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How to start a plumbing franchise

Demand for plumbers is very high, why not plug a hole in the market?

Who is suited to a plumbing franchise?
How does it work?
How much can I earn?
Costs
Tips for success

Plumbers have been around since the dawn of civilisation, because whenever people gather together in large settlements there is a fundamental need for clean running water.

It’s as true now as it was when the ancient Babylonians were walking the earth – we just can’t do without plumbers.

This is good news for you if you are thinking of making a living out of plumbing – unlike some businesses you can be certain that there is a demand for the services that you are providing.

In fact, demand for plumbers is very high at the moment and is likely to grow for some time to come. The Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering describes the skills shortage in the industry as ‘massive’ and complains that not enough attention has been given to establishing training schemes.

They predict a shortfall of 27,000 plumbers by 2007. While this is bad news for anyone with a broken pipe it’s good news for anyone hoping to make some money fixing them.

There have been a rash of stories in the news recently of plumbers commanding huge salaries as a result of the skills shortage in the industry.

It is simple supply and demand economics – and you will be in demand.

Who is suited to a plumbing franchise?

The stereotype of a plumber held by many people is of a stocky middle-aged working class man in grubby clothes. However, don’t let this narrow image put you off.

Plumbing now employs people from a diverse range of backgrounds and ages and there is nothing stopping you from entering the trade because you are female. The most important thing is to decide if you want to do it and if you are likely to enjoy the work.

David Powell, who runs a Reactfast plumbing franchise in Dudley, took on a female plumber as his first employee and says that he has been very lucky to have her on board. However, he admits that female plumbers are a ‘rarity’. The industry is constantly changing as new and innovative products and methods come into use. Plumbers need a good grasp of maths and will be open to new ideas for the entirety of their careers.

Some of the problems you will be solving are going to be very complex and will require some ingenuity so don’t think that this is a trade of brawn over brains.

Although it is a rewarding business, plumbing is also tough trade to pursue. It is physically demanding, involving heavy lifting, clambering up and down stairs and into peoples’ lofts and the use of spanners, wrenches and other hand-operated tools.

It can also involve working in cramped and uncomfortable conditions and sometimes involves working at heights. So if you suffer from claustrophobia or vertigo you should get first-hand experience of the plumbing trade to see if you will be able to cope doing it every day.

Needless to say it can also be a dirty job as you will be involved in ensuring sanitation is working properly, meaning you will deal with sewage and toilets. So if you are too squeamish and don’t like getting your hands dirty then this might not be the trade for you.

However, plumbing franchisees generally aim to employ plumbers to do such jobs while they manage the business. Gary Wroe took out a Drain Doctor franchise in Glasgow. He decided to get some experience in the trade before he did so and worked for a few months for a plumber for free, although this wasn’t a requirement to getting the franchise. “Franchisees aren’t expected to do the plumbing as you employ plumbers but you end up getting involved,” says Wroe. Wroe says that running the business is very hard work both physically and mentally.

“It is very hard. The hardest that I have ever worked in my life,” Wroe says. “It is a 24 hour business and the phone can ring at any time.”

David Powell agrees: “The hardest thing I found was the commitment in terms of hours. I work 81 hours a week. Not all of this is necessarily working time, but you are always on call.”

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