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Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

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  • Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

    Last week (mon - sun) I did 22 drain cleaning jobs plus 1 faucet install.

    This week (mon - wed) I've only done 6 so far.

    Funny how it works. It would be nice if my customers would call with another job after each job is complete.

    I'm wondering though, what happens when I do get to the point where I have more work than I can handle consistently?

    I look forward to and at the same time dread needing to hire somebody.

    When I hire somebody I'll have to stay busy to support both of us.

    It would be nice if I did full service plumbing and had a helper, because I could just send him to drain calls when needed.

    But I do 95% drain cleaning, video, jetting which doesnt require a helper.

    How did you convert from a one man shop to a two man drain cleaning and/or plumbing shop?

    Or would you recommend me just be happy with my one man shop?

  • #2
    Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

    I guess I'm lucky to live in a community where no one wants to hire a plumber. Though I get my share of busy times, I have far too much dead time.

    February was unusually busy. March, nada. The phone just won't ring.

    I'm sort of used to this and it's maddening. It makes it impossible to plan anything.

    In addition to the aforementioned problem, plumbers are coming out of the woodwork here. I cannot help but wonder if and when they're going to go under. During my 33 years in business, I've seen a lot of them go under. Some of them couldn't plumb a straw into a soda bottle and get it right.

    Everytime there's a storm - snow or rain - work just stops and doesn't start back up again until a few nice days go by. I never have figured that one out but it certainly seems to be the case. People! I have booties!

    But I have found a silver lining in being too busy - I can turn down work on trailer houses and for people who want something for nothing. I can't be very picky when the phone isn't ringing.

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    • #3
      Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

      up and down here. the few times i could use another pair of hands i tell myself i can do it, i know i can, i know i can, i know i can, toot toot, i know i can.

      i can't see being big enough here to add another van + machines, etc

      steve
      In the never ending struggle to keep the water flowing.... The Poo Poo Cowboy rides again!!!

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      • #4
        Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

        I have posted about this before.

        On one hand, I like being a one-man shop...I have less to worry about, only my own salary to cover and if thing are slow, I'm ok. No worrying about my employee's workmanship or ethics, no 'babysitting' jobs, etc. If I had an employee I'd also have to worry about keeping him busy and giving him his 40 hours and paying his salary, paying for his truck, etc. etc. It seems like a lot more headaches.

        On the other hand, it sucks to be a one-man shop...no backup or help! I am on call every day, and every night 365 days/year. If I take time off, I have to close down the whole business and that doesn't sit well with customers who have emergencies. So I'd mainly like to hire someone I can trust who can cover me when I'm slammed or when I need some time off. Problem is I have to keep him busy fulltime. And I can't afford to do that just yet.

        My plan is to wait until I am consistently overbooked and turning calls away, and then I'll try to find the right plumber to hire. Then I'll have him ride with me for awhile and train him in my methods, and eventually take my truck over. Then I can run the business while he runs the calls. I'll take the night calls and weekends while he rests. During that time I'll buy a second truck and set it up. Then I'll take the second truck, and we'll both be running calls simultaneously and backing eachother up.

        It seems like a fairly stressful and expensive growing pain, and I am kind of scared of the whole process. But if I can find the right guy, it will be worth it in the long run.
        Water Heater Reviews & Water Heater Information

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        • #5
          Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

          p.s. I am very, very busy so far this year, and I have been thinking about hiring someone for months now. I am getting really close to biting the bullet and posting a help wanted ad. I hope to have a good plumber hired by this summer if everything works out.
          We'll see.
          Water Heater Reviews & Water Heater Information

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          • #6
            Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

            I have done it a little differently...

            I developed a good friendship with another master plumber in town who specializes in new residental and comm install's.

            Being a one man show some jobs can be a bit to big for me if I want to have a life so I refer them to him.
            In return I can call him whenever I need up to 3 extra people or just have a plumbing issue that needs a second opinion.

            It is a win win for both of us.

            Okie

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            • #7
              Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

              Long time reader, first time poster.

              I figure this is as good of a place as any to jump in the fray.

              It is simply not enough to have "more work than I can handle by myself."

              The amount of more work needed to keep someone else busy is staggering.

              Also, sharpen your pencil real sharp, and figure out what what your upfront investment is going to be. Trucks, tools, equipement, workcomp, etc. Receivables might go up too. The upfront dollar amount may be alot more than what you think.

              You probably already know all of this, but I thought I'd throw it out there anyway. I learned all this the hard way when I tried to go from 2 to 3.

              One more thing, if you don't do it with the right person, forget it.

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              • #8
                Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

                What I do is I use casual labour for any manual work ie digging etc.
                if I I do land any big jobs Its nothing for me to get 3 labourers + apprentice + myself.
                I work on the theory that is to get all of the jobs done on the day and start tommorrow with clean slate.
                I specialise in same day service and wouldnt know what I am doing in 2 days time(flying by seat of pants)
                Regards
                Greg

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                • #9
                  Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

                  I have two vans already, one fully stocked for me.

                  The other has a big machine with ramp and a small machine. I just need parts, hand tools, ladders, shovels, etc. oh, and a person I can trust.

                  I bought the two extra machines two years ago from a friend who went out of business. I bought the extra van when my water pump broke on my current van last year. I couldnt see shutting business down every time my van broke. I use the newer van as back up for now.

                  Since I'm doing well on my own with an average 60 jobs per month, I'm thinking I need about 40 more drain cleaning jobs per month for a total of 100 in order to cover his salary, his workers comp, extra parts, tools, extra gas, etc.

                  The problem is the jump from 60 to 100+ jobs per month. I'll have to cover all of these jobs steadily before I can hire someone.

                  Also I grew 12 percent last year, so at this rate I wont get to 100 until around 2012. Unless I pull a magic marketing rabbit out of my a$$ that increases my growth faster.

                  I guess slower growth is better, I'm just ready to take a weekend off without call.

                  I accomplished one of my biggest goals in life when starting my own successful business. My next big goal is to retire at a decent age, like in my 50's. I just want to enjoy at least ten good healthy years of retirement before I die.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

                    I don't ever want to retire. My goal is to go as the last bit of solder melts off the roll.

                    J.C.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

                      Originally posted by JCsPlumbing View Post
                      I don't ever want to retire. My goal is to go as the last bit of solder melts off the roll.

                      J.C.
                      At this point I don't want to retire until I'm like 75. I like my job a lot; and am not sure what I would do without the puzzles to solve.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

                        I dont mind working, but I'd like to slow down when I'm older.

                        There's always something to do anyway even when retired. The difference is you can do it on your own time.

                        Many older people Ive met tell me that when you retire you die.

                        I lean more towards what one customer who retired at 49 told me.

                        "There's a lot to be said for doing nothing"

                        He said that when he gets bored, he spends time with family, works on his house, in his garden, goes fishing, reads, watches t.v. All on his own time.

                        Sounds good to me.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

                          Originally posted by JCsPlumbing View Post
                          I don't ever want to retire. My goal is to go as the last bit of solder melts off the roll.

                          J.C.
                          when i worked in electronics/broadcasting i used up more that my share of 60/40 solder. nowdays i solder new connections on guitar cables, speakers, and PUPs.

                          i'd retire tomorrow if i could. sitting on my back deck, sipping on a martini, playing my tele,and watching the caribbean move on by. that or hookers and blow like John Entwhistle.

                          i enjoy my work but i could become a man of leisure in 1/2 of a heart beat

                          steve
                          In the never ending struggle to keep the water flowing.... The Poo Poo Cowboy rides again!!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

                            Originally posted by stxrus View Post
                            when i worked in electronics/broadcasting i used up more that my share of 60/40 solder. nowdays i solder new connections on guitar cables, speakers, and PUPs.

                            i'd retire tomorrow if i could. sitting on my back deck, sipping on a martini, playing my tele,and watching the caribbean move on by. that or hookers and blow like John Entwhistle.

                            i enjoy my work but i could become a man of leisure in 1/2 of a heart beat

                            steve
                            Brother you've already got a deck with the Caribbean moving by. You're ahead of most.

                            J.C.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Too Busy! Too Slow! Growing Pains.

                              I worked alone for 17 years ,never had a helper, and didnt mind it.
                              When my son wanted to come to work with me ,we started from his very first day 2 men on every job,this way we can talk about what is going on at each job and he learns how i do it.and what needs to be done
                              We get more service calls in because we do it faster, we average 120 calls a month ,take off sat & sun ,,start again monday , it works for us

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