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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
ive been doing plumbing alone for 8 years now....I grow 10% every year and am finally at the point where id like some help....what sucks is if I don't grow $40,000 more this year(to pay the apprentice) it comes directly out of my profits...scary stuff

the apprentice will be right next to me all day...he will hear my pricing and discussions......when I worked for someone I never even knew what they charged per hour......I remember seeing invoices on a countertop one time and being shocked at how much my boss was making.....my apprentice will know more about pricing in 1 week than I knew as an employee in 8 years as a journeyman

I don't see any way to avoid it...I get service calls and customer calls all day long....and money is discussed much of the time..

I figure its just part of being a small company

I also most likely wont be able to always give him 40 hours every week(im planning on guaranteeing 32 hours though)....im considering calling other plumbing shops to start a relationship to possibly share my apprentice when im slow....have any of you done things like this? ...when I go on vacation I cant expect him to just take unemployment for a week (or at least I don't want him to have to)

when im slow I figure ill let him do yard work or wash the work van......anything to give him some more hours....I want him to be happy and not quit the day he passes his journeyman test
 

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Talking Head
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Don't automatically assume that you're losing money if you don't increase sales by $40k. It's good to shoot for more business but having the apprentice might just allow you to free up enough of your time that you can improve efficiency and work a little less to make the same. Most times, it's better to save a dollar than to earn one.

I'm using a helper full time this year and my goal is to be able to sell the same amount but work 30% less hours and take home the same pay as last year. This is probably out the window as I'm on track to sell quite a bit more than last year.... but that's not really a problem.
 

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Once you get him trained well it should give you some extra time to sell more. Or at least do a little bidding in the truck while he finishes or cleans up.

If you're worried he thinks you are making so much money you can also let him know how much it costs to be in business. I let my guys know all the time what the equipment costs, insurance, maint, taxes, health ins. Make sure he knows whats on the invoice doesn't go straight to your pocket.
 

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I can tell by reading your post, that you're going to be a good employer, you care. That's a great start. And like Ethan said, he'll make you money. :thumbsup:

The only thing I don't agree with is talking business in front of him, or anyone else. It's nobodys business.

What most people don't realize is, how much it cost to run a business. And if hears you tell someone you'll do a job for $1400....he thinks you're making $1400! When in fact you may only be making $200.

When the phone rings, just go outside.
 

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......And as for trading help around, we've done that in the past. We have an old contractor friend who we trade with.

If he was slow, and I needed help, I would work his crew. And he's done the same for me. Every body benefits
 

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Huggy,

I figure if I am going to take on the responsibility of training a guy- I should go all in and train him all the way.

I figure teaching them the business end of things is part of the deal---so my guys learn ALL about costs-they KNOW exactly what it cost per hour for our crew to BREAK EVEN.

They know we are not in business to break even so we better substantially beat that hourly figure--------and they are VERY well aware of the spread between what they make and what that hourly figure is------and they very well know that there profit sharing /bonuses come out of that-along with their vacation pay,co. trucks, medical benefits etc.

Eventually this employee is going to be running service calls independently of you, up-selling to the customer on the spot, collecting payment etc. It's absolutely to your benefit to have him well grounded in the "facts of Life" long beforehand

and of course we are talking about permanent employees here- not some yutz you get to shovel debris into a dumpster for a couple projects.

Also- I decided some years ago that it was better for me to hire slightly in advance of developing need and then work to fill that need- rather than hire AFTER the need is pressing. Much easier to train before the fact than after the fact.

I know you have been thinking about this for about a year, so

My absolute best wishes,
stephen
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
ive actually wanted an apprentice for 3-4 years now.....im shocked its taken this long

I use the time driving around in the van to make most of my phone calls....it would cost me about 30 minutes extra a day to make those calls away from the employee....I can try my best to do that though....limit what he hears as much as possible

another issue I have is very small service jobs...I plan on charging $50 an hour for him on T&M jobs.....this is 100% markup(he will cost me $25 an hour)...this is due to the fact that on small jobs I cant charge for him....he will be free to the customer...so the jobs he can help and I can charge for will partially make up for the ones I cant charge for...............to pull & reset a toilet I cant charge for 2 people...or changing a shower cartridge......but I plan on using that time for intense training...having him do it while I watch.....my goal is to get him able to do the small stuff within a year or so on his own.....then I can get him a small van with limited supplies and have us work separately a few hours a day....he can go off and do repairs on his own and I can charge $116 an hour and really make some $$ off him......my LONG TERM goal is for us to eventually SWAP vans and have him handle the large/heavy jobs in the big Cube van while I do bids and small service calls in the small van...

its all planned out on paper....now I wait and see if I get a Great employee or a Terd
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I can tell by reading your post, that you're going to be a good employer, you care. That's a great start. And like Ethan said, he'll make you money. :thumbsup:

The only thing I don't agree with is talking business in front of him, or anyone else. It's nobodys business.

What most people don't realize is, how much it cost to run a business. And if hears you tell someone you'll do a job for $1400....he thinks you're making $1400! When in fact you may only be making $200.

When the phone rings, just go outside.
when we complete jobs in 1/2 the time bid he will know im making $200+ an hour......it doesn't happen all the time, but once in a while I get a job done way under hours....its common to get them all done under hours to some degree......he will also see the toys in my garage (2 expensive cars and a car lift).....if he's helping me with shop duties I wont be able to hide my lifestyle from him.

If the worker does a great job on a project and I make tons of $$ I do plan on giving bonuses.....I believe in rewarding immediately hard work.....I had a friend help me on a commercial job (which I couldn't do without him)...when the profit came in double what I thought I bought him a .45 handgun he had been talking about for concealed carry.......I remember how tight my old bosses were.....I make very good money and if someone helps me make more ill give some back
 

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Not all journeyman want to own their own company. You can also provide incentives to help prevent him from becoming your competitor.

I think your too concerned about the amount of money he thinks he should be making if and when he overhears you discussing fees with clients.

First thing I do if an employee sees privileged billing info and asks about it is make him realize that his wage requires upto another 50% added to cover expenses for things it costs you that you don't benefit from, I.e. WC, payroll matching, GL ins, etc, etc. some get it, some don't.

The ones that don't, they leave and try it on their own and within short order figure it out really quick that running a business is not as glamorous as they thought, that $85.00/hr doesn't go into your jeans.

Sounds like you need a little more business education before you make the leap to grow. Once you understand it better, it'll all make sense to you.

On and by the way, getting the guy to do your yard work or wash and clean the work van, if the guy has an ounce of self respect he will tell you to go **** yourself.

But on a more positive note, once you have employees and things are rolling along you can really start to make your company grow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
On and by the way, getting the guy to do your yard work or wash and clean the work van, if the guy has an ounce of self respect he will tell you to go **** yourself.

if he says no to yard work/washing the van then he may get 20 hours some weeks........ive had some work weeks as low as 5 hours once in a while...its always a roller coaster...last week was 58 hours.....its always all over the map

I can see how yard work may be an issue, but washing the van and cleaning it should be part of the job...appearance matters and right now im always too busy to do it....on a slow day that's the first thing ill have him do
 

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Not all journeyman want to own their own company. You can also provide incentives to help prevent him from becoming your competitor.

I think your too concerned about the amount of money he thinks he should be making if and when he overhears you discussing fees with clients.

First thing I do if an employee sees privileged billing info and asks about it is make him realize that his wage requires upto another 50% added to cover expenses for things it costs you that you don't benefit from, I.e. WC, payroll matching, GL ins, etc, etc. some get it, some don't.

The ones that don't, they leave and try it on their own and within short order figure it out really quick that running a business is not as glamorous as they thought, that $85.00/hr doesn't go into your jeans.

Sounds like you need a little more business education before you make the leap to grow. Once you understand it better, it'll all make sense to you.

On and by the way, getting the guy to do your yard work or wash and clean the work van, if the guy has an ounce of self respect he will tell you to go **** yourself.

But on a more positive note, once you have employees and things are rolling along you can really start to make your company grow.
That's bullsh!t Chris, if an employee respects you they understand that things can get slow and they are still getting paid. I've paid em to organize tools, do paperwork and work on my own house. I give the option, come work on my house and get paid or stay home and don't get paid.
 

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That's bullsh!t Chris, if an employee respects you they understand that things can get slow and they are still getting paid. I've paid em to organize tools, do paperwork and work on my own house. I give the option, come work on my house and get paid or stay home and don't get paid.
It's not bull***t. It's very dependent on the employee. If it's a task related to the business then it's usually reasonable, but not always. Telling your foreman who runs a crew of 20 to clean out bathrooms is going to cost you a foreman. If there's just two of you then it's not going to be a problem. I've always made a point of spending a little time each day doing some of the crappy work alongside the help so they can't complain about me not getting my hands dirty.

Telling an employee to do personal chores that are entirely outside of their job description can easily cause resentment. Now, if the hours are short and you OFFER them the choice then it's a nice thing to do. It all depends on the presentation and the employee. When I was an employee, I would always rather clean the shop and tune the machines rather than get laid off. When the boss offered for me to do some chores on his house I declined and took the layoff. I didn't want him to start seeing me as menial labor when I was actually the top guy in his shop. I did appreciate the offer though.
 

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It does not matter if he heres you talking to clients or discussing pricing. Any one with a brain capable of learning a complex trade will already know that plumbers can make good money. Thats why they signed up to plunge toilets in the first place.

What does matter is you being firm and explicit with your employee. Tell them what they are supposed to do in order to get more. If they do it give it to them. If not they keep getting what they always got.

You might consider telling your help that he has x amount of time to be running his own van making double what he started out at. If hes not ready in time you will have to replace him.

Dont give too much praise. They just come looking for a raise. Lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
this is a 20-25 year old (most likely)....and he's going to be a brand new apprentice....pulling weeds or digging ditches for a sewer...whats the difference...

he's not a highly skilled person...he's starting out at the bottom and mostly being hired for manual labor at this point(to save my aching back)

when I worked in printing I was a prepress scanner operator...I sat in front of 3 computers and had a highly skilled job....they were busy at the printing press for a week, so I through on old clothes and did some idiot manual labor for them....I didn't care...I enjoyed the change.....maybe this new guy will like working out doors pulling weeds and landscaping....or maybe ill get enough work so he doesn't have to
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
It does not matter if he heres you talking to clients or discussing pricing. Any one with a brain capable of learning a complex trade will already know that plumbers can make good money. Thats why they signed up to plunge toilets in the first place.

What does matter is you being firm and explicit with your employee. Tell them what they are supposed to do in order to get more. If they do it give it to them. If not they keep getting what they always got.

You might consider telling your help that he has x amount of time to be running his own van making double what he started out at. If hes not ready in time you will have to replace him.

Dont give too much praise. They just come looking for a raise. Lol
im union...he knows what he will be making

if he's doing journeyman work on the fifth year of the apprenticeship and working on his own im willing to pay full journeyman scale...ill let him know that on day 1...

plus offering him a van when he can do small service jobs should be a real incentive to learn quick...not paying for gas or a vehicle is a huge incentive for anyone
 

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when I worked in printing I was a prepress scanner operator...I sat in front of 3 computers and had a highly skilled job....

The brother in-law went from printing to electrician about 10 years ago, at 40 years old. Started his own gig this last year.

Printing is now an interesting trade. Good move to plumbing :thumbup:


.... So is Quad Graphics good or evil in your book? :laughing:
 

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A brand new kid with no experience is just a laborer. A laborer with 2 or 3 years under his belt is an apprentice and worth 20 bucks an hour.

A kid who doesnt know what plumbing parts are what is worth 12 bucks an hour.

I get tired of the deer in the headlights from the new people, no way I would assume some kid is going to be trained to do service calls on his own until he has been through the cheese grater for a while.
 

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I would hate to see you invest a lot of time teaching him to become your competitor.
Dont we all. Its the nature of the business. Good luck to them, there is plenty out there for GOOD contractor's.

Rather bid against someone I trained and likely thinks like I do about the process and overhead than a guy who doesn't know anything.
 
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