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Your committment to the customer?

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  • Your committment to the customer?

    I hope you don't mind the wind here fellas - I appreciate it in advance if you take the time to read this:

    I've been in the trade for about 4 1/2 years now. One of the things that inspired me as I got into the trade is I wanted to learn how to do things right, and pay attention to the details because details are important in this trade, and I know they can cost you money if you don't pay attention to them. Because I want whomever I am doing the work for, to be able to sleep at night. I also want them to recognize me as a professional, and good work, at decent rates, by a professional, I feel will get me a good reputation. But I don't exactly plan on going out on my own.

    I started the trade working for a company that did mainly new construction condo's and a few commercial projects like the odd warehouse gas job, vehicle dealership, and such. I did a few condo's and got some really good skills, but I found doing condo's was a little boring and monotonous over time.

    So I decided to try something different. I switched to a company that mainly does high end homes in the British Properties (mainly) of Vancouver, BC. The company I currently work for started small several years back and was small up until about 4 years ago, where all of a sudden it has exploded. They company I work for specializes originally in plumbing and hydronic (boilers/geothermal) heating, with a small hvac side for mainly some HRV ducting and bathroom fans, with the odd fan coil mixed in for a bit of heating and/or cooling from a geothermal system. When I started with the company about 2 years ago it was about 20-25 guys. Now my company is around 45-50 guys. We have grown so fast in the past few years, that all the important things, like a company safety program, company manuals and policies which all the other big companies have, haven't happened yet. My company is starting to take on bigger risk (read: bigger jobs). Instead of small to big houses - from boiler re & re's to full complete mechanical spec's of houses, we're now looking at huge projects. The original reason I wanted to do this kind of work was I wanted to have more specialized experience, which I have gained (condo's dont' give you that really), but I feel as though because we've gotten so big and so busy lately, that we've forgotten about the customer. All those little anal details I used to worry about - every little detail that made our mechanical rooms absolutely insanely important, well we don't seem to have much time for.

    Now my company is more balanced mechanically. We essentially picked up some really good people who had a falling out from their previous company, who are very well versed in sheet metal design and sheet metal/forced air types of heating. Essentially a migration of about 10 guys came over to us from this company, which has really helped balance us out.

    We still have a few of those small jobs, but they don't seem to garner the attention they deserve anymore like the larger projects we are undertaking are doing. Don't get me wrong - some of the larger projects, for example one condo project we are doing, are cutting edge in some ways. One condo project we are doing has geothermal with boiler back up radiant heating, radiant cooling, a rainwater gray water system to flush the toilets and do the laundry, solar heated domestic hot water with boiler back up, HRV's for every suite, we've started using the only pipe that is approved by greenpeace for this job which is fusiotherm (basically PP that is fused together with a fusion iron). But since I've been working at one of the condo sites for the past 2 1/2 weeks, I have quickly realized why I stopped working on condo's. I'm at the point now where when the guy I'm covering for gets back from school, I"m going to tell him that I'm off condo's.

    One of the things that irks me is the guy who I apprenticed under for a while, who taught me quite a lot as far as working on high end homes, and used to be on top of every last little detail and taught about some pretty good skills on how to make things look and act perfect, is the foreman if this large job and it's almost like jekyll and hyde, where he has gone from extreme perfection to slap it int. I mean I guess he still emphasizes good workmanship, but things like I've questioned him as to why we're using rehau pipe with crimp rings, which I believe if I'm not mistaken is only warranted for 5 years, where as if we used the proper bowpex, I believe it's warranted for 25 years, yet the mains we are using connected by fusion are warranted for 50 years if I'm not mistaken. Yes, it's just a warranty and it shouldn't be an issue, but at the end of the day it really reeks of not giving a rats *** about the customer but just slapping it in, and getting your foreman's profit check at the end of the job.

    The one thing that is cool about working on houses is you get to meet the homeowner you are building for. In some cases when you are doing high end homes you meet a few pompous asses, but some of them are pretty respectful and unique and it makes you want to work harder and better for them aside from the pay cheque. Working on condo's doesn't give you that same reward. In some ways it's equivocal to working in a kitchen and only putting the food up on the pass bar as fast as you can, as opposed to putting the food up on the pass bar, watching the food go out to the customer and watching the customer eat the food you just made. It makes a big difference in your perception when you can see and meet the customer, and it's one of the reasons I got out of building condo's.

    And some may say the grass isn't greener on the other side. This is true. Part of me yearns for some structure, something my company doesn't have right now despite it's size. WE don't have an protocols, there are some people in the office who are from the company that moved over, that I cant figure out what they do still. I have an issue where if a customer wants to get on our "apparent" service plan to service the heating system we have installed (we have a small service section - like 1 guy, plus I do the odd service call here and there for heating or plumbing troubles at times), I don't know who to tell in the office who I know will follow through on this in a professional tone that will let the customer feel at ease.

    I guess what I am saying is I feel what my company is lacking some respects, is remembering the customer. If you forget the customer, you are screwed. But you have to see my point a little further. When I say a customer, I'm not just talking about the guy that you work at his house and he pays your bills for your work. A customer starts at the top and works its way down. The customer starts at the boss. Yes he is paying you your wage, but if you don't buy into the system, if you don't feel taken care of in some respects as an employee, you are not a customer of his. I also see a lot more distnace between my boss who I hardly ever see anymore on any job as of late, especially since we have gotten so much bigger.

    Some will say "well you're just an installer," but for each and every plumber I think there is more to it then that. Sure if you want to just install pipe and fittings and lift this and move that you can have a decent career. But some people get and want more out of it then just do work get paid. Some people, like myself, want to genuinely help people and get a wage for doing it. Some people want their customers to sleep at night knowing they got professional work with all the details looked after. Perhaps my personality may only suit a few different types of customers but that's fine.

    Part of me wonders if the grass is greener on the other side, but then part of me wonders if I should start watering the lawn myself and start taking things into my own hands if I dont like them, which I may do at some point. I don't like to rock the boat but there are several things missing.


    Do you see my point at all?

  • #2
    Re: Your committment to the customer?

    Sounds to me like you like working for smaller outfits. I was much the same way, and after 8 or 9 years working for someone else decided to become my own boss.

    Greg

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    • #3
      Re: Your committment to the customer?

      Is this what you are feeling?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYwO8nR8oUA

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Your committment to the customer?

        sounds to me like your ready to go on your own scott.

        there is only a couple of companies here to work for. i'v seen the way they do their work. i've seen the repairs. not to my standard.

        anybody can throw it in. a craftsman makes it look and function at it best. i hear you.

        i was installing a $500 faucet at a lawyer's house in montreal.
        just before i left the shop, my little 72 yo boss whispered to me, "Wince, don't skatch it".

        i was given that job because of my attention to detail. my boss recognized what my abilities and skills where.

        ever thought about asking your boss for more challenging type jobs. maybe maintanence? system design or job costing?

        expand your knowledge. expand your world.

        look north.

        you've obviously developed a sincere appreciation for the customer.

        without the customer's needs, we're nothing.

        keep it up.

        p.s. the job's not over 'til the cleanup's done.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Your committment to the customer?

          scott, welcome to the world of production plumbing.

          that's what i did for 13 years, but on a much larger scale.

          after that company closed, i went to a company that primarily did schools and government work.

          2 years later and 1 big earthquake, i went on my own full time.

          that was 13 years ago.

          guess what?

          i do it my way. and my way has been very, very good to me

          rick.

          by the way, i still see and go to dinner with the old boss.
          phoebe it is

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Your committment to the customer?

            Originally posted by Vince the Plumber View Post
            sounds to me like your ready to go on your own scott.

            there is only a couple of companies here to work for. i'v seen the way they do their work. i've seen the repairs. not to my standard.

            anybody can throw it in. a craftsman makes it look and function at it best. i hear you.

            i was installing a $500 faucet at a lawyer's house in montreal.
            just before i left the shop, my little 72 yo boss whispered to me, "Wince, don't skatch it".

            i was given that job because of my attention to detail. my boss recognized what my abilities and skills where.

            ever thought about asking your boss for more challenging type jobs. maybe maintanence? system design or job costing?

            expand your knowledge. expand your world.

            look north.

            you've obviously developed a sincere appreciation for the customer.

            without the customer's needs, we're nothing.

            keep it up.

            p.s. the job's not over 'til the cleanup's done.
            Look North??? You guys are in Canada!!

            Just kidding...good point!

            Comment

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