Not every plumbing business will become a nationwide giant, but everyone wants to grow at some point. Something managers don't often realise is that rapid, unplanned expansion can potentially be as detrimental as stagnation.
It is easy to underestimate the risks of rapid growth that can introduce process inefficiencies, cash flow problems, workload increase, and more.
Before expanding your plumbing business, think about implementing these checks and balances to ensure that your business retains it's most valuable advantages and ensures continuous, sustained, and manageable growth.
1. Invest In Your Employees
The foundation of every field service business is its employees. Small teams are easy to manage and organize, but rapidly growing teams can cost you quality service. You will soon lose that "small business feel," the personal touch that makes pop-and-son plumbing businesses so popular among residential and commercial clients alike.
To make sure that your customers get the same friendly and satisfactory service, you will need to invest in brand culture and training.
Build Company Culture
Company culture is all about your shared values, approach to work, and common beliefs. It guides what you do and how you do it, ultimately reflecting in some way through every employee. For example, some companies value open communication and innovation, while others focus on building a sense of family and camaraderie.
You need to establish what your culture's DNA is and instill it in every new and existing employee. This way, you can ensure that your most valuable attributes are propagated as the company grows. Think about customer-centric service, respect, attention to detail, teamwork, safety-first approach, punctuality, and many more.
Investing in your employees also means adequate, continuous training to ensure competency across your range of services. Expansion usually involves an increased range of services, and you likely have to ensure both new and existing team members are well qualified. Conduct continuous training on things like safety and new trends in the industry to keep everyone at the top of their game.
2. Create a Sustainable Business Structure
Many small plumbing contractor businesses have a very simple organisational structure. They probably have a few employees reporting to the owner, marketing is by referral or word of mouth, and all administrative duties such as insurance, tax, and bookkeeping are done by the owner.
Such a simple organization structure will soon feel the pressure as the business begins to grow. With more plumbing technicians, more projects, more clients, and more administrative work to handle, it becomes important to have a robust and organised internal structure. Every employee needs to clearly understand their role and what are the accepted business practices.
Successful organisation charts use a structure of five technicians reporting directly to one supervisor. This way, there is enough administrative oversight while maintaining a decent level of autonomy in the field.
Ensure that you have a strong but agile team that can deal with changes during this growth phase. In addition to the points highlighted in #1 above, be sure to hire new team members very carefully and onboard them fully with proper field training and regular evaluation. To do this successfully, you will also need ways of measuring performance and productivity.
3. Implement Standardised Workflows to Ensure Consistent Quality of Service
Process standardisation is a key trend in the plumbing industry and also one of the ways that your business can achieve maturity. It allows administrators to unify teams and assure consistent quality of service to clients while aiming for higher quality standards.
Most commonly this is managed using workflow management software. These step-by-step workflow guides tell technicians what to do for various common tasks such as installations, repairs, and maintenance schedules.
However, standardisation is not simply about getting everybody to do things the same way. It is about establishing best practices and standards that ensure maximum efficiency, safety, and performance in the field so that clients are assured of the same value of service.
4. Use Field Service Management Tools for Maximum Efficiency
The lack of hands-on management (as would be the case with a small team) means that a strong system capable of managing and monitoring field teams is necessary.
Field service management tools are portable software platforms that allow functions such as dispatch, work order management, job scheduling, and customer management to be managed easily and efficiently from the office.
Without such tools, it would take a lot of man-hours, manual planning, and paperwork to get every project scheduled and running smoothly. When you have a large team to manage, you either hire more administrative assistants or get the right tools to keep things going. This will allow you to ensure proper performance in the field even when you are not actually there.
5. Plan Installations Accurately With Digital Floor Plan and Plumbing Estimation Software
The days of eyeballing installation sites and designing plans on the fly are long gone. You cannot standardise installation designs until you find a standard method for your technicians to develop floor reliable plans and estimate costs so that you can sign off on them.
Plumbing plan design and takeoff estimation allows plumbing contractors to get started on projects much more quickly and with more accurate cost estimation than ever before. Thanks to standardised planning and design, you can significantly reduce the time spent on quoting and estimating. More importantly, you will get more quotes and tenders out the door to increase the volume of work coming in.
Groundplan is the premier estimating software for plumbing businesses in Australia and beyond, helping plumbing contractors to digitize labour and parts estimating as well as installation planning and design. Not only does Groundplan help you standardise your installation planning, you get to save time on quoting, free up man-hours, and grow your business.
Try Groundplan free for 14 days to get a feel of just how this powerful platform can help you free up those man-hours and grow your business.