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Investment strategies for plumbers

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Plumbers are always in demand, which is good news if you want to expand your business. We explain how to grow your plumbing outfit by investing where it counts.

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Investment strategies for plumbers
If you’re considering specialising, be sure to find out what qualifications and expertise you need.

A recent study found that by 2030 the UK will have a shortage of more than 50,000 plumbers. Of course, that doesn’t mean every plumber who wants to grow their firm will be the next Charlie Mullins, the famous founder of the trailblazing Pimlico Plumbers. But with a robust plan, you could start to move in the right direction.  

How to grow a plumbing business

Building a plumbing business takes time and money, but the rewards can be great if you get it right. 

To give yourself the best chance of success you’ll need time to consider several issues and strategies.

Do you have time to grow your plumbing business?

Turning down work because you’re too busy may be a good indicator that you should consider expanding. But you’ll need a plan and this takes time. It’s easy to put this off when you’re busy, but giving yourself the time you need to form a strategy should pay dividends in the long term.

Is there anything you can change about your business right now?

Before all else, give your business an MOT by looking for elements that aren’t working well. For example, ask yourself whether: 

  • You’re accepting small jobs that are too far away, costing you too much time and fuel 

  • You have staff members who aren’t pulling their weight

  • You’re using pricey suppliers

  • You’re not charging a competitive rate for your services

A bit of research will answer most of these questions. For instance, you could mystery-call local firms to get quotes for the type of work you cover. 

You can also visit different supplier websites to compare prices and see what trade discounts they offer. Also, try to work out how much time is wasted on long journeys to and from small jobs – and don’t forget to factor in fuel costs.

Identify your target market

Once you’ve reassessed your business, you can start to plan for the future, beginning with how you envisage your business growing. For example:

  • Do you see your firm growing into a larger version of itself, with more plumbers on staff?

  • Are you looking to specialise in a particular field of work, such as heat pump installation?

  • Do you want to open satellite operations to cover a wider area, or would you prefer to stay local?

Note: Whatever your plan, it’s worth seeing if you’d be eligible for government funding in the form of a grant or a loan, including loans for start-ups. You’ll need to show three years of accounts and have a strong business plan to receive one of these.

Get some training

If you’re considering specialising, be sure to find out what qualifications and expertise you need. Speak with experts in your chosen field, or perhaps contact a plumbing industry body for advice, such as the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers

You may benefit from training even if you’re sticking to what you know, as upscaling your business could mean working on more complex projects. 

Become an employer

The chances are that if you’re planning to expand, you’ll be working near to capacity. As such, any expansion will probably require more hands, including:

  • Seasoned plumbers who are experienced in the type of jobs you take on

  • Specialist plumbers or heat engineers who can pass on their expertise to your team

  • Plumbers’ mates, who your team can train

  • Sub-contractors for specialist work on jobs that your team can’t fulfil

Get a business bank account

Relying on paper invoices and your personal bank account may have sufficed when you were first starting out, but times have changed. Today’s business bank accounts can offer a raft of benefits, including:

Generate leads for your plumbing business

Most people use the internet to search for plumbers near them. Investing in online advertising will give your firm’s profile a lift. But appearing near the top of the first results page is even better. 

Unless you’re an expert at search engine optimisation (SEO), you might want to employ a company that will help you generate leads for your plumbing business. They do this by developing your company website and ensuring the words, phrases and images that appear chime with those people use when searching for plumbers. 

Keep the customer satisfied

Companies offering SEO training tend to provide other services that can help you win customers. Benefits on offer include:

  • Providing customer-facing software that’ll manage your online reviews, alert you when your company is mentioned, and generate customer feedback surveys

  • Setting up scheduling software linked to mobile apps, so your appointment calendar is always up-to-date

  • Introducing strategies to staff so they make a good first impression when visiting customers and tackle problems in a positive manner

  • Boosting your social media presence, so customers can leave feedback and help spread the word about your firm

Note: Unsurprisingly, you can find SEO experts by searching online.

Get networking

A successful and ambitious plumbing firm can make serious headway just by cultivating relationships with other businesses. A good relationship with a local parts supplier could result in discounts if your growing firm buys in bulk. 

Fostering relations with building firms operating in your area and your Local Government Authority could see you get some work off the back of their projects. 

It’s also worth wooing local estate agents, who could pass on your details to buyers and sellers who need plumbing work done. 

What are the risks of scaling up a plumbing business?

Ambition may be the key to success in business, but it can backfire. It’s estimated that around three-quarters of startups fail because they try to do too much too soon, with some of the main reasons for the upset being:

  • A lack of a solid customer base

  • Taking on large contracts without experience

  • Taking on more staff than you can afford

  • A failure to budget properly for marketing (including social media)

  • Unavoidable downturns in the economy

How to avoid the risks of expanding

Successful firms avoid failure by remaining open to ideas and regularly reviewing their business plan. Having a solid strategy in place at the start is one thing, but don’t just plough on with it regardless. If the work landscape shifts, change your plant to go with it. With the right approach, there’s no reason why you can’t successfully expand your plumbing business. After all, it’s not like there’s a lack of work out there.

Business insurance is a way to protect your company against financial risk if things go wrong.

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