Times of Adversity Can Breed Opportunity for Drain Cleaners

Even in an essential industry, some contractors have seen a decrease in certain types of jobs during the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean you just have to accept the reduced revenue.

Times of Adversity Can Breed Opportunity for Drain Cleaners

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For many of us, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a disruption.

The disruption is an economic challenge, but for every challenge, there is an opportunity. The specific challenges and opportunities for the plumbing and drain cleaning industry are best observed by looking at past economic challenges and why some businesses thrived and others died off. As a supplier to the industry, we’ve observed a few things.

The first occurrence at the onset of the pandemic was that emergency drain calls declined. A drain cleaner who was once handling 10 to 12 drain calls per day, started receiving five or six calls. For most of us, losing half of the normal amount of revenue is a challenge. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed and shelter to maintain. That kind of loss would send a good share of us into a panic trying to find things to supplement the loss.

And some of the contractors serving the industry we supply couldn’t see a way out of it and closed their doors. For them, the sky fell and they couldn’t overcome the losses. We saw homeowners going to the local building supply store and buying things like Liquid-Plumr and hand-operated cables to unclog their drains rather than call a professional. Those were the calls that disappeared when the pandemic began.

But we also observed many contractors growing. Why would their businesses grow while others were dying on the vine? They both had a decline in call numbers, but the savvy ones equipped their techs with the tools to maximize revenue from the reduced number of calls coming in. Instead of hurrying out the door to the next call, the techs explained the problem in a little more detail to the customer, as well as offered solutions to the problem of recurring drain clogs. To be clear, this is not selling anything. Many people think you have to school your techs to be professional sales staff, but this is simply educating your customers on what the problem is and ways they can fix it.

After offering the options, a simple question to the customer is, “What would you like me to do?” At the end of a week, the contractors who went down this path booked revenue numbers much higher despite the fewer calls. Let’s run some revenue comparisons. If your tech opened 10 drains per day at $350 per drain, they would bring in $17,500 per week assuming they were busy every day. If the drain calls dropped by half, the five drains per day would be $8,750 in revenue for the week. By getting only two descaling jobs in the same week, the tech could easily generate another $10,000 from descaling operations. If he snagged two lining or coating jobs for the week, he’d add another $15,000 from those efforts. The revenue that these contractors booked would be $33,750 — or $16,250 more than they would have booked from only opening drains under normal circumstances.

These are the people who have been able to grow their businesses out of the adversity. Some purchases get deferred during an economic downturn. Discretionary spending slows down or dries up, but sewer backups do not fall into the category of getting by without doing anything. Making the most of these opportunities will determine whether you grow or struggle. The choice is up to you.

About the Author

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


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