By By Terence Chan for Contractor Mag
The trades are too often overlooked by aspiring entrepreneurs or simply not on their radar.
The next generation of workers is increasingly shifting away from college degrees to entrepreneurship due to the desire for a controlled, debt-free life—doubting whether college is actually necessary to accomplish their goals. At the same time, the trades are too often overlooked by aspiring entrepreneurs or simply not on their radar, despite plumbing being one of the most resilient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a more affordable educational path that will actually pay for your vocational training, and consistent demand that’s driving salaries much higher than many of the typical white collar office jobs.
The same was true for me too. While I have always had a desire to be an entrepreneur, I actually went to university to study engineering, which I ultimately decided not to pursue. Then my parents mentioned to me that I should look into plumbing—they knew plumbers who were making a significant income, and thought it could be a good opportunity to develop a technical skill while also allowing me to fulfill my ambition to eventually start my own business.
Be Willing to Take Chances
There’s a common challenge facing both tradespeople and entrepreneurs in this industry: the toughest part of the business is not finding the next job, but how to juggle existing jobs. That’s largely because the demand for skilled trade jobs is far outpacing the supply of qualified workers to fill them (despite millions of people still looking for work).
I think there are two essential qualities that can help overcome this problem. The first is being willing to take chances and put yourself out there. For instance, we started experimenting with social media and began posting content regularly to TikTok and Instagram. Over time, we have gained thousands of followers and have had several posts go viral. While social media has been a great tool to reach customers, that’s not our primary goal. Instead, we have built a large referral network, have created new streams of revenue with companies reaching out about sponsored partnerships, and have actually attracted most of our employees through social media.
The second is to embrace technology. Plumbing is becoming a much more high-tech industry than many realize, and the lines between our traditional understanding of “blue collar” and “while collar” are blurred. The technology that’s emerging is allowing plumbers to upgrade from the pen-and-paper ways of working and automating admin tasks, such as generating schedules, invoicing, and payments. For the sole-traders and small businesses, this can be a game changer to improve revenue and also better compete against the giant corporations that have already perfected this. For example, I use Jobber as the command center for my business to save me and my team hours of admin work.
Curiosity is Key
I would tell someone who is younger and looking to start their own business in the trades to be curious first and foremost. Before I started Impetus Plumbing and Heating, I spent several years as an apprentice jumping through as many companies as possible to gain the rounded experience I would need to create a successful business.
My first job was with a commercial plumbing contractor to gain some hands-on experience. While I was able to quickly learn the technical aspects of plumbing, I knew that I wanted to learn more about the business side of the job and next moved to a company with a role that was focused on sales. I then went on to work for several other plumbing companies with different customer focuses.
I knew that a business degree wouldn’t simply fall in my lap, so I specifically sought out opportunities that would eventually line up perfectly with the company that I knew I would eventually create.
Additionally, I would encourage others to look to companies like Jobber for assistance. Jobber Academy, provides advice, tools, and resources for home service businesses to grow their business. Jobber has also provided grant programs ranging from $1,000 all the way to $20,000. Loans can be very, very hard for entrepreneurs in plumbing to receive, so that extra cash flow can be useful to purchase new equipment, increase marketing dollars, launch a new service, train teams, or provide financial relief.
Terence Chan is the founder and president of Vancouver, BC-based Impetus Plumbing and Heating. He is a young aspiring entrepreneur who constantly tries to change his craft and his trade. When he’s not on the tools, he is in his creative space making content for his viewers out there. You can find him on Instagram and TikTok at @the__impetus.