How to Start a Plumbing Business

One of the biggest perks of a career in plumbing is having the ability to start your own business. Owning a business can give you the freedom to choose the direction your career will take. Whether you run a small business working independently or manage a large company, business ownership is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone who wants to work on their own terms. 

So, how do you begin a plumbing business? First, you have to train as a plumber, starting as an apprentice. Apprentice plumbers learn the trade while serving as assistants. As an apprentice, you will learn how to work on pipes and use plumbing tools and equipment. Your training will also include acquiring knowledge of the various materials used in the trade, how to read blueprints and local building codes. The apprentice phase of a plumber’s career typically lasts around five years. 

Completing your training as an apprentice will bring you to the next stage of your career. As a journeyman plumber, you can work with less supervision and oversee the work of an apprentice. Unfortunately, a journeyman is not yet able to start a business. The journeyman needs to have oversight from a master plumber, as they are still learning the more advanced aspects of the trade. If your goal includes business ownership, this is a critical phase in your career. As a journeyman, you can use your proximity to a master plumber to learn about business ownership and management. You will typically be required to spend at least two years as a journeyman. 

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In most places, master plumbers are the only plumbers who can own a business. Only the master is permitted to work independently, supervise journeymen, design plumbing systems and consult with permit officials. If you have spent your time wisely and learned as much as possible about running a plumbing business, you may be ready to get started as soon as you become a qualified master. 

Altogether with the time you spend as an apprentice and journeyman, you will need at least seven years of training before you are ready to jump into business ownership. Although this may seem like a long time, the skills you will learn in this training are invaluable and cannot be rushed. As a business owner, you will need to have finely tuned skills and knowledge in the trade.

Preparing for Business Ownership

Before getting your business up and running, you will want to ensure you have acquired the necessary business skills. Aside from plumbing skills, business owners will need to learn marketing, accounting, bookkeeping and management. If you were unable to learn these skills on the job, you should consider investing in a business course or hiring a mentor. 

Having a solid plan before getting started will help you to stay focused on your goals as you grow your business. A business plan includes much more than just an accounting of budgetary items. It is a detailed plan for the direction you plan to grow over the next several years. A good business plan will include the following:

  • A Company Description — Consider which services you will provide, how many people you wish to employ and how management will be structured. You will also need to set up a cost structure for the services you provide, including an hourly rate for labor. 
  • A Market Analysis — Conducting a market analysis in the geographic area in which you plan to provide service is essential to the success of your business. A market analysis helps identify areas of need in your community that your business can fill. If you need to obtain certifications to serve niche areas, find out how much training and money they will require. 
  • Marketing and Sales — Spend some time thinking about how you will market your business through advertising and networking. Remember that your business can’t grow if no one knows it exists. 
  • Financial Projections — Providing five years’ worth of projections will help you know if your business is on track as you progress. 

Tips for New Plumbing Businesses

Your preparations for getting a business off the ground can provide the foundation on which success is built. Common advice from industry insiders include:

  • You should invest in quality equipment. Consider the investment you are making as insurance against future losses, and pay for quality wherever possible.
  • Finding a niche area for your business can lead to quick growth. Conducting a market analysis can help you to identify what services are lacking in your community. Imagine how quickly your business could grow by offering a service no one else provides. 
  • Networking is a low-cost and effective alternative to advertising. While advertising may still be necessary, networking with other industry professionals and community business owners can open a wealth of opportunity for future business growth. 
  • Social media is essential for modern businesses. Set up your business page on various platforms and use them regularly. If you are not comfortable using social media, consider hiring a social media manager.
  • You will need to keep up with all industry regulations and building codes. A failed inspection is not worth the time, money or hit to your reputation. Make it your business to know which organizations provide oversight in your profession and build a compliance program to ensure your employees are within industry standards at all times. 
  • Invest time and money on your employees. Remember that a skilled and knowledgeable employee is an asset to your company’s reputation in the community and allows you to be less hands-on in the field. Invest in ongoing education and promote from within whenever possible. 

Your Future as a Business Owner

As you build your business, remember that successful companies adapt to changing markets and have plans in place to keep things running when work is slow. It is also essential to consider the company’s plans for retirement or disability and invest accordingly. Although business ownership can be challenging, if you have built a solid foundation, continue to learn and are open to change, the endeavor has great potential for a rewarding and lucrative future.