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7 Deadly Sins of Plumbing Contractors

May 24, 2023
From not pricing correctly to talking politics on the job, here are seven Deadly Sins that every plumbing contractor should avoid.

There is a lot of virtue in plumbing. After all, plumbers really do protect the health of the nation. Yet many plumbing business owners are less than virtuous. Here are their seven deadly sins.

Sin #1:  Pricing Low

This is the most common problem in the trade. It’s also the easiest to fix. If there has ever been a time to raise prices, it is now. Look at fuel prices. Look at food. Look at the price of everything. It is all going up. Plumbing prices should rise as well, and not just material prices, but labor. Charge more to provide better service and more profit to reward the investor and to reinvest in the business for the future.

Remember, if you are not charging enough to pay well, reward investors, and build for the future you are subsidizing your customers. Do you customers need your subsidy? If not, raise your prices. Do you intend to run a not-for-profit plumbing business? If not, raise your prices.

Sin #2:  Charging Time & Materials

Flat rate pricing made its debut in the 1980s. It has been around for FOUR DECADES. Yet, there are still plumbing companies that charge time & material. If you are one of these, stop!  Reach out to one of the flat rate publishers and change. Do it now.

Flat rate removes your hourly rate from sight, which is right. Your barber doesn’t promote his hourly rate. The quick oil change company doesn’t promote their hourly rate. These and a host of other businesses, including most of the nation’s profitable plumbing companies present customers with a fixed price for work. This is actually preferred by homeowners since it removes uncertainty.

Sin #3:  Staying Small

It can be painful to grow. You must buy trucks and stock, hire people, train them on the way you want things done, and put up with all of their human failings. Many plumbers punt. They remain small. They remain one-truck operations. If you run a single truck plumbing company and intend to keep it that way, you are one of the most selfish people in the industry.

Single-truck plumbers better have good insurance. What happens to your family if you get into a bad accident on the job or on the road? You leave them without an income. What happens to your customers? You leave them without a service provider, sending them to a competitor.

Yes, growth can be a challenge, but so are most good things in life. Hire great people and develop them. Build a true business, a business that you run without you. Then, you can take extended vacations. You can spend time with your family. You can enjoy a prosperous lifestyle. As the protector of the health of the nation, as a contributor to your local community, as a job creator, and as a risk taker, you deserve prosperity.

Sin #4:  Knowing It All

An unfortunately large number of plumbers reach a point where they stop learning and growing. They come to think they know it all. If you stop growing, you start dying. There is no plateau. Coasting is heading downhill.

In truth, plumbers who act like they know it all, know they do not. They put on airs of omnipotence to cover for their insecurities. It is okay if you do not know everything. You can learn. You can read the trade magazines. You can attend the trade shows. You can join your local, state, and national plumbing association. You can join a plumbing business alliance. You can attend seminars. You can listen to podcasts and audio books.

The area where plumbers need to learn more than any other is the ever-evolving craft of business. Decades ago, a big yellow pages ad near the front of the phone book was enough to drive your business forward. Today you need a website, social media presence, digital marketing (as well as old-fashioned direct mail), reviews, field service management software, and more. If you are not learning, you are falling behind.

Sin #5:  Failing to Groom

This is such a simple problem. It is continually the most frequent complaint about home service providers in the Service Nation Alliance’s bi-annual survey of thousands of their members’ customers. Too many plumbers seem to try to live down to the Billy Buttcrack image.

No matter how early you start your day, start with a shave and a shower. Get your hair trimmed regularly. Dress neat in clean company uniforms. Use deodorant and breath spray. It is not hard. By looking professional, you will be treated like a professional, and compensated accordingly (assuming you charge enough – see Sin #1).

Sin #6:  Driving White Beater Trucks

Your truck is how you project your brand to most people. What are you projecting? For starters, white trucks look pretty much like other white trucks. They fail to stand out in a sea of white trucks. Moreover, many women think of them as “abduction vans.”  In fact, many women will not park next to one in a busy parking lot in broad daylight. If you drive one, you are scaring your customers. Add a little body filler, some primer, and then do not wash it and you will have the perfect effect.

Invest the money to wrap your truck. Your wrap gets 30,000, or more exposures a day. What does it say about your company? Does it communicate that your company is professional, safe to invite into the home, and worthy of the prices you need to charge to prosper?

Sin #7:  Sharing Your Politics

Plumbers have strong opinions. Many do not hesitate to share them. In today’s polarized, politicized society, you have a 50% chance of irritating someone with your opinions regardless of whether they are to the left or right. Why do it? It’s like walking into a home adorned with Philadelphia Eagles swag and proclaiming your love of the Dallas Cowboys. It is not the way to make friends.

Plumb for profit, not politics. If a customer says something you disagree with, bite your tongue and think about the Benjamins. Let the beer companies self-destruct by incorporating politics into their businesses. If it bothers you to the point where you have to do something, donate part of your profit from a given, mouthy customer to a political organization diametrically opposed to the customer’s views. Or, just move on down the road to the next customer.

Want to become a virtuous plumbing company? The Service Nation Alliance can help. Attend one of their free Success Day seminars. Get the schedule for upcoming seminars by visiting or call 877/262-3341

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