Looking through past editions of your local yellow pages you find the same plumbing companies listed year after year with few additions and subtractions. A few companies start and a few companies disappear every year. Why are so few new companies challenging the older, more established companies? Why are they not buying costly advertisements? Experience has shown me that an ambitious and competent plumber with a winning personality, and superior people and mechanical skills, makes himself indispensable to his company by winning the trust and confidence of the company’s customers. After a while, the plumber, being naturally ambitious, begins to reason: I know how much we charge for material and how much I make: my company is taking the lion’s share. He tests the water with customers that he knows and gets an enthusiastic response when he suggests that if he were in business for himself, he could reduce their bill (he happily imagines bringing home more money working on his own).
Finally, he makes the decision, obtains his license and begins his new business. As it turns out, he was correct. He does make more money, the customers love him and the future looks bright. After a time, because he has fulfilled his customer’s needs, the increasing load of new and happy, satisfied repeat customers becomes a challenge; he does not have the time to service them. At that point, he decides to hire someone to do some of the work that he cannot handle effectively and efficiently. He advertises and interviews various candidates and chooses one he hopes will represent his new company in a positive light. In short order, he discovers that being an employer requires the skills an administrator and that it is a time-consuming job in itself.
In a few months he sees the shortcomings of his new employee. While charming and loved by his customers, his new workman simply does not get enough done; he does good work but he is too slow. With less work done the profit margin falls and the new business owner is forced to raise prices. Several of his customers leave because they had been attracted by the low prices of his company in the first place.
Being more plumber than businessman, he reasons that perhaps he could return to his original prices if he can keep the phones ringing. He tries various forms of advertising, gets a little more business through a small ad in the Yellow Pages, and hires a plumber and plumber’s helper. Now he has little or no time for anything but administrative duties. Whatever profit is comes in becomes his sole wage and is often less than what he earned at his old company. After a while, he becomes despondent and either returns to working alone or goes out of business.
The cycle of employee to plumber and back to employee again is known in the plumbing service industry. When the skills of administrator and plumber come together in one business then there is an excellent chance that you will see that company’s name in the Yellow Pages for years to come. Keep this cycle in mind when choosing a company to service your needs.
Gary R. Tanner Owner – Town and Country Plumbing