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A day in the life of....

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  • A day in the life of....

    It's slow.
    That happens, there are spurts like this all year long.
    Specifically for a sole prop, self employed..thats just how it goes, you're either swamped, or waiting for the phone to ring.
    When it gets slow, I make followups on tentative work requests from existing customers...usually something pans out.

    Got two calls this week so far, not good...but here's what really makes those two calls so special:

    *Call # 1, Indian guy, asking 50 questions on what water heater is best, how much to install, what stock I use, what prices for each...also wants a specific list of details on each as far as AFUE ratings, electronic or standing pilot, model #'s so he can go online and compare..in short, I'd ordinarily ask him to call the next guy, but I humored him with time on my hands & made some calls.

    By and large I almost felt like he thinks I'm his plaything.
    I call him back today, he explains my price was too high, got another guy for $15 less.
    Thats right, outbid by 15 dollars for my time.

    *Call # 2, previous customer...has a list of several small tasks he needs done.
    He likes my honesty, in the past I've eased his mind over things he was worried over that were in no need of immediate repair.
    I give him a rate, discounted based on the fact that I'm doing several jobs at one time.
    He then decides to subtract one task ordinarily priced as half what I'd quoted for the whole job, and explains I should just take the full price off the bill, I explained that I'd rated the overall price proportionate to the fact that I'd be there for three small jobs...the price couldn't go down that much.

    I'd spend $15 in gas, maybe $75 in stock, be there maybe three hours and make $100 to cover it under his math.
    There was a long silence after I wouldn't bend, in my mind all I could think was this: "I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!"

    It's easy to become defensive, even seeming arrogant when it comes to our approach with customers.
    I try to keep it all in perspective, mindful that every day laymen have no idea what expenses are involved or how much time it takes.
    Sometimes in that respect, I feel like a highwire balancing act.

  • #2
    Re: A day in the life of....

    I banged 2 out today, had too much to do with the 2nd business. First was T&P replacement and the second was turning a packing nut a 1/4 turn on a gate valve up in the ceiling at a hotel.

    Got one tire kicker today; "How much do you charge for a water heater replacement?" "$750 installed thanks for calling click!" << I said it that fast and hung up, didn't care if they liked the price or not, I had to go
    I don't like anyone wasting my time on heaters, don't want to do them anyway. Another F'in idiot got out of the idiot farm again.
    Last edited by DUNBAR PLUMBING; 01-09-2008, 06:28 PM.
    Northern Kentucky Plumbers Twitter Feed | Plumbing Videos

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    • #3
      Re: A day in the life of....

      For some reason it always seems the jobs we cut to the bone to get are the ones which surprise us with the unknown. When I use to have customers ask me to cut the price I would cheerfully say "sure which part of the job would you like me to not do". I would then go on to explain I gave them the best price I could while still giving them a quality job. I further explained for me to lower the price I would either have to cut the quality of materials and/or labor and I wasn't willing to do either.

      During a conversation with Josh recently I explained when I was writting a lot of repipe bids there was a local guy who could beat my price on every repipe by around 10%. He did it by not using as qualified plumber as I was using and his materials were not as good. When I had customers who seem to be shoping I would give them the other companies number and suggest they give them a call as they were cheaper than us. Of course I also added we did a much better job than the other company but their repipe would work. The results were I got those customers who wanted the best money could buy (better customer) and the other company referred all of the stuff they couldn't figure out on other jobs to me. It probably did not make sense the first time I did it but after 20-years I can look back and see the many ways I benefited.

      Mark
      "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

      I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: A day in the life of....

        Originally posted by ToUtahNow View Post
        During a conversation with Josh recently I explained when I was writting a lot of repipe bids there was a local guy who could beat my price on every repipe by around 10%. He did it by not using as qualified plumber as I was using and his materials were not as good. When I had customers who seem to be shoping I would give them the other companies number and suggest they give them a call as they were cheaper than us. Of course I also added we did a much better job than the other company but their repipe would work. The results were I got those customers who wanted the best money could buy (better customer) and the other company referred all of the stuff they couldn't figure out on other jobs to me. It probably did not make sense the first time I did it but after 20-years I can look back and see the many ways I benefited.

        Mark
        THAT, right there was the last straw for me...went to a new shop, half unsure if I wanted to go on my own.
        After a month of watching them do everything with plastic PEX fittings, sneak type M in anywhere they could and running around repairing the mostly unlicensed work...I quit and took the leap of faith.
        Proud I did, bit my nails alot, but man it felt good!

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        • #5
          Re: A day in the life of....

          Duck,
          I wish the economy was better for you.I'm being very sincere.I wish you were closer so we could get you out of the house.

          You are here with us.That says a lot.You are using your spare time to sharpen your steel so when things come your way you can knock them out with even more understanding and confidence.

          I have been waiting for an economic slow down for years.The scumbags are out of control out here taking money that has been overflowing for years.Now that production housing and remodels have died down the rats are finding work elsewhere.Unfortunately,Like you told me,they are looking into service.

          I am very blessed.I work with a plumbing contractor everyday I wan't.His commercial and custom projects keep me challenged.And yet he understands and lets me take time off during the week to take care of my projects,like tomorrow.

          You impress me as a good man giving people the best possible product you can.You have integrity.

          Stick with it.It always passes.Just seems to sting more than it should.

          ADAM

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          • #6
            Re: A day in the life of....

            Guys, I'm not in your business, but from personal experience it is always the nickel and dimers who just aren't worth it.

            I sell home improvements, and the jobs that always come back to haunt you/cost you money are the ones that were cut to the bone. The customer that overpays or agrees to the job without negotiating are generally the easiest jobs with the least hassles. It sucks when it's slow, but the money you take up front you generally give back down the road due to the aforementioned hassles. I walk away from a lot more work these days then ever, just based on the fact that it's not worth what's lurking beneath the surface that you don't find till you start the job. It's always better to walk away then to get deep into it, find some extras, and then the customer doesn't want to pay extra, so you know who pays then...........

            A lot of times I'll do a quick survey of the situation, based on what the questions are, and throw a quick calculation at the customer before I even measure or figure. Most times they say they were thinking well below your price, you've saved some time, and you're on to find the real player with the dough. Too many time-wasters out there, and your time is worth money, so waste it on someone who's gonna pay.....or your wife.....or your girlfriend.....mistress.....whatever.......
            I'm on "The List" and I love it!!

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            • #7
              Re: A day in the life of....

              Originally posted by tinmack View Post
              A lot of times I'll do a quick survey of the situation, based on what the questions are, and throw a quick calculation at the customer before I even measure or figure. Most times they say they were thinking well below your price, you've saved some time, and you're on to find the real player with the dough. Too many time-wasters out there, and your time is worth money, so waste it on someone who's gonna pay.....or your wife.....or your girlfriend.....mistress.....whatever.......
              Well said tinmack. Adam, this is the exact same thing you were telling me about last week. This time your esp was backwards-we talked on the phone first then it was posted on the forum.
              Buy cheap, buy twice.

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              • #8
                Re: A day in the life of....

                Adam, thank you for the warm wishes.
                I always get "itchy" on the slow spurts.
                The talk of economic slowdown has breathed a little fire into my usual unwarranted panic.
                I'll be eating my words if in a week I'm swamped again...last month I was rediculously busy, to the extent I was almost wishing for a slowdown.
                Back and forth, it's either feast or famine...same ole same ole.

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                • #9
                  Re: A day in the life of....

                  I learned the hard way. If you underbid and underprice a couple of bad things happen. The customers you get most likely will either never pay up, or bounce the check on you. Plus they always seem to be a real pain in the ***. If you have to go back for any reason at all then you are now operating in the negative column. When you under bid, you know going in that there's not much profit there so your level of enthusiasm is low and typically you drag your feet finishing and that just takes more money from the equation. Not to mention you try to cheap the job out by cutting corners or using cheap materials etc. It's just a bad situation all and all.
                  sigpic

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                  • #10
                    Re: A day in the life of....

                    NHMaster, dead to rights on the point there.
                    I even tried to explain that to the Indian fella as he replied, yeah yeah yeah, that is all good, how much can you go down?

                    Well over a year ago I took a customer almost exactly like this, an Indian as well (not wanting to seem prejudiced, they were Indian), I did a disposal, KS faucet, Lav faucet, flapper replacement (flapper done at no charge as customer asked about it while I was there). The price I'd given was rediculously low, customer had "negotiated" with me over several phone calls, things were slow and I gave in.
                    Stared over my shoulder the whole time, asked me to redo the lav faucet when it seemed to look off center (it wasn't, but I accomodated to keep the peace). At one point I mentioned their shower valve was dripping at the valve and it was a matter of time before it showed on the condo ceiling below, gave another pathetically low price based on the fact that I was already there, had the parts and was told it was too much.
                    Once I was done with the work, the customer tried to cut the final price, took 15 minutes of back and forth reasoning just to finally get the check.

                    Six months later they call, apparently the downstairs condo had complained and were threatening to sue. Customer then demanded I agree to do it at the price I "promised" before.

                    I got three calls from this person while on another job, I finally called back to explain that I could no longer do the work, I'd forgotten how...they'd have to find someone else.
                    Got one last call half an hour later, message saying the leak was my responsibility because I had spotted it and didn't fix it when I saw it (at their price)..a last ditch effort to manipulate me to do it.
                    Utah/Marks phrase at the end of every post says it all - "I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get! ".

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                    • #11
                      Re: A day in the life of....

                      We have all been there we have all been slow it is just part of running your own business but the golden rule don`t undercut your rates to get that job as it will come back to bite you on the bum, I`m sitting here now in Aus and don`t have a job today but I couldn`t give a stuff as I know some one will ring as they have rung over the last thirty years.


                      Regards

                      Tony

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                      • #12
                        Re: A day in the life of....

                        Originally posted by AFM View Post
                        I`m sitting here now in Aus and don`t have a job today but I couldn`t give a stuff as I know some one will ring as they have rung over the last thirty years.
                        Tony, thank you.
                        I go through it prolly half a dozen times a year..every time I wind up remembering how foolishly worried I was once it picks up again.

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                        • #13
                          Re: A day in the life of....

                          Hey Duck,

                          I know its a little different on my end, but we have all been there. We had a meeting monday discussing current and future workload. Right now, I got 192 Plumbing/HVAC guys in the field and all are busy as can be, but I have a lot of large scale projects that will complete around the same time and free up half of them. BIG PROBLEM. Owner states that in 50 years he has never had a layoff and does not plan to start now, he said that what we are paid for and to figure it out.

                          To make a long story short, We had to bid a few jobs (buy them if you will) to ensure that we had work for everyone and little too Zero profit figured in. I also managed to get a few with my profit.

                          I guess what I am trying to say is that two days ago, things did not look so well, now I got a little over 13 million dollars of work coming up.

                          It can/will work out if you just stay focused and continue to provide quality work and service to your customers.

                          Regards and good luck,

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                          • #14
                            Re: A day in the life of....

                            Duck, I know this sucks but you'll bounce back on your feet soon enough. Spend this free time with the family because once work picks up you'll spend less time with them. I'm going through the same thing so I can feel your pain. Have you thought about your advertising techniques to drum up business?
                            Buy cheap, buy twice.

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                            • #15
                              Re: A day in the life of....

                              Originally posted by gear junkie View Post
                              Have you thought about your advertising techniques to drum up business?
                              Ironically had a chat with the mrs earlier...it's either too much or too little when a sole prop advertizes.
                              Invest 15K in a huge YP ad and you're working dogged to make it back, invest 1K and get one call every 6 months.

                              I wound up doing the usual, made a few calls on old tentative requests, and voila...the usual, popped a couple of jobs.

                              The idea on the O/P was insight on my work load and hearing guys like Tony above confirm thats how it is after thirty years...feast or famine.
                              I either get used to it and prep accordingly, or go back to a shop.
                              After all I been through so far, too far to turn back now.
                              I was smart enough to make sure I had a reserve when I started, always have and always will, I just get itchy when I'm not increasing it's size enough.
                              Got a call today, bumped into several estimates that I'd forgotten about that were holding till after the holidays.
                              I have a tendency to look at things through less than rose colored glasses sometimes.
                              One day it'll all sink into this thick head of mine and when it slows I'll enjoy the downtime.

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