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“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.” This was I phone call we received at Whywait Plumbing last week.

A call like this always makes us wonder about the competence and integrity of the three plumbers who said we overcharged. For a start no professional plumber can, should or could give a price over the phone without inspecting the job on site thoroughly and undertaking a complete diagnosis of what the problem is.

Generally the plumbers who indulge in giving prices over the phone use it as a tactic to gain entry to a clients home. The 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 long but in the short time they exist they cause legitimate plumbing businesses countless problems with their poor business ethics and lack of business acumen.

Every day here at Whywait Plumbing we receive phone calls or email 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 harder than they thought it would be.

We have in the past employed such people, always to our detriment. The last person we employed that could be described as a Joe Bum-Crack plumber was a perfect text book example. In fact lets 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 50’s and had done it all from working in construction to being an inspector to running his own business. When asked why he was giving up running his own plumbing business he replied that his wife had told him to go and get a real job.

Joe then went onto describe 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 knew what he wanted as his own boss as he knew there was a fortune to be made running his own business plus for the first time ever he was in control of everything and best of all could work when he chose and be at home when he chose.

Reality was much different to Joe’s perception of being the boss. Joe soon discovered that being the boss is much harder than it looks. Joe had discovered that running a business was more than being a good technical plumber because it also meant now he was the boss that he was in charge of marketing, employee relations, customer relations, credit management, book keeping, answering the phone, dealing with plumbers merchants and so the list went on. All Joe wanted to be was a wealthy plumber.

Joe now knew that running a plumbing business was not a path to instant wealth in fact 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 longtime mates of his and he was sure they would understand that a client had not paid him so he could not pay them.

Joe was well aware of Whywait Plumbing and he 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 letter box 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 a multitude of work and 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.

After 18 months of being the boss Joe now understood why Whywait Plumbing spends what he calls a “shitload” of money on advertising and was astounded when he was informed it was only 4% of our turnover.  Now Joe was wanting 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 did work for Whywait Plumbing for 3 months but in the end was unable to adapt to a plumbing business that was up front about the cost of the work before undertaking the work. Joe just wanted to turn on the taxi meter and keep charging the client until the work was complete and then let someone else worry about who was paying. This was why Joe the boss had his credit stopped at Reeces. This was why Joe the boss had constant arguments with clients. This is why Joe the boss is just Joe the disgruntled employee who still thinks he knows more than the boss.

Very simply there is only one rule in business and that is to make a profit and to make a profit you must firstly know your costs. That is why at Whywait Plumbing we price every job in advance….no if’s, no but’s.

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