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8 silly myths of plumbing

Nov. 8, 2014
Myth No. 1 — plumbers won’t sell Myth No. 2 — flat rate is dishonest Myth No. 3 — no one wants to be a plumber Myth No. 4 — big service areas make more money Myth No. 5 — my reputation gets me business I need Myth No. 6 — it’s more profitable to be small Myth No. 7 — service agreements won’t work in plumbing Myth No. 8 — plumbing is a lousy business

Mythology is not limited to the ancient Greeks and Romans. A good dose of mythology exists in the plumbing world. Here are some of the most common plumbing myths.

Myth No. 1 — plumbers won’t sell: Plumbers are plumbers because they like to fix things. If they wanted to sell, they would be salespeople. Nevertheless, it’s a myth that they won’t sell.  They will sell under the right circumstances. 

Most service personnel are naturally empathetic. They like helping people. They want to do the right thing. Once they realize that withholding options, including replacing rather than repairing faucets, toilets, and so on is not in the customer’s interest, they will be more likely to present choices.

Incentives help as well. What gets rewarded gets done. Performance pay systems ensure that plumbers win when offering additional options and add-ons. Without incentives, plumbers see company owners benefiting while the plumber gets additional work.

Myth No. 2 — flat rate is dishonest: Phooey. What’s dishonest is charging different customers different prices for the same task, depending on the speed and skill of the plumber. Flat rate is a pricing presentation system. It’s a tool. It’s no more honest or dishonest than any tool.  Morality lies with the user, not the tool.

Myth No. 3 — no one wants to be a plumber: Contractors believe no one wants to be a plumber. But few understand what being a modern service plumber means. They do not understand the professionalism required. They do not understand the independence involved.  They do not understand the income opportunities. They do not understand the demand.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, new college graduates can expect a starting salary of $45,000 ($22/hour). According to an analysis of government data by Edvisors, they also graduate with an average of $33,000 of debt. The employed are the lucky ones. Many can’t find jobs. Even fewer can find jobs in their chosen fields. Plumbing sounds like a good alternative if presented well.

Myth No. 4 — big service areas make more money: The only person who makes money on windshield time is the guy driving the truck. Driving 20 miles between calls means you are driving past $20 million of opportunity. Low market share in big areas is a recipe for ineffective marketing. Concentrated marketing in tightly defined areas leads to greater share and greater profitability.

Myth No. 5 — my reputation gets me business I need: Think people know you? Think your stellar reputation is driving business? Maybe with your mother’s friends, but not with the public.  Not without marketing. Half of your customers will forget your name the second you pull away from their homes. The only way you can build a reputation is by marketing continually and getting involved in your community personally.

Myth No. 6 — it’s more profitable to be small: It’s not more profitable to be small. It’s easier to be small. The easy way is not always the best way or the right one. Even if your margin is greater when operating as Chuck-in-a-Truck from your home, net profit dollars from one or two trucks are less than lower margins from more trucks.

Yes, growth means employees. Employees can be a challenge. But would do you still want to be crawling under sinks when you’re 60 years old? Yes, growth involves risk. But what is the risk of getting in an accident and not being able to work or provide any income? What is the risk of wanting to sell your business one day, but not having a business to sell?

Myth No. 7 — service agreements won’t work in plumbing: Service agreements are effective in plumbing, but only if they are built for value. Customers can quickly see through the type of service agreement that merely represents an opportunity to get a foot inside the customer’s door and sell something.

Build a service agreement with solid value for consumers and people will buy it if marketed and sold well. Moreover, as more consumers select water heaters with greater capabilities, including tankless water heaters, annual maintenance becomes a necessity.

Myth No. 8 — plumbing is a lousy business: This is the greatest myth of all. People always need plumbing. Good times. Bad times. People always need plumbing. Demand is always present. Moreover, it can never be off-shored or exported. What a great business!

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, contracting’s largest business alliance. To help build your plumbing business, join the Service Roundtable for just $50 per month. Call 877/262.3341 or visit Ask about the Service Roundtable Fast Track program that will recruit, hire, and train new plumbers.

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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