Before you start making decisions on the colour scheme of your van or what your company logo will look like you need to establish what kind of plumbing business you want to run. As mentioned above, it’s an extremely varied industry and there’s scope for specialising in a number of areas.
Your chosen business model must reflect the demand for services in the area you intend to operate in. Look at the competition in the area and see what other plumbers are doing. Is your local market flooded with emergency call-out businesses? If so, perhaps you need to diversify your offering and specialise in fittings and alternations, or the installation of green energy technologies.
The introduction of newer energy sources such as solar thermal and air or ground source heat pumps have provided a whole new area for plumbers to make their mark in. Blane Judd of the CIPHE believes the ‘plumber of tomorrow’ will need to have a working knowledge of these kind of fossil fuel alternatives.
Be warned though. In times of recession you’ll find the most stable market is in repairs and call-outs. If people are finding it harder to take out loans they may not be able to access the cash needed for higher priced jobs. Likewise, a brand new bathroom may seem a bit extravagant in times of recession. Burst pipes and repairs will always need attending to though – recession or not.
When William Davies started Aspect Maintenance he made good use of his business partner’s industry knowledge. “I wouldn’t have got into this if Nick hadn’t been involved in the sector for some time. He was able to discuss the driving forces behind the industry with me, so we came to the table with a lot of knowledge which allowed us to put together a solid business plan.”
Davies and Bizley made a conscious decision to focus on both the commercial and domestic markets but this is a decision you should consider carefully. If you’re offering your services to businesses as well as domestic customers think about how this will affect the minimum staff and resources you require.
Consider too whether you can reasonably make enough money if operating on your own. This may be a safer way to keep your overheads down but will it give you the rate of growth you’re after?
“Most plumbing firms are set up by individuals qualified in the industry who gradually take on a couple of other plumbers,” says Davies. “I came from a business background and looked at the venture from the point of view of structuring a decent sized venture. I wanted the tradesman to be left to do their jobs but have a great admin back-end which would make the whole process run smoothly.”