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You’re Not Working for the Money

Sept. 2, 2022
You’re working for the life that money can bring you and the things that money can empower you to do.

Now don’t get me wrong, part of being a successful plumbing contractor is keeping track of your financials. Your EBITA, your profit margin, your revenue per customer, revenue per employee, cost per employee, price of materials, of gas, of equipment—there are thousands of different ways to watch the money moving in and the money moving out.

And when moving the needle just a tiny bit on any one of those things can be the difference between a good year and an amazing year (or between a bad year and a disastrous year), it’s easy to see how people can become hyper-focused on the money.

But you’re not working for the money. You’re working for the life that money can bring you and the things that money can empower you to do. So here are a few questions to keep in mind and to revisit as your career progresses.

What do you owe yourself? Once the necessities are covered, what do you want to do for yourself and for your family? For some people that means a bigger house, or a second house. It means saving for retirement. It means a quality education for their kids (whether that education takes them into the skilled trades or in a different direction). It can mean helping to care for older family members.

But don’t forget the hobbies, pastimes and side-projects that bring you happiness. One of the things I like so much about Pfister’s docu-series American Plumber Stories is how it takes the time to show not just the work involved in a plumbing career, but the good life a career in the trades makes possible. For some people that means drag racing, playing basketball, showing horses, or just going fishing. (IAPMO has just joined Pfister in a partnership to help create the third season of Plumber Stories.)

What do you owe your community? Plumbers get invited into people’s homes and businesses every day. They owe their livelihoods to their communities, so it’s no surprise most decide to give back in ways small and large. That can mean donations to the local church or shelter. It can be a food or clothing drive. It can be offering a free maintenance program. Sometimes it can be donating time, tools and equipment to an organization like Habitat for Humanity.

What do you owe the industry? Every convention I attend, I meet people working to make the plumbing industry—as an institution, as a profession—a better place to be. Sometimes that’s as simple as being a member of an organization like the PHCC (or even working towards a leadership position). For some people it’s donating their time and expertise to the code development process. It can mean working with local training programs to help educate the next generation of plumbing professionals. Or it can be a simple as writing an article expressing a strong opinion you have on an important topic and having it published in the trade press.

What do you want your legacy to be? The answers to any of the above questions could be a legacy. A part of the plumbing code that keeps people just a little bit safer from pathogens sounds like a great legacy. It might be an annual food drive. It might be a cabin by a lake.

Not every plumber puts out their own shingle and becomes a business owner, but for those who do, most take great pride in what they have built and want either to pass it on or sell it for the best price they can get. Given how complicated a topic succession can be, it’s never too soon to start planning your endgame. (This month’s feature discusses how franchising can help with succession planning.)

After all, you can’t take it with you, no matter how much money you make. Best to use it well and wisely in the here-and-now.

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