Plumbing vs. working for government

Oct. 7, 2015
No more long hours Get a week-long vacation No more employees No customers End the anxiety Your paycheck is assured

It’s tough being a plumbing contractor. You may not be cut out for it. Here are 15 reasons why you should quit, close your business and go to work for the government.

1. No more long hours: When you work in a service industry like plumbing, there are times you get involved in a job that runs long, followed by one emergency after another. Who wants to work long hours when you can work from 9 to 5 with the government?

2. Never be on call again: It stinks being on call. You try to relax, take in a ball game, and the mobile goes off. Back to work. Screw it. You won’t be on call with the government.

3. Get a week-long vacation: There’s no vacation when you work as a small contractor. You can slip away for a weekend or even three or four days, but you never really take a vacation. You take the phone with you. You worry someone will steal you blind or that things will fall apart or that calls will be missed. Slip away for a week with the government and no one really notices.

4. No more employees: Running a plumbing company means dealing with employees. They are hard to find, come with bad habits from their previous employers, will quit on a dime for a dime more in pay, show up late, don’t shave, don’t tuck their shirts in, and want to get tatted up. You can escape all of that with a government job. Even if you have employees, they’re government employees so someone else hires them, they’ll never quit, and you can’t fire them.

5. No customers: Customers are another problem. Heck, if it wasn’t for the employees and the customers, business would be a lot simpler. Unfortunately, you have to attract customers, which costs money. If they finally do call, they treat you with suspicion, get mad when you don’t show up when they want you to show up, question your prices, and slam you in online reviews. Who needs them? The government has no customers or customer service. People wait in long lines to get what they need from the government. If they’re unhappy, who are they going to complain to, the government?

6. End the anxiety: Running a small business means constant anxiety. You worry that the phone will ring. You worry that your people will show up. You worry about those 941 forms. You worry about meeting payroll. You worry that the trucks will stay out of the shop and that your knuckleheads won’t wreck them. You worry and worry and worry and worry. With a government job, all of the anxiety goes away. There are no worries. You can be happy.

7. Your paycheck is assured: Business owners get paid last. You get a paycheck once all of your plumbers get theirs and the government takes its cut of payroll taxes. Your pay is uncertain. Some weeks are good. Others are not so good. With a government job, every paycheck is guaranteed. After all, it’s backed by the government.

8. No more corporate taxes: Corporate taxes in the United States are the highest in the world.  It’s hard enough to make a profit, but the feds swoop in and take 35%. That’s like three and a half tithes. Then, the state takes more. And that’s just income. It doesn’t include payroll, sales, property, and a gazillion other taxes you get stuck paying. Work for the government and all you have to worry about is your personal taxes. Whew! What a relief?

9. Tell the bankers to bank off: There are times when you need a loan. You might need a line of credit to get past a tough stretch. You might need a mortgage for a building or a truck loan. If you need it, the banker’s not interested in giving it to you. The bigger the bank, the less the interest. Even when you do manage to secure a note, you have to back it with collateral and a personal guarantee. The government doesn’t need a bank. It can print and borrow all the money it wants.

10. Enforce, rather than obey regulations: The government keeps coming up with new ways to make things harder, like the new water heater regulations, increased OSHA inspections, and so on. Whenever a new regulation comes down, you have to find out about it, understand it, and adjust your business to comply with it. When you work for the government, you can focus on enforcement more than compliance.

Running a small business means constant anxiety. You worry that the phone will ring. You worry that your people will show up... With a government job, all of the anxiety goes away.

11. No more permits: Is there any greater pain in the rear than permits? Every town handles them different. Some are online. Others require the license holder to show up in person.  Really? And then there are the inspectors. These are the people who can’t make it as plumbers. Of course, if you work for the government, you might even become an inspector.  Then, people will have to do it your way.

12. No more competition: You follow the rules, do the time as an apprentice and journeyman, pass all of the tests, and become a licensed master plumber, only to find yourself competing with unlicensed hacks. If they aren’t enough, you have to compete with the Internet, both with people selling parts online and lead sites shopping leads to the lowest bidder. And speaking of lowest bidders, there’s all of the idiot competitors whose idea of smart pricing is to race to the bottom and go out of business faster than everyone else. With the government, competition goes away. There is no competition. There’s only the government monopoly.

13. Insurance worries disappear: Insurance is expensive and getting more expensive. There’s liability insurance, vehicle insurance and health insurance. How can you afford it? With the government you won’t have to worry about insurance and your health insurance will be better than any you have ever enjoyed before.

14. No more lawyers: One of the reasons you need insurance is lawyers. They advertise on television looking for reasons to sue anyone for anything. Work for the government and the fear of litigation goes away. You can’t fight city hall and all of that.

15. You can retire: When you run a small business, you better build a $10 million business or save and invest well because it’s unlikely you will find many people interested in paying you enough to retire on otherwise. When you work for the government, you get a generous government retirement plan.

Take the prosperous road

Every obstacle and every irritant that a plumbing contractor faces can and has been overcome. Plumbing is a very rewarding profession when you approach it as a profession. It allows you to prosper, generating a great living for your family and employees and a lucrative exit if you plan for it appropriately. It allows you to control your own destiny. It gives you freedom. Why pass up prosperity, wealth and freedom for a government job just because it’s the easy path? After being the boss, can you really see yourself clocking into a government job?

If you are struggling, get help. Do not reinvent the wheel. Talk with other successful plumbing contractors through your trade association. Get involved with one of the best practices alliances.  

Take your business where you want to go, faster, and with less headaches.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, contracting’s largest business alliance. For help with your plumbing business, contact the Service Roundtable at or the Service Nation Alliance at  Or, call 877/262-3341.

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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