Preventive Maintenance Contracts Keep Crews Busy

An emphasis on preventive maintenance ensures a steady stream of work for O'Connor Plumbing.
Preventive Maintenance Contracts Keep Crews Busy
Technician James Walker (left) and and drain division manager Kevin Walker clean a sewer line at an apartment complex in Winchester, Virginia.

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Editor's Note: This article was published as part of a profile on O'Connor Plumbing, which was the cover story in the September 2015 issue of Cleaner.

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

The retailer signed a preventive maintenance contract for about 40 of those stores, which were plagued by drain problems. That essentially means that O’Connor cleans those stores’ 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 contractors 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 dramatically easier to schedule work crews, compared to companies that live and die by unpredictable emergency work, Walker points out. 

“You can’t run a business by counting on emergency stoppages every day,” he explains. “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 to customers the potential savings they could realize by virtually eliminating expensive emergency calls. Sure, that’s lost revenue for O’Connor Plumbing, Walker concedes. “But we’d much rather have a customer pay us for preventive maintenance than, say, pay damage claims to tenants and even put them up in a hotel while we fix a sewer backup on their property,” he says. 

Walker says he 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 that it’s also beneficial to make presentations to property management groups. During these presentations, Walker shows the potential customers some of the company’s equipment, explains how it works and answers questions. 

“Providing great customer service is critical,” he adds. “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.”

You don't always need a written contract. To learn more about how to sell these services to your commerical accounts, read "Seal the Deal With Preventive Maintenance Plans." 


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