Anne Timpany, founder of the On Tap Toolbox Academy, provides advice on making the jump from a domestic business to a commercial one.
With the growth in construction that’s been happening in recent years, you may be considering putting your business forward for larger plumbing and heating projects.
On the surface, these jobs look to be great money earners and enable you to grow your business faster. However, before you start quoting for these types of jobs, then you need to consider several things first.
In 2014, the plumbing company I run, ATRA Living (formerly known as On Tap Plumbers), decided to take the leap from domestic to commercial plumbing works. Our main objective was to grow our plumbing business and, in order to do that as quickly as we wanted, we decided that undertaking larger jobs would help us meet this goal. This meant that we had to make some important decisions about our business as it was at that time.
We had built up a successful domestic plumbing firm and had loyal clients such as homeowners, property managers, and small project building firms, however we saw opportunities and decided to take them.
In order to really commit to changing our business, it meant that we had to turn down all domestic work and tell our clients that we could no longer service them. It was nerve-wracking and risky, but we weighed up the options and strongly believed that the timing was ideal, as the London landscape was starting to change dramatically, with cranes popping up across the capital. There was (and still is) a severe shortage of plumbers in the commercial construction industry, meaning there was a lot of work available for the taking.
These were a few of the biggest advantages for us when we considered taking on larger projects:
Rather than spending a lot of time and money trying to get a high volume of small plumbing jobs from a large number of clients, instead we invested our efforts into acquiring just a couple of clients that operated in the construction industry.
If you build up a good relationship with your client, then construction contractors will give you regular work. In the early days, we only took on three to four construction projects per year, now we take on a maximum of five to eight construction projects per year, depending on the size of the jobs, and we get that work from just four clients.
We started out with smaller commercial projects to get us started, with values in the approximate region of £5,000-10,000. At the same time, we also undertook other types of work so we could protect the business should anything happen to the larger jobs, such as non-payment by a client.
The larger jobs give you more security in that you will have guaranteed work for longer periods. It didn’t take long before my husband and fellow Director of the company, Raff, was off the tools and had the opportunity to develop a team of plumbers working directly for him.
Another great advantage is that commercial work is mostly undertaken on the weekdays – Monday to Friday, 7am-5pm – so this reduced weekend and overtime working that Raff would’ve had to do on a regular basis working on domestic jobs. This was really important to us as it meant that we could have time off to spend with our family on the weekends.
Before we started out on this journey, it was difficult to find any assistance or advice. We had to rely on people in the industry that were prepared to impart their knowledge and help us understand how we should do things like pricing bigger jobs, tendering, negotiating, winning the jobs we spent so much time estimating, and then how we operationally deliver them.
There are a number of great advantages of working as a commercial plumbing and heating contractor but, in order to succeed at it, you need to understand so many new skills that will enable you to change your business model.
Visit On Tap Toolbox for more business advice and tips: www.ontaptoolbox.com.
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