The Department of Employment & Social Development estimates there will be 13,900 new plumbers needed in Canada by 2024.
In Toronto alone, more than 7,000 are working with residential developments. Commercial and public projects are also creating demand.
But what are your chances as the owner of a plumbing service?
It’s easy to type “plumbers in Toronto” into your browser search and come up with dozens of examples. You’ll find everything from unqualified plumbers and single practitioners to franchises and co-ops.
Are you ready to join them? Are you considering opening your own plumbing service but don’t know where to start?
There are many things to consider. Read ahead for a handy guide to starting your own plumbing service.
Before You Begin Your Plumbing Service
For starters, you need your family’s support.
A regular paycheck will not be guaranteed. You’ll no longer be clocking in and clocking out at the end of the day. You’ll be spending a full day with plumbing services and then several more hours working on the business side of things.
Do you have a plan for family expenses while you build your business? Money for six months to a year’s worth of your family’s necessities should already be in the bank.
Are you an expert in marketing, accounting, finance, administration, scheduling, advertising, and human resources? If the answer is no, you need to learn quickly, find a partner, or plan on failing.
Apply for your licenses and permits. Licensing is compulsory for plumbers in most provinces and voluntary in others.
All areas require secondary school completion certificates and 4-5 years apprenticeship and coursework before examinations. You can also take additional training for a Red Seal endorsement. This is an interprovincial certification of your skills as a qualified journeyman in plumbing.
Plumbing service businesses also need to arrange for tax collection, construction bonding, liability insurance, and municipal licenses.
Plan Your Business
Think of running a successful business, not just a plumbing service.
That means planning. You are going to need money. How much money?
Think about what it takes. You probably need to purchase phones, internet service for sending plumbing bids, office furniture, GPS systems, computers and accounting software.
Do you need a truck or additional tools? How much do you need in reserve for the days (or weeks) between when you complete a job and when you get paid?
The market is crowded. How are you going to let customers know you exist? What will it cost you?
What About a Franchise?
Let’s go back to the 7,000 plumbers in Toronto. When you type “plumber Toronto” into your browser, how do you rise to the top of the list?
A franchise lets you take the name and reputation of an existing company and incorporate it into your own business. The brand name, training and support comes with a few disadvantages, including paying franchise fees and losing some control of your business structure.
To start a plumbing service by yourself, you’re looking at paying for several large expenses. These include your licensing and legal fees, a truck, and the equipment to get started, plus an employee.
With a franchise, however, you still have those expenses.
A franchise also requires a one-time buy-in fee of around $50,000 (some are as high as $150,000 to start your business via franchise). This is for your training to show you how to run your business. You also pay 7-10% of your revenue (not profit) each quarter.
A franchise allows you to skip some of the pitfalls of starting your own business and marketing a new brand. You’ll have to answer to a “boss” when it comes to anything regarding the company name.
Go Solo or Find a Partner
Maybe a franchise isn’t for you. Realistically, you are going to spend your day with tasks like:
- Invoicing clients and collecting debt
- Setting up service contracts
- Scheduling service calls and installations
- Scheduling employees
- Setting up contracts with suppliers
- Staying current with certifications, business licenses, and insurance
- Tax record keeping
- Bidding jobs
You can go it alone, as many people do. But others want a partner to share the responsibilities and risks of starting a plumbing service.
This is the business equivalent of a marriage, so choose carefully.
- Compatible work styles (you will spend many hours together)
- Professional personality (you don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to trust them)
- Shared ethics and goals
- Complementary talents (no one excels at everything)
- Financial stability (no one ever makes money at the very beginning)
Once you’ve figured out this step, it’s time to get started.
Getting the Business Started
Once you’ve jumped through the licensing and financial hoops, it’s time to get the word out about your business. Start with basics like having a website. Look at your logo and keywords to make sure they link back to you.
List your telephone number. Pass out your business cards to local affiliated trades like HVAC and general construction firms. Flyers to homeowners or businesses might be effective.
Offer yourself as an expert. Many newspapers, websites, and magazines publish tips for homeowners. Be the expert they call for a quote. Don’t forget social media channels like Nextdoor, Facebook, and Twitter.
Use the internet to your advantage. Make sure you use keywords that appeal to your customers like “freezeproof faucets,” “fast re-pipes Ontario,” or “emergency water damage.”
Get word of mouth referrals from people who have used your services. A loyalty program or referral discount can be helpful.
Starting your plumbing service in Toronto or elsewhere requires plenty of consideration.
Like any small business, you must be an expert in your trade and willing to find an expert in other areas.