By Melody Birkett, Contributor
Some people might think Wayne Decker’s business plan makes no sense.
But Decker, president of PlumbSmart Heating and Air, says it not only makes sense but a lot of cents.
“We charge less than the big players and we still do very well,” he said.
“Our profit margins are still very good. Our guys have every benefit you can imagine and have high compensation. There’s no downside to having this philosophy. They all (other plumbing companies) could have it, but they choose not to because they want to have much greater margins.”
To top it off, charity is a big part of Decker’s business plan: Since the pandemic began, his company has done at least 200 jobs for free for people in need.
Decker started his residential repair plumbing business in 2006 and previously was in the service business, serving homeowners for more than 40 years.
He started his company exactly for the reasons it lives by.
“It was more of an answer to the prevailing attitude which exists today – that plumbing companies are just way too expensive and they charge too much.”
For example, he said a lot of companies charge $400-$1,000 to unclog a toilet that takes about 20-30 minutes. “If you make $20 an hour, that’s going to be about a week’s take-home pay to unclog a toilet.”
While costs have gone up for parts or items like hot water heaters, PlumbSmart hasn’t raised its labor prices.
“We’re so confident about our prices that even if a customer doesn’t want to use us, they can still call us…and ask for a price,” said Decker.
“A lot of companies will spend $50,000-$100,000 sending you to a course to establish you as one of the finest sales people you can be. You know what to say. You know how to manipulate. You have financing available.’”
“When you have that attitude, it’s not about what is normal profit because that’s hard to say,” explained Decker, who has about 50 employees. “It’s very subjective. It’s about how much profit do you want to make? PlumbSmart is very profitable at about half of what our big-name competitors charge.”
Decker said his focus is on relationships with homeowners, not chasing dollars.
“And the beauty of that is when you have the philosophy the more you give the more you get, your growth is almost unmanageable. You don’t have people who are upset, questioning you, or who have buyer’s remorse. You still grow and make more money.”
During the pandemic, PlumbSmart grew 40 percent in 2020 and about another 40 percent in 2021.
Its TV commercials told people the company would fix a plumbing or A/C emergency for free for those who’d fallen on tough financial times.
“A majority of companies would say, ‘You’re absolutely nuts. You’ll be inundated with customers calling to get something for free,’” said Decker.
He said it’s one of the first premises they’re wrong about.
“Approximately 3 percent of all customers may bend the rules to get something over on you. They may lie and cheat and try to get something for free. For those three percent, we can say, ‘God bless you. Give me a big hug. I hope you enjoyed cheating me.’
“And it would not make a difference on our business, our profitability and how we do business. Ninety-seven percent are honest people. When you think of that offer, the humility of having to call a company and take advantage of an offer like that, typically is going to mean they really do need it and they’ve humbled themselves to say, ‘Please come out and help us. We don’t have the money.’”
It’s leads to an additional fringe benefit for his employees that money can’t buy, Decker added.
“Our guys were so blessed to have people crying, hugging them, thanking them, that I can’t put a value on what it meant to their lives, let alone the people we were serving,” said Decker.
“For us to absorb a couple of hundred or more jobs to help people who really needed it, it was so worth it. Let alone the value – though not intended – of what the general public heard from those ads.
“Our internet communication was blown up by people saying, ‘I don’t need anything for free but any company that has that kind of offer, I want you to be my plumber.’ It was tremendous. It goes along those lines of if you give more, whether you like it or not, you’re going to be blessed, you’re going to get more. When you chase dollars…in the big picture, I don’t think it helps you.”
In fact, technicians are told by the company to look for “benevolent opportunities, opportunities of compassion to help people,” said Decker.
He recalled getting a call about a woman with a medical disability who had had no hot water for months. A PlumbSmart technician determined she needed a new heater.
“One of my techs took the initiative on understanding what her dire need was,” explained Decker. “This gentleman/tech, on his own, called our office and said, ‘Hey, I have a customer who can’t afford a water heater. She’s an elderly woman and disabled. Can we do this for her for free?’”
Two days later, a tech installed a new hot water heater at no charge. “At PlumbSmart, that’s the way we do business,” said Decker, adding that techs are still paid for comp jobs.
Information: itsjustplumbsmart.com 480-654-8865
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