Here are 14 characteristics of a professionally managed plumbing business.
No. 1: Pros price accordingly. If you are not pricing to make a profit, you are plumbing as a hobby. Poor pricing is the single biggest problem in the service trades and also the easiest to fix. It takes as much time and effort to become a master plumber as it takes an attorney to get through school and pass the bar exam. Your overhead per hour is greater than an attorney. Unless you’re pricing in line with attorneys you are probably charging too little.
No. 2: Pros receive timely financial statements. Before you can truly set a profitable price, you need to understand your company’s financial condition. This implies regular financial statements and the ability to interpret them. Operating without financial statements is like playing basketball without keeping score. You may be ahead. You may be behind. You really do not know.
No. 3: Pros drive attractive trucks. You deliver services at people’s homes and businesses. This means your trucks are your retail storefronts. They can attract people to you as a retail plumber or they can give off the impression of a secondhand clothing shop. If you do no other marketing, wrap your trucks with a professional design in a color other than white. The trucks are your single greatest advertising vehicle (pun intended).
No. 4: Pros look the part. Walk into a retail store or professional office building and you will not see people wearing t-shirts, gimmie caps and dirty jeans. You may not wear a suit, but you can look professional. You can issue uniforms. You can limit headgear to company logoed caps. You can require daily showering and shaving. Poor grooming is the single most frequent complaint about plumbers and air conditioning technicians.
No. 5: Pros are involved in the community. Do you give back to your communities? Is your company a visible participant in civic events? Are you a member of a local civic organization, such as Rotary, Lion’s, Optimists, Kiwanis, or Civitan? These organizations provide a path to community involvement and are filled with professionals, who are centers of influence within your local community. They are the people others turn to for recommendations and referrals about plumbing.
No. 6: Pros share: You have another community as well. This is the plumbing community. Are you involved in a contractor alliance or trade association? This is where you will encounter the professionals of the trade. And professionals love to give back and help others, as they were helped in their time. They will help you if you ask.
No. 7: Pros avoid big boxes. While everyone shops at the big box DIY stores from time to time, professionals avoid them. They support the trade and the channel. They do not want consumers to see their trucks outside of a big box and conclude that the cheapened plumbing products sold there are just as good as those coming through distribution.
No. 8: Pros respect the customer’s time: Pros show up when the promise and if circumstances beyond their control prevent it, they are on the horn with the customer, keeping the customer apprised every step of the way, just like they would if they were meeting a friend on the weekend. It shows courtesy and respect.
No. 9: Pros care for the customer’s home: Respect extends to the way the professional treats the customer’s home. Even if a customer says to never mind, the plumbing professional wears shoe covers, puts tools on a tool mat (i.e., logoed carpet), and cleans up the work area when the job is complete.
No. 10: Pros give prices before the work begins: Nothing gives people more anxiety than an open ended repair bill. Consumers want to know what a repair will cost before agreeing to it and professionals comply with their desires in an effort to make them as comfortable as possible in a stressful situation. Pros charge an upfront price, which is a flat rate price. Research has shown that consumers not only prefer this, but they consider flat rate less expensive, and think that plumbers giving a fixed price before work begins are more honest and trustworthy.
No. 11: Pros give options, not pressure: A pro never pressures a customer into a decision. The situation is pressure enough. The pro merely gives people their options, all of their options. Sometimes consumers want to repair what’s broken. Other times, when given the options, they prefer to replace or upgrade. Pros do not decide for people, they give people the information needed to decide for themselves.
No. 12: Pros pay well: Pros charge more, so they can pay more. Better pay results in better, more professional people who are more likely to stay with the company over time. Long term, the lower turnover that comes with better pay and benefits means companies end up saving money by paying more. It’s paradoxical, but true. And the most advanced companies utilize a form of performance pay, so people’s interest are aligned with the business’ and they can give themselves a raise anytime they want.
No. 13: Pros profit: It is the responsibility of the professional to generate a profit. Only by generating a profit can a company take care of employees, customers, and owners now and in the future.
No. 14: Pros last: Finally, pros are not here today and gone tomorrow. They build businesses that endure. Not only can their customers can count them, but their customers’ children can count on them.
There are lots of plumbing company owners in the industry, but not many professionals. In fact, there is not so much a shortage of labor affecting the plumbing industry, but a surplus of unprofessional company owners.
Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable. For help making your plumbing company more professional, visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com.