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Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy.

Plumbing With a Purpose

May 17, 2024
You need something bigger—something to drive you, something to compel you to leave your safe and familiar comfort zone.

You pulled the trigger, hung out your shingle, and transformed from plumber to plumbing contractor! Now what?

The first thing a new contractor runs into is the need to make the phone ring. You’ve got to book jobs to make a little bank to pay the unrelenting bills. It’s probably not too much of a problem because chances were good that you were doing a little work on the side, preparing for this day.

Let’s say you’ve got some business coming in. You’re paying the bills. You figured out how to file the myriad of federal, state, and local government forms and reports. You probably drafted your spouse to handle the bookkeeping (without pay, of course… and unfortunately).

Things start trucking along. You hire an apprentice or another plumber. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. You find, after a little time that it seems you are just going through the motions. Something is missing.

What’s missing is purpose. Oh sure, you’re providing for your family. But while that is purpose, you could do that working for someone else with less risk and a lot less paperwork. No, you need something bigger, a real purpose, something to drive you, something to compel you to leave your safe and familiar comfort zone. You need something to energize you.

Big Questions

Why are you doing this? What do you want your business to do for you? For your family? What do you want it to become? What is the end game? What do you want out of life that your plumbing business can provide?

There’s an old parable about a small boy who asks a stone mason what he’s doing. The mason says, “Can’t you see? I’m laying stones. It’s miserable, back breaking work.”

The boy walks up to another stone mason working nearby and asks what he’s doing. The mason says, “I’m building a wall. It’s hard work, but it pays well and allows me to put food on the family table and keep a roof over our heads.”

Finally, the boy walks up to a third stone mason and ask him what he’s doing. With a dreamy look and sparkle in his eye, the mason smiled broadly and said, “Can’t you see? I’m building a cathedral.”

The third mason had purpose. He was fulfilling a dream and it inspired him.

Dream big. Dream about a lifestyle you want for your family. Describe it. Envision it. Find pictures online of the type of house you want, the bass boat you crave, the vacations you dream about, whatever it is that you want. Quantify everything. What do they cost? Don’t worry how much it adds up to. Whatever the amount, the business can provide it… if you’re willing to build the business big enough.

Instead of squeezing your lifestyle down to the profit the business throws off today, figure out the lifestyle you want. Then, build a business sufficient to support that lifestyle. How big will you need to grow? What will a company of that size look like when you’re done?

Maybe material things aren’t that important. Maybe you want to build a business that makes a difference in your community, in the lives of your employees. Terrific. What does that company look like? Describe it.

Something Bigger Than Yourself

Purpose can result from lifestyle goals, service goals, or pure financial goals. Ultimately, lifestyle goals and service goals are financial goals. You just have to quantify them. Some contractors build magnificent companies to enable them to life a desired lifestyle. Some build significant companies to enable them to support mission work overseas. Some just want to build a company to sell to create generational wealth. All are okay.

Whatever your purpose, it should be bigger than you. It should be compelling, a reason to get up and get after it every day. Making payroll is not it. Paying the bills is not it. That’s like a stone mason laying stones. Build your cathedral.

Until you figure out the purpose of your business, something will always be missing. Your business will essentially be a job. If that’s all you want, if your business adequately supports your current financial needs and you’re happy with that, great. Stay the course. But if, after years of running a plumbing business, something is just not right, maybe you lack purpose for the business.

Plumbing is a great trade. It’s an essential service. The country can’t function without plumbers. You deserve all of the success and satisfaction you can get. It starts when you begin plumbing with a purpose.

Order Matt Michel’s new book, “Contractor Stories” on Amazon. See him speak at the Service World Expo in October. Learn more at

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization.

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