Failure is an Opportunity for Growth

Mistakes on a job are never fun and can be costly, but as long as you learn from them, you’re moving in the right direction

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It doesn’t feel good to fail on a job, and it usually costs you something: money, pride, status, credibility. But the more important issue is whether you have the will to continue after a failure. If everyone in the plumbing or drain cleaning industry quit after a failure, there wouldn’t be many people in the industry.

Years ago, I watched a plumber bury a closed-loop ground water heating pump system that consisted of four parallel 3/4-inch HDPE pipes manifolded into a 2-inch header and connected to a circulation system. He connected everything, got the unit up and running, collected for the job and left.

Two months later he got a call that the system had stopped working and he went out to investigate. He found the water pressure in the circulation system was down to zero, so he added more antifreeze, pumped up the pressure and started the system, only to watch the pressure slowly fall to zero.

He went out to the field where the loops were buried and he noticed several gopher holes around the area. He excavated one particular area that had many gopher holes and found that the gophers had chewed on the pipe, creating some obvious holes and causing it to leak. Bewildered, he didn’t have the will to fix the problem, gave the customer his money back and left.

The guy who ultimately fixed the issue acquired a great customer who referred more business to him and the guy who chose to quit left the plumbing industry altogether as the story spread via word-of-mouth of how he left his customer out in the cold and his business declined. I guess my folks were right: No one likes a quitter.

Despite the job being a failure the first time around, the original plumber could have still prospered had he solved the gopher issue during the return visit. Instead of tackling the problem and learning from the initial failure, he chose to not learn and let a growth opportunity pass him by.

Over the years, I’ve seen similar challenges in the lateral lining industry. My job for the past few years has been to help lining contractors overcome failure and learn from those situations to become first-rate sewer rehab contractors. You can find failures in virtually any industry. You can also find folks who are more than willing to help you solve those problems and teach you techniques to make sure those failures don’t happen again. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be the contractor who makes the same mistakes and has the same failures over and over again.

I have several customers who call me to discuss jobs that may be a little different from what they’ve done before. They’ve learned that planning and consultation beforehand will help them manage their risk and give them a greater chance of completing the job successfully. It must be working because all the jobs have gone well for my customers when they’ve done this. One that I recall that went poorly happened when the customer tried executing it without asking for any help with the planning. There were a lot of turns and bends in the line as well as elevation changes. Once the liner cured, portions of it were not expanded to the wall of the host pipe and many spots pinched down at those turns. The field installer had said he knew how to do the job and pushed ahead before discussing it. A short conversation beforehand could have turned the failure into a success.

Ask for help. Plan your jobs. If you still have a failure, do a complete review of what went wrong and what you could have done differently to prevent the loss. The choices are yours: quit or learn. The rewards come to those who learn. Failure will dog you from one endeavor to another if you quit every time you fail.

About the author
John Heisler is the owner of Pipe Lining Supply and Quik-Lining Systems Inc. He has 20 years of experience in the CIPP lining industry and over 40 years in the underground construction industry.


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