Roger Peugeot and thousands of other contractors love it despite the bumps.
Roger Peugeot, owner
of a well-known plumbing firm (Roger the Plumber) in a Kansas City suburb,
where he also hosts a radio talk show on plumbing, was featured in a Wall
Street Journal article Sept. 15, 2009. I hope many of you saw the piece, titled
“Plumbing for Joy? Be Your Own Boss.” It was written for the “Work &
Family” column that appeared in the Personal Journal section of that day. If
you missed it, maybe you can pull it up from the archives by going to http://online.wsj.com
and doing a search on the story title. It’s worth reading.
Aside from the kick we get at seeing an old friend and industry stalwart make national
news, the message of that article has a lot of meaning for PM readers. The article cited a recent survey by the Gallup organization in
conjunction with Healthways, a health management firm, evaluating how occupation
affects happiness. Peugeot was interviewed not as a plumber per se, but as
representative of business owners, the category that ranked highest in overall
happiness among 11 occupations surveyed.
Those of us who know Roger were not surprised to see him portrayed as a
happy-go-lucky person. That’s his nature. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that
about every plumbing contractor - not by a long shot - but I will say that he’s
not at all unusual in this industry. During my long career I’ve been blessed to
become acquainted with thousands of PHC contractors and the vast majority of
them have struck me as basically happy people.
This is not to say they don’t gripe and grouse about myriad business problems.
Heck, this magazine has made its living detailing their complaints over the last
25 years! But as the WSJ
article made clear, most business owners find happiness despite their bumps and
bruises, despite putting in long and grueling hours, despite this dreadful
economy. Here’s how Roger Peugeot explained it to the WSJ reporter:
“Even when things are out of your control,
as they are with this economy, you’re still in control of your (customer)
relationships. (Corporate managers and executives may) sit and wonder if
they’re going to be laid off, or get frustrated with the inabilities of
management,” Peugeot was quoted as saying. “If you’re the owner, you may have
to say, ‘I screwed up,’ but it’s a lot better than saying, ‘I didn’t deserve
There, in a nutshell, lay the essence of what makes business owners happy. Oh,
a case might be made that money is the biggest motivator, and for many owners
that’s certainly true. However, I’ve also met plenty of contractors who make
barely more and occasionally less than some of their key employees, yet are
content with their lot in life. To them, being in control, i.e., being their
own boss, is paramount in value.
In another sense, it’s hard to separate the money issue from control when it
comes to entrepreneurs. Owning a business entails the prospect of earning a
much bigger income than most people can obtain from even the best employment
opportunities. But the flip side of lavish reward is plenty of risk. Business
owners risk losing not only their livelihood, as is also the case with
employees, but additionally everything invested in the business whether it be
their own capital or money put up by lenders, family or friends. The
risk-vs.-reward equation cannot be solved without the integer of control that
drives the entrepreneurial spirit.
Being in control surely is a lot more fun when business is booming than in this
miserable economy. Yet most PHC contractors and business owners in general will
end up surviving precisely because they are in control of their businesses.
Throughout our economy, hard decisions have been made with regard to
cost-cutting. Good employees have been let go. Long-range plans have been put
on hold or altered. Many business relationships have come to a crashing halt.
But in the end, when the recession finally turns around, the companies that are
left standing will be stronger because of the discipline imposed by all the
hardship - and the control exerted by the owners.
Recruiting talented people to the pipe trades has been the No. 1 problem faced
by the industry for many years. In my opinion, most recruiters haven’t
effectively used the strongest ammo in their arsenal - touting the opportunity
to become a business owner. Plumbers have a clear road in that direction
compared to most other careers they are likely to pursue. Read that WSJ article and clip it out for future use in
Happiness Is … Owning A Business
November 1, 2009