How To Grow Your Plumbing Business and Boost Your Income in 10 Steps
Plumbers planning to start their own company will want to learn how to grow a plumbing business to help get their company off the ground and keep it profitable.
Plumbing is a growing industry that is essential for the ongoing function of individual residences, businesses, and institutions. Without plumbing professionals, city systems would fall into disrepair, leading to significant issues with the drainage system and water supply system, as well as several other key pieces of city infrastructure. Given the importance of plumbing knowledge, skill, and training, it’s a great idea to pursue a career in plumbing.
Journeyman and master plumbers can take their careers a step further by starting a plumbing company. However, it’s important that they learn how to grow a plumbing company by developing a plumbing business plan, putting together a crew of successful plumbers and other staff, and implementing the top plumbing advertising ideas to better market the business. Aspiring plumbing business owners will want to learn how to grow a plumbing business to set their company out on the right foot.
Before You Begin…
As with any business, the company owner will need to have extensive knowledge and experience with the products and services the company is offering. Typically, an individual will study as an apprentice plumber for several years, and perhaps take some of the best online plumbing courses before taking the journeyman plumber licensing test. After receiving this certification, journeyman plumbers can start a plumbing company or further their learning by pursuing a master plumber license. Master plumbers who choose to start a plumbing business can hire apprentice plumbers to help out with some of the more difficult jobs, instead of hiring journeyman plumbers at a higher rate.
Beyond technical skill, it’s also advised for an aspiring business owner to take a basic business management course before starting a new company. Experienced professionals can discuss the best way to market a plumbing business, how to expand a plumbing business, and provide plumbing management tips to help build the business. If some of the business aspects are difficult to grasp, it isn’t a bad idea for a student to consider plumbing business coaching or ongoing plumber business consulting services to improve the plumbing business profitability.
Tips for How to Grow a Plumbing Business
- Create and build relationships with local vendors.
- Re-evaluate and assess the business plan often.
- Focus on quality customer support, prompt communication, and reliable service.
- Consider offering 24/7 emergency response services.
- Find a niche in the current local market.
- Consider advertising plumbing services on a lead generation site.
STEP 1: Write a long-term business plan that lays out where your business is now and where you want it to be in the future.
The first step to growing a plumbing business is for the owner to create a business plan for the company. Without a plan, a rapidly growing business can quickly become overwhelming, leading to the company owner losing track of where the business is going. So before beginning a new business, a plumber will want to spend some time coming up with a long-term business plan. The plan will describe the current status of the company, short-term goals, ongoing initiatives, and long-term goals.
If putting together a plan seems challenging at first, plumbers can start by asking a few simple questions. Where will the business be in 5 years? How many employees will the business need? Where will the business be located? Will it specialize in any niche areas or generalize? How big will the company grow? Where will the business be in 10 years? What services will the business offer? What will be the hours of operation? How will customers contact the company and book appointments?
After coming up with a long-term business plan for the company, the owner will want to regularly re-evaluate and assess the plan to ensure that the company is on track. They’ll want to make changes to the business plan as necessary to keep the company moving toward the long-term goals that were originally set out.
STEP 2: Manage business finances carefully to ensure steady cash flow, reduce overhead costs, and identify areas of improvement.
While plumbing is a hands-on job, financial management is key to the success of any business. A company cannot grow unless it is generating a reliable cash flow, and it’s necessary to keep a close eye on any areas that can be improved. When starting a plumbing company, the owner will need to invest in tools, vehicles, marketing materials, a location, a website, and any employees they plan to hire. They’ll also need to consider the cost of small-business insurance, as getting a policy from one of the best small-business insurance companies (such as Next Insurance or Thimble) can help protect the company from liability (and may even be required by law). With this in mind, it’s essential that they track and balance the income of the business with the outgoing expenditures.
By paying careful attention to the company expenses, it’s possible for a business owner to identify areas of overspending or where the company can make strategic cuts to reduce wasteful investments. Similarly, reducing the overhead costs of the company can have a net positive impact on company growth. Business owners may want to consider finding a more affordable rental space or negotiate lower material prices with a local supplier. Another way for business owners to reduce the overhead is to invest in plumbing business software to help manage the company.
While it’s not always fun, business owners also need to regularly review their staffing requirements. If the business grows rapidly at first, it’s possible the owner may have hired more staff than was necessary for day-to-day operation, so laying off one or two individuals can help reduce the overhead for the company. It’s also important that business owners assess the return on investment (ROI) for any new investments or initiatives, such as membership programs, maintenance packages, or advertising for plumbers.
STEP 3: Make sure you have the right tools in inventory and a sufficient amount of equipment to handle service demand.
Plumbing company owners can search online for terms like “how to get more leads for my plumbing business” or “how to get more plumbing customers,” but at the root of a plumbing company is the technical skill that’s necessary to work on plumbing systems. If the company cannot perform plumbing work, then the business will not succeed, regardless of marketing efforts. In order to complete plumbing jobs, the plumbers will need to be knowledgeable and experienced, but they also need the right tools.
When starting a plumbing company, the business owner will need to invest in multiple sets of tools. Even if the company is a one-person operation, it’s a good idea to have more than one set of tools in case something breaks. For those individuals who are looking to grow a company, it’s necessary to invest in enough tools to fully outfit any additional workers.
Plumbing tools can include:
- Pipe wrenches
- Adjustable wrenches
- Basin wrenches
- Faucet keys
- Torque wrenches
- Internal pipe wrenches
- Tube cutters
- Hand augers
- Powered drain snakes
- Drain inspection cameras
- Hydro jetting machines
- Safety gloves
- Safety glasses
- Heat shields
- Fire extinguishers
- First aid kits
Also, a plumbing company will typically have at least one company vehicle that is used to travel between appointments. Generally, investing in a van is the best choice for a plumbing company because the back of a van provides ample space to store a wide range of tools and materials, such as pipes, fittings, solder, flux paste, sandpaper, and fitting brushes.
STEP 4: Invest in quality software to help you run your business, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Technology has advanced significantly to the point where most companies rely on various software products to help manage scheduling, contact profiles, and even finances. Investing in one of the best plumbing software products like Jobber can help business owners increase the efficiency of the company while reducing overhead costs. One such product is known as a customer relationship management (CRM) system. This tool allows the company to collect and store customers’ contact information, including names, phone numbers, and email addresses.
By keeping this information neatly organized and accessible, a plumbing CRM tool makes it easier for business owners to reach out to customers with company updates, sales, membership programs, and new package offerings to help attract business. Some companies may even choose to use this system to contact return customers, warning them about upcoming inclement weather or natural hazards. Business owners will want to keep in mind that severe winter weather can lead to frozen water lines, so putting out this notice ahead of time may improve the reputation of the company and direct customers to the business.
Other software programs are also important for operating a business. Companies that employ more than one person may want to look into payroll software to ensure there are no issues when payday rolls around. Additionally, financial management software can be useful for organizing, reviewing, and managing income and expenses for the company.
STEP 5: Build a team of hardworking and reliable employees, and invest in them by offering ongoing training opportunities.
A single-person plumbing business can be a good way to get started. The overhead is low and the only worker the business owner needs to worry about is themselves. However, a small business like that cannot take on a lot of extra work, so it cannot grow without investing in new employees. Those who want to develop the business beyond the humble single-person beginnings will want to start looking for hardworking and reliable workers to support the company.
Adding a few extra plumbers to the business allows the company to take on more work, which generates a higher income. Though, before hiring any new plumbers, it’s important for the business owner to ensure that they are licensed, trained, and experienced in the industry. Master plumbers may also choose to take on one or more apprentices, which can be a great way to accept more work without paying high overhead costs for journeyman plumbers.
Another important job that will need to be filled is the dispatcher position. Ideally, this person will have experience working in the plumbing industry, so they can understand and respond to the information provided by a customer. Dispatchers address problems, answer questions, and prioritize service requests. This helps ensure that the work is completed in an efficient and orderly manner.
Some business owners will manage the finances of the company on their own, but other business owners may need help to ensure the company stays on track. Hiring an accountant can be a good way for a business owner to organize the company finances and identify areas of wasteful spending in order to reduce the overall expenses for the business.
STEP 6: Make sure your website is easy to use and can be found by customers when they’re searching for a plumber in their area.
Word of mouth is a good way to increase the reputation of a plumbing company, but even after getting a referral from a friend or family member, many people want to do their own research on a company. A website is an essential part of a successful business because it can be used to provide information on the company, services offered, currently running promotions, pricing, and more.
Individuals with basic computer knowledge can build a simple website through an online provider. This will allow the company to post contact information, prices, and other details to inform prospective customers. Alternatively, the company can invest in a professionally built website. While this will cost more up front, a professional website has a more authentic look that can be used to improve the reputation of the company, giving prospective customers more confidence in the business.
Additionally, business owners can hire individuals who are experienced with search engine optimization (SEO) to create the content on the website. SEO is essentially a set of practices and tasks that can be used to help the website show up on a search results page when a potential customer searches online for “hire a plumber near me.” Increasing the traffic to the site can then lead to more customers and higher profits.
The best plumbing services often deal with emergencies, so the website will need to have easy-to-find business information on its main page. Customers will be able to find a number to call quickly, allowing them to get help as soon as possible in the event of a serious leak or flood. Also, it’s recommended that the business post testimonials on its website, as well as up-front pricing and payment options.
STEP 7: Develop a marketing strategy to attract new customers to your business, and make sure you have a recognizable brand.
Given that plumbing is one of the oldest trades practiced widely throughout the world, it will come as no surprise that there will be competition anytime a plumber starts a new plumbing business. In order to stand out in the local market, it’s necessary for a business owner to come up with concrete marketing strategies to attract new and returning business. Marketing can be as easy as handing out plumbing business cards to every customer or building a company website where prospective customers can review testimonials and check out a portfolio of completed projects.
“Regularly check the promotions, service offerings, and reviews of the competition to help determine what customers value most, both positively and negatively. Use this information to offer attractive promotions to new and repeat customers, as well as adding services that may not be widely available through other plumbing companies in the area.”
—Timothy Dale, BobVila.com contributor and former Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) Plumbing Project Manager
Beyond a simple website, plumbing companies may choose to market through a wide range of options, such as building multiple social media platforms to advertise ongoing deals or display completed jobs. Small businesses can also invest in paid advertising programs on the radio, online, or even in the local newspaper.
Tech-savvy business owners can reach out to new and returning customers through online banners or pop-up ads, or they can even put together a series of plumbing tips videos or simple how-to videos on YouTube. If this seems too complicated, other marketing strategies include investing in flyers, billboards, or print bulletins.
Building a recognizable brand for the company will improve the reputation of the business and increase the likelihood of return business. Business owners may want to consider providing one or more special services, such as replacing water heaters or installing boilers, to stand out from competitors in their local market.
James De Meo, master plumber and HVAC engineer at Montgomery, Alabama-based home improvement website This Fixed House, offers the following tips for plumbing business owners.
- Place ads in local publications
- Set up listings on online aggregators such as Angi
- Send ads to potential customers by mail
- Connect with other local home services contractors to earn referrals and share leads
- Set up a Google Business profile and create a website
- Post advice on social media and stay active in online local neighborhood groups
STEP 8: Build up your reputation by asking customers to write reviews of your business and by implementing a referral program for existing customers.
Marketing can be targeted, such as when a company offers maintenance contracts, subscriptioñ services, or membership programs to new and returning customers. However, to grow a business, the owner will also need to think beyond direct targeting methods to attract a wider pool of customers. This can be accomplished by building the reputation of the company so that it’s the first name that comes to mind when something goes wrong with a plumbing system.
There are many ways to grow the reputation of a business, but the most common method is to ask customers to write reviews or testimonials for the business. These testimonials can then be displayed on the company website. Similarly, a company may implement a referral program for existing customers as a way of increasing new business while encouraging repeat business.
“One strategy that has worked for me in acquiring new clients is offering promotions for referrals,” explains Andrew Miles, CEO of WaterFilterCast.com, an online resource for learning about water filters and related equipment. “Networking with local contractors and joining a trade association were invaluable for my business growth.”
Another way to improve the reputation of the company is to help out in the community. The company can sponsor a local kids sports team, donate to a local charity, or even devote time and aid during a local crisis. Providing a friends and neighbors discount can show nearby residents and businesses that they are recognized and appreciated, which can help to improve the standing of the business in the local community.
STEP 9: Make sure your pricing is competitive and can generate sufficient profits to support the continuation and growth of the business.
It’s difficult to grow a business when the pricing structure does not allow the company to bring in enough income. Ideally, a plumbing business will have competitive pricing that is both profitable and sustainable. While a weekend sale or a holiday promotion can drive up the profitability of the business, it’s not a sustainable method. Similarly, if the company is not charging enough to cover the overhead costs, then the business will have a difficult time just staying afloat.
Unfortunately, customers rarely appreciate when the prices need to be increased, so before making any changes, it’s imperative that the business owner conduct thorough research within the local market to find out how much a plumber costs. This will help the business owner better understand the pricing strategies of their competitors while identifying new opportunities in the local market.
After coming up with a way to adjust the pricing strategy to better align with the current market conditions and customer demand, the business owner can then conduct a cost analysis to determine if the new strategy ensures the ongoing growth, profitability, and sustainability of the business.
New price changes can be a challenging factor to overcome, but there are a few ways for business owners to do this without alienating existing customers. They’ll want to start the process by communicating the reasons for the change. Most customers will understand a need to bump up the pricing, as long as the increase is reasonable. Business owners can use incremental increases to reduce the sudden shock of a big price increase, or even offer services at a discounted rate for a small selection of loyal customers.
STEP 10: Consider offering maintenance contracts, subscription services, service agreements, or membership programs to generate a recurring revenue stream.
Once the business is established and has started completing jobs in the area, the business owner can try out a variety of services, service packages, and other methods for generating a recurring revenue stream. Offering a maintenance contract for sump pumps, water heaters, or boiler systems could be a good way to increase customer retention. The customer pays a set amount per month or per year, and they receive regular service to keep their home systems in working order.
Another option is for the business to offer a subscription service for routine plumbing tasks, such as drain cleaning, water heater inspections, or winterizing services for irrigation systems. Similarly, some companies will offer monthly service agreements to help retain customers. The customer pays a recurring fee so that they can receive a discount on repairs and installations.
Membership programs are an interesting option to consider. Some companies will use a membership program in the same way as a service agreement, but adding a fee to this program may not be an effective solution. Instead of paying a monthly fee, customers simply sign up for a free company membership, which ensures they receive priority service, reduced pricing, or exclusive product discounts. This generates a high level of customer loyalty and can increase the chance of returning business—and even the chance of the customer tipping the plumber for a job well done.
Building a successful plumbing business takes time and dedication. The small-business owner will need to develop a solid long-term plan; put together the necessary finances; purchase tools, vehicles, and other items; and hire additional staff, including plumbers, dispatchers, and an accountant to keep the company finances neatly organized.
Management software can be used to increase the efficiency of the company while lowering the overhead costs, but the business owner will still need to invest in a company website and marketing materials to advertise the business in the local community. Increasing the reputation of the business can help to attract customers, though it’s important for the business owner to ensure that the pricing is competitive, profitable, and sustainable; otherwise the company will struggle to remain afloat.
Business owners may want to consider pursuing alternative methods for generating a recurring revenue stream, such as offering maintenance contracts, subscription services, or other programs. They’ll also want to stay focused on the short-term and long-term goals of the company to increase profits, improve productivity, and grow the plumbing business.