Plumber Profits from Maintenance Cleaning Contracts

Trailer-mounted jetters generate steady work and consistent cash flow.
Plumber Profits from Maintenance Cleaning Contracts
Drain supervisor Jeff Barton and James Walker with O'Connor Plumbing and Heating clean a sewer line at an apartment complex in Winchester, Virginia, with a trailer-mounted jetter from US Jetting.

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O’Connor Plumbing’s drain cleaning division has experienced exponential growth in less than four years, accounting for more than 30 percent of the company’s annual total gross revenue. How were they able to achieve such impressive results so fast?

One of O’Connor Plumbing’s largest commercial clients is a big-box retailer with about 125 stores in the metropolitan Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area. The Germantown, Maryland-based plumbing and cleaning contractor handles all of the retailer’s plumbing and drain cleaning needs.

O’Connor has a preventive maintenance contract for about 40 of those stores. That essentially means O’Connor, which runs five trailer-mounted jetters from US Jetting, cleans the sewer lines once every quarter, says Kevin Walker, manager of the company’s drain division.

Maintenance contracts generate a large percentage of the division’s revenue; the bulk of them are agreements with property management firms.

Why so much emphasis on preventive maintenance? First, maintenance contracts can help smooth out the volatile ups and downs many plumbers experience by ensuring a steady stream of work. That, in turn, provides more consistent cash flow — a critical factor for any business. Furthermore, more contracts make it easier to schedule work crews, compared to companies that live and die by unpredictable emergency work, Walker says.

You can’t run a business by counting on emergency stoppages every day. Preventive maintenance helps fill the gaps between emergency calls. We also like them because they offer us steady, recurring work and help us better plan our finances.

To sell maintenance contracts, the company points out the potential savings customers could realize by reducing expensive emergency calls that can include damage claims to tenants and having to put them up in hotels while repairs are made.

Walker encourages customers to have their drainlines cleaned at least once a year. And if their budgets can’t accommodate that, he suggests alternatives.

“We even offer three-year deals that give customers a bit of a price break,” he says. “That makes it easier for them to get approval from the higher-ups.”

Much of O’Connor Plumbing’s business comes from word-of-mouth referrals, but Walker says it’s also beneficial to make presentations to property management groups. During these presentations, Walker shows potential customers some of the company’s equipment, explains how it works and answers questions.

“Providing great customer service is critical,” he says. “Property managers here are a very tight group, and if you screw up, everyone seems to find out about it. So if you make a mistake, you have to bite the bullet and get it right. … This business is based on relationships.”


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