Commercial Clients Help Contractor Grow Drain Cleaning Side of Business

Learn how O'Connor Plumbing generates a steady stream of work and consistent cash flow.
Commercial Clients Help Contractor Grow Drain Cleaning Side of Business
Drain supervisor Jeff Barton (center) and James Walker with O'Connor Plumbing and Heating prepare to clean a sewer line at an apartment complex in Winchester, Virginia, with a trailer-mounted water 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 roughly 125 stores, all located in the metropolitan Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area. The Germantown, Maryland-based plumbing and cleaning 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, which runs five trailer-mounted jetters from US Jetting, 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.”

To learn more about O'Connor Plumbing and how they invested heavily in drain cleanning read, "Drain Cleaning Fosters Business Growth" in the September 2015 issue of Cleaner.


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