5 Profit Leak Lessons from my Plumber

Feb 13, 2017 | Anne's Blog, Process

Last week I had to call my plumber (yeah, me – the Profit Leaks Queen!). Believe it or not, there was no hot water in the guest bathroom shower —- the one my folks used when they were here for a visit. The worst part… my parents were the ones to bring it to my attention. No hot water in the shower when my parents were visiting?! Not good. Talk about bad customer service. It’s just not cool.

When they left, I called Super Mario, my plumber. Over the phone, he diagnosed a faulty faucet in the tub/shower. I texted a photo of the suspect faucet, and Mario showed up with a replacement later that day.

In the shower, Mario quickly swapped out the water control and shower head. The innards of the water control were encased with gunk and corrosion. But when it came to the tub spigot, he couldn’t get it off without breaking the pipe. So, we decided to just leave it for now.

Seemed like an easy fix. Until he went to test it — and there was still no significant hot water coming out. None, really.

Next step, we went into the boiler room to investigate the whole system. Four years ago, I replaced my 30-year-old traditional boiler and hot water tank with a tankless boiler/hot water heater combination system. Mario did his thing, testing different parts of the system to diagnose the underlying issue. He found a corroded heat exchanger and two other corroded parts I don’t remember the names of. Mario also showed me how, when the system was first installed, the installers had omitted a couple key pieces to enable easy regular maintenance.

Fast forward to a week later. Mario returns with the $740 worth of parts and proceeds to spend over three hours replacing, modifying and carefully tweaking the system until there was, voila(!), consistent hot water throughout the house. Most importantly at the shower/tub that my parents use when they visit! All in, the total bill was over $1,100. Ouch.

What does this have to do with business? Glad you asked. The lessons I took from this expensive and inconvenient experience include:

  • Customer service counts. Your customers – or in my case, guests – have expectations. How you meet, and presumably exceed, them directly impacts your bottom line. When unexpected things happen, how you handle the inconvenience matters. Put plans in place to address potential issues before they arise. And really… be especially nice to your parents.
  • Routine maintenance is mandatory for an effective and efficient system. Unexpected cold showers are no fun for anyone. Don’t let your business systems corrode from the inside out. Maintain your books. Review your systems and processes regularly. Stay on top of cash flow. Treat your business like your plumbing system. Routine maintenance is required to keep it running flawlessly for years. Stay on top of the critical systems in your business so that your key components – employees, vendors, customers, partners – work together with ease. As all good plumbers say, “be number one in a number two business”.
  • Processes need to be tweaked until they are running correctly. Systems in your home, like my plumbing, evolve with new technology. Your business evolves as well. The processes and systems that worked a few years ago may not work as well now. Be open to trying new things so that you find the most efficient and effective process. Adding too much complexity can drag down your profits. Look for the opportunity to tweak your process to eliminate waste and inefficiency. Then watch your profits soar.
  • Unplanned expenses can seriously impact your cash flow and budget. Some surprises are good – like getting fresh Spring flowers delivered on a cold and dreary winter day. But other surprises can end up costing you and your business time, energy and money. You won’t be able to eliminate all surprises in your business. Make a point to keep your books up to date and review expenses in relation to your budget (you do have a budget, right!?) to help you to maintain a pulse on your business and better ride out unexpected hiccups, burps and plumbing problems.
  • Systems down time limits opportunities. With no hot water in the guest bathroom, hosting guests was definitely problematic. Even if my alter ego Marcus Lemonis from The Profit just happened to drop by and need a place to stay! When your business systems are down, you are going to miss out on opportunities for growth and development. Can you prevent all downtime? No. That’s not realistic. But have systems and processes in place to minimize the down time while remaining open to possibilities during the fix. In other words… have a plan B ready.

Managing through this plumbing issue helped shine new light on some of my own business processes and systems. Are you ready to give your business a check-up? Take advantage of the opportunity to apply for a complimentary Profit Leaks Strategy Session with me to see how together we can better maintain your system to prevent and plug unwanted profit leaks.