Redefining Business Growth

Growing with the industry doesn’t mean your business has to keep getting bigger.
Redefining Business Growth
Luke Laggis

Growth isn’t necessarily about getting bigger. Sometimes it’s as much about advancing and evolving as it is about adding people and expanding.

Education and training, new technology, new services — all can keep your company growing and healthy, regardless of whether it gets any bigger.

Dippel Plumbing, profiled in this month’s issue of Plumber, is a good example of a company that has found a comfortable size and has continued to grow and evolve, even though it has chosen not to get any bigger.

After the recession of the late 2000s reduced Dippel’s crew from 12 to a mere three plumbers in the field, General Manager Chris McNulty spent four years building the crew back to a healthy 11, including six plumbers and five technicians (three working as apprentices). The company was involved in everything from excavating to remodeling, and things looked good until McNulty began to realize they were going in too many directions and were losing the kind of control he sought.

At the end of 2014, McNulty began putting more focus on the primary plumbing services, gradually transitioning away from services like remodeling and excavating, which had become excess baggage. He saw the opportunity to improve profit margins by trimming the plumbing staff and moving away from the traditional apprenticeship model.

Dippel Plumbing is leaner and more efficient now, with two experienced journeyman plumbers, and the company is still always booked a solid week ahead.

Yet even while Dippel was cutting its workforce, it was still growing. The company eliminated ancillary services, but it added cured-in-place pipe rehabilitation to the menu, and secured a license with Nu Flow.

Cured-in-place pipe, a significant piece of the pipeline repair and rehabilitation market, which is the theme of this month’s issue, wasn’t always the realm of the traditional plumber. Pipe rehabilitation used to be a very specialized market, but early on, the pioneers in trenchless rehabilitation saw its value and more
and more plumbers began providing the service for their customers.  

Today, it’s a pretty common line of service among plumbers. The technology has come a long way, and while it can be expensive to get started, the tools, equipment and training needed are more accessible than ever. Dippel’s entry into the market with Nu Flow represented a new direction for the company and provides a great example of how it is growing.

Dippel isn’t getting bigger, but it is getting better. The focus isn’t on the number of people, but the quality of people and how to operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible — improving profit margins, cutting waste, becoming more efficient.

Your company may share some things in common with Dippel Plumbing. It may not. Regardless, the way Dippel has approached its restructuring and fostered a rebirth holds lessons that hold true for everyone.

Staying on top of technology, improving your business operations and keeping pace with the industry will all help you keep your business healthy. They’ll all help you grow. But you need to expand your definition of growth. Enjoy this month’s issue.


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