If you think of the tradespeople we rely on most, plumbers must come somewhere near the top of the list. Where would we be without hot and cold running water and flushing toilets?
Not only do we need skilled, competent plumbers for the installation of vital equipment for our bathrooms and kitchens, but we also need them on hand for when things go wrong. Whether it’s a leaky pipe, a broken tap, a blocked toilet or a serious malfunction, we know the emergency plumber is only a phone call away.
However, according to a 2013 Simply Business survey, Britain is facing a growing skills shortage following a dramatic fall in the number of tradespeople – and the plumbing industry has been the worst hit, with the number of plumbers dropping by 25% in four years.
So if you’re entering the plumbing industry, you couldn’t have picked a better time. However, as with all trades, trust and reputation are key factors in achieving success. Obviously, you’ll need to be reliable and provide work of a high standard. But customers instinctively look for a familiar name when choosing services, which can make things difficult for a new entrant.
However, one possible solution is to start a franchise plumbing business – that way, you’ll be working under an established brand that potential customers are more likely to recognise. Also, your venture will be structured around a tried and tested business model.
As a plumbing franchisee, you will probably be given a territory in which to work. You will have the right to use the franchisor’s name and logo, and you will also receive support and business training. It’s likely that the franchisor will also assist with advertising and marketing in your territory.
What you get as part of the franchise deal will vary considerably, but some franchisors even provide training for the plumbing aspect of the job.
The business model will also differ according to which franchise you choose. Some franchisors will operate a centralised call centre and the jobs will be allocated to you; other arrangements will involve clients contacting you directly or your business generating its own leads.
Of course, franchising isn’t a one-way deal – you need to pay for it. The initial fee could be a five-figure sum. Then there will be ongoing fees, paid regularly – the cost of these will probably depend on how your business is doing, as they’re usually paid as a percentage of your turnover.
On top of your franchise fees and the rest of your costs, you’ll need enough working capital to keep your business going before the money starts to come in.
Before you decide to take the franchise route, you need to think about the pros and cons. For example, will you be happy working with someone else’s business model or would you prefer the flexibility of starting your own business from scratch?
Also consider how you will fund your business. Banks are often more willing to lend to franchises because they see them as less risky than other ventures, but you’ll probably be expected to find at least a third of the startup costs yourself.