Encountering the future: If you don’t believe the industry is changing you need to get out of the way
The other day I was talking to a young man who has an interest in working in my franchise organization. He has a business degree from a very prestigious university. A very expensive and rather exclusive institution, I might add.
He has worked for my mother ship Plumbing Doctor franchise in the past digging holes and doing grunt work; you know, the kind of hard, filthy stuff nobody wants to do, but it has to get done and somebody has to do it and that somebody is usually the newest or most inexperienced crew members.
It was interesting to me, that after four years of higher education and being awarded a degree and having experienced enough of the plumbing service industry to frighten a normal person, he is back in my office. I would have thought he had seen enough of this industry to reconsider making it a career option. I remember hearing how he was abused and misused by the plumbers who had charge over him for the two summers he worked here. I wondered why he was back — certainly he could land a better job than being a grunt at Plumbing Doctor.
Now, I have nothing but respect for the hard working, loyal guys whose job it is to do the heavy lifting and the most physically demanding of the daily duties required. I know what that is like, because I was one of them. I started with a shovel and it stunk, literally.
Ok, here it is. The smart kid with the pricey degree is in my office discussing opportunities because he realizes that in my company there is no ceiling. He also realizes that in the plumbing service industry there is no ceiling.
Is this the kind of stuff one learns in college? I just can’t believe he was in a college lecture hall listening to a professor wax on about the opportunities of a plumber. I don’t really know because I’ve never been to college and probably never will know because college is not something I see in my future. Plus, even if I did want to go, I don’t think my GED would qualify me; but that’s a different conversation.
I claim that there is no ceiling [in the industry] for my employees because we offer a career path that can lead to business ownership. Maybe my lack of higher education causes my thinking to be distorted, but it works. It works for me, and my employees. Let me explain.
It is my desire to provide an opportunity for every employee in my company to one day own and operate their very own business. I have provided that pathway for two former employees so far and hope to do it for many more.
I will encourage and support those interested for the qualifying of, study for and give them administration assistance to successfully get through the application process so they can acquire their contractor’s license, and I’ll even pay their testing fees. The one thing I can’t do is take the test for them. That’s all on them.
Some of my colleagues have questioned my sanity on this concept and would never offer their employees the chance to be a competitor, let alone encourage it or fund it. I’ve heard things like “if I teach them too much, they will go into business for themselves and steal my customers.” I see it differently. If I help them achieve success and a dream, we will be friends forever. I also see that together we can service more and more clients and expand the Plumbing Doctor brand, thus build brand equity for everybody involved. No glass ceiling here.
Now let’s address the absence of a ceiling in the plumbing service industry as I see it. There are a number of reasons I believe our industry provides an unlimited opportunity. I won’t go into great detail because I don’t have the space in this column, so I’ll just touch on three key reasons.
The plumbing service industry is fragmented. This means there are few brands on a local, regional or national level. Most industries are consolidated by national brands; think auto parts, used auto sales and pest control as examples. Not so in the plumbing service category. Therefore the opportunity to bring a brand to the local, regional and national consumer is very real and available.
The plumbing service industry is somewhat unsophisticated. Meaning the typical proprietor is not particularly tech-savvy. Whether you like it or not, whether you agree or not, our industry is being driven by technology. Everything from lead generation to payment processing is becoming an exercise in technology.
The plumbing service industry is aging. The guys in the truck today are aging out and tomorrow they will be gone. As an industry we have neglected to prepare a replenishment strategy. We are already feeling the strain of not having replacements coming up through the ranks. The future will go to those business leaders in our industry who can figure out a way to recruit and train millennials and the generation that follows them. The future is generations Y and Z and they are here. I believe we need to appeal to them by offering an opportunity without a ceiling. Let’s get real. Our industry is unappealing to most young people.
Let me ask you this. When was the last time you had a 23-year-old, college-educated guy with two summers of grunt experience sitting in your office looking for a career?
Perhaps it’s time, or even past time, that we begin to take a fresh look at our business model, make necessary strategic adjustments and prepare for the future. Offering a career path that has no ceiling for your employees assures longevity and sustainability.
The Doctor is out.