Most customers are aware of the dark cloud cast over the plumbing service industry. From con-artists to the infamous plumber’s crack you are forced to watch while eating your morning breakfast (a harsh punishment you must deal with to unclog the kitchen sink), poor service and high prices have long been accepted as the norm. It’s time to take a closer look at why poor service and high prices is common and what to look for in a future plumbing service.
What is required to get a plumbing license?
In Massachusetts, a plumbing apprentice is required to take five years of school combined with five years of work experience, performed simultaneously, under the supervision of a licensed Journeyman or Master Plumber. After the five years of schooling and work experience, a two-part exam must be passed before a license to perform plumbing work in the state of Massachusetts is granted. After that, Continuing Education must be met every year to maintain and renew this license. These classes are all aimed at a thorough understanding of the Massachusetts Plumbing Code. This code is meant not only to guide tradesmen in creating properly working plumbing systems, but to protect the safety and hygiene of homeowners. The state recognizes the dangers of unlicensed and improperly installed plumbing system. Five years of mandatory schooling is clear evidence of that!
Some of this might come as a shock to those outside of the field. A lot more schooling is involved in the trade than most would think. Few homeowners imagine a plumber working all day, only to attend class all night.
My plumber is licensed, why is his company still a mess?
The poor plumbing service and business practices in the industry is not just a bad dream, it truly does exist. The plumbing license educational system is heavily geared toward understanding the correct installation procedures for a safe working design. Rightly so, as an incorrect plumbing design can result in dangerous situations and serious damage to one’s home. The licensed plumbers’ get an A+ in code/installation, but they are lacking in business education.
Unfortunately, very few plumbers receive any formal education in managing and operating a business. They receive their plumbing license (5 years of hard work understanding the plumbing code) and are thrown into the business world without any knowledge. This can result in poor customer service, money management, and job estimating. If a plumber has no business education, how can they run a successful business? A company that can make a profit, allowing them to provide professional service without cutting corners, is near impossible.
This is why it is vitally important that homeowners take their time and research when hiring a plumbing company. Not all plumbing companies are equal. Find one that has a solid business background and professional procedures. It insures that their business will be here in the future, and so will their quality work.
What about the high prices?
There are plumbers guilty of “jacking up” the price. It’s unfortunate that these plumbing service companies can damage the fragile contractor to consumer relationship. It can make it difficult for honest plumbers to convey to their clients just how high the cost of being a professional, quality service can be.
A small sample of the necessary expenses to remain a stable, professional service company
- Insurance: Vehicle, Liability, Fire, Theft, Property, Health, Workman’s Compensation
- Taxes: Income, Property, Business, Social Security, Employment Compensation
- Vehicles: Lease, Maintenance, Repairs, Fuel
- Tools: Maintenance, Replacements
- Shop & Office Rent
- Phones, Heat, Electricity
- Office Equipment: Furniture, Computers & Technology, Software
- Business Expenses: Legal Counsel, Accounting, IT
- Employee Benefits: Health & Retirement
- Office Staff & 24/7 Phone Answering
- Training Courses, Literature & Refreshers
All of these expenses cost BIG money. This should blow the concept of the thieving plumber right out of the water! The fact is, the average plumbing contractor reported to PHC News Magazine they made a profit margin of 2%. This is extremely low. Today, a respectable return on investment for any business is typically 10%. Companies like Home Depot, Walmart, and McDonald’s often make 20% profit on their selling prices.
So, perhaps the false perception of the over-priced plumber is exactly that; a false perception. The next time you receive a quote and take a look at the price, remember all the expenses your plumber takes on just to be a viable business. Not to mention long hours away from family, handling “matter” that would make the average person cringe, and the nights spent at school learning the plumbing code.
A healthy company helps you and the economy.
When it comes to hiring your next plumbing service, keep in mind these factors. Help to support a healthy small business by hiring a professional plumber AND a professional business, one that can better our American economy and support employees and their families. A successful and profitable company will be here in the future and always back up there work.