Ten tips for running a successful plumbing business


My dad has recently fully retired from plumbing. Where that leaves me with work is best to be explained in another blog post. But for now, I wanted to share this article with you that I wrote a year ago and never posted.


This post came about because a former plumber who worked for us in our commercial fit-out days wanted to be mentored about going out in business on his own.  The plumber asked my dad, what was the secret to running a successful plumbing business?


Unfortunately I think he was expecting a formula or some money spinning trick that would make him rich quick.


The truth is, there is no secret for creating a successful plumbing business, but there are things that need to be done in order to head into a prosperous direction. The secret to success is hard work, determination and passion. The following list is what a plumber in the commercial world can do to become profitable and successful. These tips can also be used for other businesses too.

Ten tips for running a successful plumbing business

1.  Find and develop your niche. As a plumber, the field is open as to what area of plumbing you want to focus on. For my dad, his niche was inner city tenancy fit out works. And then when I started a family and dad wanted to slow down, we changed our niche to small commercial or domestic maintenance jobs. For various other plumbing firms, their niches may be domestic maintenance, commercial maintenance, new houses, bathroom or kitchen renovations, nursing homes, hospitals, townhouses or even large scale construction projects like new buildings and warehouses. Once you find out what niche you are going to target, you need to find builders, architects and hydraulic consultants/engineers that manage and design these types of projects so you can be on their tender list.


2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – meaning don’t just work for one builder and expect to get all their work. It doesn’t happen. Sadly there is very little loyalty in the construction industry at the moment because everything is based on price and the plumber that wins the job is usually the cheapest one despite if they have a history of bad workmanship. This will change once the market picks up.


3. Price EVERYTHING. Plans are now emailed to you or they are electronically lodged to a website where all plans are available for pricing. This is why it is important to call all the clients in your niche so that you know when projects are open for tender. Make sure your tenders are lodged on time. Late quotes are disregarded.


4. Visit a site before the tender closes to see if the job can be installed a cheaper way than how it has been drawn by the engineer. Some sites may not be accessible, but it’s worth the try. You can always organise a site visit with the builder and often site visits are arranged prior to the tender closing. When onsite, check that the nearest waste or water pipe is in the location the engineer      has drawn on the plan. If you find a closer one to what is drawn, base your quote on your findings. Your price will be cheaper than other plumbers quoting because they would have priced to what was on the plan.  Just ensure that the waste pipe you are pricing on is actually sewer and not storm water!


5. Qualify EVERYTHING on your letter when doing quotes including – not allowing security guard fees or  alarms if work needs to be done out of hours to not being held responsible to damaging other services if you cut into walls or floors without having been told about their location.


6. When you win a tender, ring the project manager or builder for the project and find out when you are needed onsite. It also pays to visit the site to see what the progress is.  The project manager may say that you can start next week, but if you visit site and the onsite construction manager is happy for you to start, then do so. Project Managers like proactive workers.


7. Be up to date with all paperwork including council inspection forms and fees lodged and paid in full and safety paperwork (that is now mandatory on all commercial jobs) to be handed to the project safety supervisor before any works are started.


8. Follow up on plumbing clearance certificates when a plumbing job has been cleared and email the certificate to the builder as soon as you receive it. Builders hate paperwork and even worse, they hate nagging you to give it to them. If you submit the necessary forms, plumbing certificates, as built plans and manuals to the builder on time or before they nag they will put you on their list of preferred plumbers. Builders will call you and negotiate your price if they prefer to use you than the price they received from a cheaper plumber.


9. Keep your overheads to a minimum. Husband and wife plumbing firms are popular because why pay a girl to do your paperwork when you can pay your wife? Having a home office doesn’t mean you have to pay to have a lease on an office too. There are tax benefits on setting up a home office. Check with your accountant on what can and can’t be claimed. I will write another article soon on how to keep your overheads to a minimum so that you can create positive cash flow in your business.


10. Have a website. So many plumbing firms still don’t have a website but plumbers need to get with the times and have a website. Potential clients want to see what jobs have been done by your firm and who your clients are. Sending a brochure or profile about your business when you start tendering with a new client is also beneficial. If creating a website is a cost that you can’t afford, set up a Facebook and Twitter account. They are both free. A blog is easy to set up too because you can easily update it as new work comes through. You can get clients to follow your page and it can be regularly updated with pictures of projects that you have finished.


Most of these tips can be applied to any business in the trade industry. All these tips were taught to me by my dad, and some I have added myself having worked in the industry in the last couple of years. If they are consistently followed, new work will continue to come through.

I’d love to hear your tips if you run a business? Can you add anything to what I’ve written above?