This week Vivid Minds interviews Jeffrey McCann from H2O Plumbing and Maintenance Services. Jeff has been a plumber for 32 years and has run his own business for 14 years. He loves plumbing and can’t think of anything he’d rather do. Based in Armidale, H2O Plumbing provides a wide range of plumbing services to the local region – commercial/industrial and domestic, and from a dripping tap to a burst water pipe.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born and bred in Armidale and have a lot of family here – the extended family goes back a few generations – so I’m definitely a local. I’m the youngest of six. I played a lot of sport when I was growing up – soccer, cricket and football amongst others. I completed my apprenticeship in Armidale and stayed on for about eight years, then moved to Brisbane. I met my wife, Fiona, in Brisbane and we moved to Dubbo, her home town, for three years. We have three kids (Cody, Jake and Tyler) and are now happily settled in Armidale.
When did you start H2O plumbing?
I established H2O Plumbing 14 years ago – around the time that Centro was being built, which worked out well for me. It made sense to me to go out on my own. At one stage I had four employees, but found that wasn’t working for me. I now have my eldest son, Cody, working for me and it looks like Tyler will be joining us as an apprentice sometime soon. It is possible that Cody will establish a branch of H2O Plumbing somewhere on the mid-north coast, so that will be one way of expanding the business.
What sort of plumbing work do you do?
We do all sorts of plumbing jobs. I always say that if customers are not sure, just give us a call. We focus on maintenance and emergency work – from a dripping tap to a burst pipe, a blockage, or replacing a hot water system. We do commercial work as well as domestic jobs, including bathroom renovations.
What do you like most about running your own business and about plumbing?
I love the ability to work to my own timetable – realising, of course, that if I want time off, I am not providing a service to my customers! When I first started out, I was saying ‘yes’ to everything, but quickly discovered that I couldn’t keep up with that. It wasn’t good for me, and it definitely wasn’t good for the business. These days, I know that having a process in place is important – customers appreciate being told that I have other jobs on and can’t make it to them immediately. It’s better for me to give a realistic timeframe because that reduces stress and also allows the customer to plan better.
And, I like plumbing – I like the job. I get to meet new people every day and there is a great variety in the work I do. I love getting up and going to work every day – there is an element of the unknown, too, which makes it even more interesting.
What’s your secret to success?
It’s simple, really: do it once and do it right. Follow procedures and processes. If it’s not done right the first time, I’m not happy – and obviously, nor is the customer. If the customer finds that something is not right, then I would prefer that they contact me immediately.
Another rule I have is, ‘If you wouldn’t do it at your home, don’t do it elsewhere’. So, we won’t do a second-class job at someone’s house. Both Cody and I like to keep things as clean and tidy as possible – no muddy boots in the house! – and we clean up once we have finished a job.
What inspires you?
As I said, I like the job. I love plumbing and that is what keeps me going.
Any advice for a business just starting out?
The most important thing is to do your homework before you start. Ask yourself if the business is viable or if there are too many competitors in the market already. Also, you need to be clear about your financial backing – you need to be realistic and realise that, unless you are really lucky, business will be fairly slow when you start out. And you really do need to be honest about your capabilities – ask yourself, ‘am I good at what I do?’
If you’re starting up a family-based business, try not to mix the business and family – it is really important to separate the business from the personal.
Where do you see H2O Plumbing in 12 months?
We’re probably lucky. In the current situation, we’re an essential service, so business is not too bad for us. It’s definitely tougher and there are different considerations, but we can keep going reasonably well. In 12 months, we will probably have grown. By then, Tyler will be starting out as an apprentice and we’ll possibly have another tradie on board. And Cody is interested in moving to the coast, so there might be a franchise down there, too.