.

Learning the Hard Way

Joe was well aware of Whywait Plumbing and confided that he had always believed we were ripoff merchants.

Joe was aware of our sign-written Utes, websites, Yellow Pages advertising, radio advertising, broadcast email, diagnostic charges and letterbox drops, which he had always regarded as a waste of money because everyone knows word of mouth gives you plenty of work, or so he once thought. He was astounded when word of mouth did not provide much work.

He was astounded to learn that to get his phone ringing, he would need to spend what he believed was a “shitload of money” on advertising and marketing to get his name out there.

A Change in Perspective

After 18 months of being the boss, Joe now understood why Whywait Plumbing spends what he called a “shitload of money” on advertising and was astounded when he was informed it was only 4% of our turnover.

Joe couldn’t believe the extensive safeguard measures we had implemented, spanning numerous insurance policies, WorkCover, and even trademark protection for our business name and logos. The trademark protection particularly caught his interest, a facet he had not considered previously. He was astonished to realise that, without a trademark, any entity could potentially use your business name, as technically, it isn’t owned by anyone.

His interest piqued even further when we introduced him to Squadhelp, a free online platform where you can conduct trademark searches to check for both exact and closely matching names. Joe appreciated the initiative, recognising the immense value in securing a unique and protected business identity.

Now Joe wanted us to give him a job because his wife had told him after 18 months of struggling to make ends meet to get a real job.

Joe’s Stint at Whywait Plumbing

Joe worked for Whywait Plumbing for three months but, in the end, was unable to adapt to a plumbing business that was upfront about the cost of the work before undertaking the work. Joe just wanted to turn on the taximeter, keep charging the client until the job was complete, and then let someone else worry about who was paying.

Ultimately Joe had the wrong attitude toward small business, and this was why:

  • Joe, the boss, had his credit stopped at Reeces.
  • Joe, the boss, had constant arguments with clients.
  • Joe, the boss, is just Joe, the disgruntled employee who still thinks he knows more than the boss.

Through Joe’s story, it’s evident that understanding your business’s costs and your potential clients, plus setting fair and transparent prices, are crucial.

The Fundamental Rule of a Plumbing Business

Very simply, there is only one rule in business: “To make a profit, you must first know your costs.” That is why at Whywait Plumbing, we price every job in advance, whether with a fixed quote or an estimated budget price….no ifs, no buts.

To experience reliable and professional plumbing service, contact Whywait Plumbing anytime because, as we always say, “Choose Whywait and consider it done.”