How plumbers can benefit from "apprentices"



First of all, and some of you may know from my previous posts - I went on a "fast track" course a couple of years ago and am now earning a crust as a self-employed plumber. I know that this is a controversial subject so will not dwell on it. However, I am earning well (busy 33% of first year then busy 90%+ through the last six months and no I'm not charging low - often the opposite) and keeping my customers happy.

Eighteen months ago I got some work from another plumber (met him on a job). He had a couple of weeks work on an extension and needed some help. He took a risk and took me on at £110 a day. A month later he called me up again to help him... then again on another job.

To some extent it was not an easy choice for him. The first job I was a lot of help but "a little slow" and, as he said, "it's a hard choice deciding whether to work harder and keep more money or split it with another." He was not completely booked up so needed all the work he could get. He has also been a great asset to me in another way - if I got stuck on a job then I could contact him for advice. On one ocassion he turned up to help me on a Sun afternoon when I experienced my first airlock.

All one way so far - I'm the newbie in the area and he gives me work or advises me when I need it.

I have another local guy I ring up sometimes (just a local plumber - I rang up and introduced myself). I ring him for advice when I'm unsure of something - or just want some advice/reassurance. I'll call him Gary Gas for now - he's Gas Safe registered.

So that's two local plumbers helping me up the plumbing ladder.

Now conventional wisdom (sometimes expressed on this forum) is that I would move forward with my skills and "steal work from them". The interesting thing here is that this has not happened.

What has happened is that I advertise. I advertise via my van (sign written), via Google (two SEO enhanced websites and paid for Google ads) and the usual word of mouth.

Regarding "Gary Gas": I'm not interested in getting gas certified and have told him this. I now forward all gas work to him - boiler repair work and new boiler work. Whenever I get a gas call I give them his number. I can assure anybody reading that his reward for helping me has been worth it. On a couple of jobs I have fitted a house full of rads and he has turned up to fit the boiler.

Regarding the first plumber I mentioned: I get plenty of work that is daunting for me at my level of experience and we do the job together. Some jobs I just give to him (if too busy for example). Also - I am managing to get a lot of quotes in via my websites (I used to work in computers) and I am getting enough work in for two most of the time. He is now busier than he has ever been and most of his work comes from me (I quote higher than he used to and he earns more).

He helped/continues to help me. I help him.

Very much a win/win situation.

So maybe it's not always the case that "I'll train him up then he'll nick my work". Choose the right person to assist - ideally one who is going to market himself well - and you might find out he'll be passing a fair bit of work your way. Remember - a new plumber will be a new plumber for many years... and will get plenty of work where he needs an experienced freind.
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28 Jun 2005
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United Kingdom
Glad to hear your story M8 - makes a change from the Prima Donna Gas safes :LOL: . Get down and dirty with some drain clearing / repairs etc. Where there`s muck there`s brass :idea: Best of Luck. ;)
26 Jun 2004
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So maybe it's not always the case that "I'll train him up then he'll nick my work". Choose the right person to assist - ideally one who is going to market himself well - and you might find out he'll be passing a fair bit of work your way.

I was on holiday last year and the first day away an extrainee asked me if I had any work for him. I explained that I was away and ( on a commission basis ) I would pass on boiler repairs to him.

He went to a repair for an existing client and he said they were thinking of replacing the boiler.

Last week I had a call from the customer about "the boiler that I had installed for them". It turned out that the extrainee had fitted a new boiler for them as well ! If thats not nicking customers then what is?

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