Plumbing is what you do. It’s what you are good at. You are proud of that LMP designation, and should be. Now, it’s time to stop plumbing. Now, it’s time to run a plumbing business.

Your ability to plumb got you where you are today. It has served you well. It will pay the bills, but it will not build a business. It will not make you wealthy. Wealth lies in your ability to build a thriving plumbing business that can run without you, one someone will want to give you millions of dollars to take off your hands.


What if you want to stay small?

If you want to stay small with one or two trucks and simply put food on the table, go for it. That’s a lifestyle business, not a saleable business. Just make sure you have plenty of insurance to protect your family in case something happens to you. Plus, make sure you set plenty aside because you are not building equity. 

The seduction of small is the illusion of freedom. You believe a lack of employees makes you free, but it is just the opposite. Instead of owning a company, you own a job and the job owns you. Sure, you can take off for an hour or even a couple of days, but you cannot take much more than that or your customers will take off for a plumbing company better able to respond.


Growth is better

You can achieve true freedom in business by building a company that runs without your continual presence. Take off for a month with the family. Ride out the pandemic in a cabin by a trout stream in the mountains or on a Caribbean island. If you build the right kind of business, it is possible, but you will never build the right kind of business from the seat of your truck.

Running a growing business is simply more fun. There’s an energy, excitement and different kind of vibe in companies that are growing. It makes people want to be a part of it.

Furthermore, few things are more empowering than the ability to delegate the things you dislike and focus on the things you enjoy. If that really is turning a wrench, hire a general manager to turn a profit and run the business while you run calls.

The end game in business is the exit. Everyone exits. The question is whether you will exit on your feet and on your terms, or on a stretcher headed to the E.R. If your kids have the plumbing gene, you can work out a way to pass the business on to them. If not, why not grow something you can sell?

There has never been a better time to sell a contracting business than right now. Private equity is pouring into the service trades looking for opportunities. This differs from the consolidation era. The consolidators preferred to pay stock, which ultimately was proved worthless. Today’s private equity concerns pay cash. 


How to grow

Someone had to teach you how to plumb. It is likely someone will need to teach you how to run your business successfully. Unless you receive professional training, you are likely to operate your business as an amateur. Fortunately, there are more resources available today than ever before and they are increasing.

If you want to go a more traditional route, it is possible to take classes at night or online. It is not easy and takes longer. It took me four years to earn a two-year business degree, but I got it, and it helped me step away from my technical background and become a businessperson. You can do the same.

Alternatively, you can join one of the contractor alliances or hire a business coach. There are several alliances serving the plumbing industry. They will give you plumbing centric business training, help you build networks with peers from around the country and pay for themselves through their buying groups. In essence, the alliances give you the best training, and they are free at the end of the day if you buy from their preferred partners.

The first step is to stop being a plumber. Stop. Start being a businessperson. Maybe you can’t get out of the truck today, but you should be working on a plan to get out of it tomorrow.