How To Start A Plumbing Business

Working as a plumber is a lucrative career – but you can really take your financial future to the next level by venturing out on your own and starting your own plumbing business. 

Working “in the trenches” as a plumber has specific demands that plenty of world-class tradesmen master, but learning how to take on the entrepreneurial challenge of building a plumbing business from scratch is an entirely different animal altogether.

plumbing business

The trouble is a lot of great plumbers don’t look at this as a new challenge but instead look to simply “be their own boss” while doing the same work they were already doing for someone else. It should come as no surprise that a lot of these kinds of plumbing businesses fail within five years. 

Below you’ll find all the inside information you need to know about how to start a successful plumbing business from scratch, walking you step-by-step through the process while covering all of the bases.

How To Start A Successful Plumbing Business In 2020

We talk about knocking out market research, building an effective business plan, securing the licensing and insurance you need, the marketing and advertising you’ll need to succeed, and so much more. 

Obtain Your State Mandated Plumbing License and Certifications

The very first thing you need to do to start your own plumbing business is to secure the necessary licenses and certifications that legally allow you to do such.

  • First, you need to become a licensed plumber before you can own this kind of operation. This can take anywhere from 2 to 6 years for an apprentice plumber to get their masters license and have the freedom to build this kind of business from the ground up. 
  • Each individual state is going to have its own unique requirements and timeline that dictate what you’ll need to do to get your master plumber’s license.

A quick Google search will shine a light in the right direction as can a quick call to a local plumbing organization – or you could even ask your current plumbing employer for more details.

As a general rule, however, you’ll have to move through the certification process to become a plumbing apprentice, past your licensing examination to become a licensed plumber, and then (some states and municipalities will differ) see if you meet the requirements to become a master plumber.

The timeline for each of these steps is going to be unique to your situation and your location, but expect anywhere between two and six years from start to finish.

Dive Into Market Research 

After you have secured your license and are legally able to start a plumbing operation you’ll want to jump headfirst into market research.

For starters, you need to get a lay of the land in regard to the kind of competition you’re going to be dealing with your local area. 

You’ll want to know how many other plumbing companies you’re up against, the reputation that they have in the local area, the kinds of jobs that they specialize in, the pricing that they offer, and anything else that may be valuable to you as a new business.  

You’ll want to know about the kind of plumbing projects are commonplace in your area (residential versus commercial, for example), and what you might be able to offer that could separate you apart from the rest of the pack immediately. 

plumber talking to customer

It’s never a bad idea to sort of x-ray the marketing and advertising approaches of your competition either. 

You’ll want to have a look at what they do right as well as what they do wrong to see where you can make changes, optimize, and build your business on the back of the heavy lifting (and the investment in marketing and advertising) your competitors have already handled for you.

Build Out Your Business Plan 

After a closer look at your market and the lay of the land, so to speak, it’s time to start building up your business plan.

This document is going to lay down the foundation for almost every other aspect of your business so it’s a good idea to set aside a month or more to really flesh it out. You definitely don’t want to find yourself rushing through this. 

You’ll need to name your business effectively, you’ll need to figure out the area and the locale that you are going to serve with your plumbing solutions, and you’ll need to outline how you are going to best provide those solutions as well. 

The market research you’ve already done will help you flesh out the demographics you’re going to target, the niche you’re going to fill, and the competitive advantage that you are going to leverage to give yourself an opportunity for success right out of the gate. 

You’ll also want to include information about your pricing formulas in your business plan as that’s going to be hugely important information that lenders will want a real close look at when you head out for financing if you need it.

Business goals are going to need to be established, milestones will need to be outlined, and a plan of action to accomplish both will need to be described in detail throughout this document.

A lot of people recommend building out a business plan to five years, but in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape it might be a better idea to plan really aggressively for the first 2 to 3 years with “stretch goals” that expand out to five that can be a little bit fuzzier. 

Remember that these are goals you modify, adjust, and alter on-the-fly as you deal with the day to day realities of running a plumbing business.

Figure Out Your Financing Details 

After your business plan has been carefully put together and reviewed from top to bottom it’s time to start seeking out financing for your business.

There is an almost unlimited amount of options available to pick and choose from when it comes to financing these days, but most choose to go the traditional route of semi self-funding with personal savings and getting the rest from a local bank or credit union. 

  • The Small Business Administration offers great loans to small businesses in the United States and should be something you look into as well, with other private lending organizations. 

The odds are pretty good that you’re going to need at least a little bit of outside money brought into your plumbing business in the beginning, to get up off the ground floor.

  • At the same time, you want to be careful that you aren’t giving up any equity along the way – retaining ownership and control over your business. 

Secure Insurance and Bonds

In parallel with shopping for financing and putting your business plan together, you’ll also want to start looking into what it takes to get business insurance for your plumbing operation and to be fully bonded at the same time. 

Insurance companies are going to be able to help you find the right plan for your specific operation, but you’ll likely need liability insurance as well as Worker’s Compensation insurance (and potentially a couple of other insurance packages) to fully protect your plumbing business. 

Surety bonds are required by the overwhelming majority of states in the US when it comes to companies in the trades. Your local licensing organization or state officials can help you further understand the type of surety bonds you may need to secure before you are able to legally offer your plumbing services going forward.

Knock Out a Marketing and Advertising Plan

marketing plumbing company

It’s impossible to have any success as a business – plumbing or otherwise – without a plan right from day one to bring new customers into your business. 

Your plumbing marketing and your advertising are at least as important as the services that you provide as a plumbing operation, and you have to be 100% sure that they are dialed in, and are working to help you build your business as aggressively as possible (especially in the beginning stages).

Traditional marketing like direct mail and local advertising spots on TV and radio (as well as print advertising and billboards) are highly effective for service-based businesses like plumbing operations. 

Online marketing (SEO & Google Ads) is a huge piece of the puzzle and you want to be sure that you are covering all of your bases across the board. 

If you’re having a tough time with marketing and advertising it’s never a bad idea to bring in some experts to help handle the heavy lifting for you.

Once you get a sales and marketing funnel that works you can sort of autopilot things while testing and tinkering different strategies from there. But you absolutely have to have a plan to bring new customers in, to retain customers and clients over the long haul, and to earn referrals that grow your business through word-of-mouth.

Organize Your Logistical Backend  

Your logistical backend (how you’ll handle the administrative side of your business) is something that often goes overlooked with a lot of plumbing operations – and small businesses in general – but this is not a mistake you can afford to make.

You’ll need to have a plan in place for hiring plumbers, for organizing jobs, for purchasing supplies, for handling payroll, for covering all of your business expenses, for scheduling different projects at different times, and basically for handling all of the other “office work”.

A logistical pile up can kill an otherwise fantastic business faster than anything else. Be sure that you have your logistics dialed in before you forge a path forward.  

Equip and Staff Your Business 

Chances are good that you will already have a lot of the plumbing tools and supplies before starting your plumbing business. 

Regardless, you need to make sure that your business has a plan in place and plenty of financing to fully equip and staff you and your employees. 

You’ll want to use a decent chunk of money to invest in top-tier equipment and tools, to provide vehicles for your plumbers to use, to cover fuel expenses, and to cover all of the office technology and tools you’ll need to handle logistics as well. 

The last thing you want to do is find your plumbers are under equipped to tackle a job that they have been hired to do, forcing them to take longer to complete projects (holding up the money) or compromise the quality of service you’ve promised to provide (crippling your success). 

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to run out and spend a mountain of money on brand-new tools, brand-new trucks, and brand-new computers throughout the office but it does mean you need to invest heavily in the success of your company and that starts right from day one.

Invest in Regular Training and Education 

Speaking of investing heavily in the success of your company, it’s important to have a plan of action in place to make sure that you aren’t only able to bring aboard apprentices that want to get started in the plumbing career themselves but that you also have a plan to train, educate, and equip those apprentices while they are employed by you. 

The fundamentals of plumbing haven’t changed all that much since technology was invented but the tools, as well as the approaches used to implement plumbing solutions, have all changed dramatically and will continue to do so from here on out. 

Make sure that your plumbers are encouraged to take advantage of training opportunities and educational programs to become better plumbers than they were when they started with you and you’ll find that the services and solutions you offer surpass your competitors – and your business flourishes because of it!

About the author 

Ryan Thompson is a residential and commercial plumber from Miami, Florida. He has over 20+ years of plumbing experience. He is also a huge DIY enthusiast who does all types of improvement projects around the house.

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