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Some towns and cities the inspectors want the licensed person their pulling the permit during his/her office hours. Some will accept the transaction thru the mail once they get to know you. I have never known of an outside source being allowed to do this!

So, how long have you been using the flate rate system? How was the transition from hourly taken by existing customers? Is the $49 nominal fee refundable if the customer accepts the job?

Sorry for all the questions and turning the table on you, I saw you're website and figured I'd ask! Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
We starting using Flat Rate Pricing about two years ago. Didn't have many issues with our customers after we explained why we went to this system. If we replace your toilet at time and material and the technician runs into trouble or is not as experienced as another technician (therefore taking more time to do the job), the customer would of course be charged more than if it was a speedy job. You also can't tell them ahead of time how much it is going to cost. So, from a homeowner's perspective it's a good system. As an example, you go to a restaurant and order your dinner, know how much it will cost, and pay the bill when you are done ... it doesn't matter how long it took to cook, etc. From a business perspective, sometimes we make more money than we would have if it was a speedy job and other times we may not if there are problems ... but, when the job is done the customer doesn't complain about the price because they authorized the price we quoted before we start ... no pricing wars after we're done and no calls to the office saying they got ripped off. As for the "assesment fee" if they tell us they don't like the price, we collect the $49 and go on our way (has only happened once), if they authorize the work to be done, we waive the fee. This fee is basically to cover SOME of our costs associated with coming to their home.

The most difficult part of changing was getting our technicians to give them the price and get the authorization PRIOR to starting the job ... but we've resolved those issues!

Here in Northern Virginia there are alot of permit runners ... I've seen them at the county buildings when I get permits ... just haven't asked them how much they charge or how they go about doing what they do. My husband is the licensed one in our company and either I get the permits or I pay one of my kids to go get them. For one county, I can actually do the whole thing online - wish other counties would allow us to pull trade permits that way! I was just curious what others do ...
 

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Thanks for you're response! I looked at the flate rate system years ago, when Frank Blau (basically the founder of Flate Rate for plumbing) was heavily promoting it throughout the country. Then,it seemed so outrageously high and unfair to customers. Today, it looks better everytime I look further into it! A lot of companies in this area have switched over and they also charge for the "assesment fee" but here they call it a "diagnostic fee".

One of Mr. Blau's business associates has two books that I recently purchased they are written by Ellen Rohr and are both eye openers and would be helpful for any contractor. One is "Where Did The Money Go" and the other "How Much Should I Charge".

I'm glad the system is working for you and hope you have continued success!

By the way, I can't believe how much flate rate system(with number crunching) programs cost!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I would say that most of the plumbing contractors in this area use it. For service work it is a wonderful tool and worth every penny we spent. We've cut down the amount of employees that we have so we don't do that much service work, more remodeling and custom homes, but when we do any service work now the book is very handy. There is one company in this area (don't know if we are allowed to use names) that has been in business for many years, does primarily service work and has expanded as far as San Diego, CA. They charge much more than we do, but they are very successful.
 

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Permit runners are priceless, well, not exactly. They do have a price. If they are cheaper than standing in line yourself, go for it. I use office staff.
 

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hauoli63 said:
Does anyone here use Permit Runners ... how did you find them ... and how does the process work?
Yes I use a few runners. My wife or one of my roofers get my permits :)

I assume you are discussing the professional guys who handle most types of permits? I wouldn't know where to find them but I know they exist, like the Big Foot.
 

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In regard to the pricing structures you are discussing, this sounds no different than fixed pricing vs T&M. I didn't realize this was such a revelation in retail plumbing. Is it really that common of a practice where you guys are for homeowners to be accepting jobs at time and materials?
 

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Its quite funny how we talk flat rate pricing, I tried it for a while and had some trouble with some of the pricing.

Its kinda of hard to price a 40 gallon gas heater based on the time quoted in the flat rate of 6-8 hours, and yea they do tend to run a little high.

I am still on T&M and even here I still have problems with customers who feel they have been had, all of these seem to be newer customers.

BJD
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Bjd said:
Its quite funny how we talk flat rate pricing, I tried it for a while and had some trouble with some of the pricing.

Its kinda of hard to price a 40 gallon gas heater based on the time quoted in the flat rate of 6-8 hours, and yea they do tend to run a little high.

I am still on T&M and even here I still have problems with customers who feel they have been had, all of these seem to be newer customers.

BJD
So, you feel like you are overcharging your customers with flat rate pricing, but your T&M customers feel like they are being ripped off?

My personal opinion (with some experience) is that flat rate pricing ends up balancing itself out in the end .... some may be a little high and some may be a little low depending on how long it took you to do it. For you the biggest selling point (or the best reason to use flat rate, sorry ... I'm not very articulate) may be that there is no haggling or complaining from the customers when you are done because they authorized the price before you start.
 

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Lisa, how in the hell did a women get into plumbing, I've seen women carpenters, women laborers, even women painters, but your the first women plumber. Most the women I've met get sick and tired of crap.........oh....sorry, I think they said my crap.:cheesygri

Bob
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
LOL ... my husband is the licensed plumber! He started the business in 1996, I married him in 2002 and became a legal 50% owner of the business at that time. I never work out in the field (well, painted once) ... my responsibilities are the office and website .... answer phones, schedule work, bookkeeping (QuickBooks and an accountant), get permits ... everything that doesn't involve getting dirty! This is why you will never see me post anything technical unless I ask my husband first! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I'm sorry!! Believe me, alot of discussions went into this. I was working as a retail manager, had my own townhouse, was able to take care of my kids very well by myself ... and he wanted me to quit my job, sell my townhouse and work for him. But, I wouldn't do that without some security ... this wasn't my first marriage and I didn't want to end up in a situation where maybe down the road I would no longer be marketable and not able to support my kids as I was able to do at that time. It sounds harsh, but it was a fact of life and things have worked out very well for both of us. We've been able to double his revenue since I started, he has piece of mind by knowing that I take care of everything ... it's all in-house and we both have a genuine interest in making the business profitable. I think it was worth it to him for me to take on as much as I did and relieve a large portion of his stress and the work he had to do (before me) when he came home from working in the field all day.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Oh, no!! I didn't take any offense at all!!

College co-ed?! I don't think I would want anyone but me or my husband and our accountant having access to our books! Besides the sexual undertones with a college co-ed :eek: .... :cheesygri
 

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With respect to flat rate....

I bought one "system". It was stupidly expensive. I only use it when the customer insists on knowin the price up front. I always win with flat rate... it's always much more than if they chose T&M.
 
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