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Most of the examples apply to one man operations. How do you implement in a shop with 10 plumbers of differing abilities?
We go through this when we bids small jobs. You write the bid up with a certain speed/skill set in mind and then you tell dispatch who can/should be sent to do the job. Sometimes it's one of seven guys, sometimes there's only one man for the job.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
We go through this when we bids small jobs. You write the bid up with a certain speed/skill set in mind and then you tell dispatch who can/should be sent to do the job. Sometimes it's one of seven guys, sometimes there's only one man for the job.
So this seems to apply to writing bids for projects, even small ones. But what about the plumber who heads out with 4 service calls and has to "bid" the jobs once he arrives on site?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So this seems to apply to writing bids for projects, even small ones. But what about the plumber who heads out with 4 service calls and has to "bid" the jobs once he arrives on site?
And the guy who works slower...it seems like the answer to that is "train him up or train him out". But then what if none of my team can be "trained up" to the standards that are set by the company? I will have "trained everyone out" and I won't have anyone left to do the work.

So the alternative to that is to set the price higher to match the abilities of the technicians with the requirements of the company.

So we price ourselves out of the market.
 

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We go through this when we bids small jobs. You write the bid up with a certain speed/skill set in mind and then you tell dispatch who can/should be sent to do the job. Sometimes it's one of seven guys, sometimes there's only one man for the job.

You are very correct. We send the plumber to fit the job. I have plumbers with limited sales skills (they ain't getting the big jobs). Or ones with mostly residential experience.
 

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So this seems to apply to writing bids for projects, even small ones. But what about the plumber who heads out with 4 service calls and has to "bid" the jobs once he arrives on site?

I don't see the issue. What do you charge for a water heater installed? We have a general flat rate price for a 50 gal gas. All my plumbers know that price so they quote that price. Garage installs maybe a little cheaper, something with difficult access maybe a little higher.

You can always call your coworkers for price consultation. Or the office........
 

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I can see where this question is coming from. I haven’t had to deal with more than a few employees at a time.

Flat rate across the board for the customer. If the tech takes an hour to install a heater gets good pay. The one that takes 4 hours gets less pay. Circumstances considered. Just need to apply each employee to the task they are proficient at, and team them up for sharing knowledge and training.
 

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So this seems to apply to writing bids for projects, even small ones. But what about the plumber who heads out with 4 service calls and has to "bid" the jobs once he arrives on site?
And the guy who works slower...it seems like the answer to that is "train him up or train him out". But then what if none of my team can be "trained up" to the standards that are set by the company? I will have "trained everyone out" and I won't have anyone left to do the work.
.................

Sounds to me like you have a problem finding competent employees. You can either change your employees to fit you business model, or change your business model to fit the employees.


Maybe after they have looked at a job they step outside and call a manager who helps them figure out their bids to offer the customer.


If your guys can't ballpark how long it might take them, then they need more experience under a competent journeyman. If that fails, well, not everyone is cut out to work on their own. Some people are just born followers. In fact, most people are born followers. It's a good thing they are too, contrary to the popular rhetoric, we need sheeple. We can't all be leaders.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I don't see the issue. What do you charge for a water heater installed? We have a general flat rate price for a 50 gal gas. All my plumbers know that price so they quote that price. Garage installs maybe a little cheaper, something with difficult access maybe a little higher.

You can always call your coworkers for price consultation. Or the office........
I'm not so much talking about water heaters, sump pumps, garbage disposals, etc. This is more about "leak behind the wall" type jobs. It could be a 1/2" propress coupling but it could take hours to locate it. There can't be a flat "seek and find" rate. The seek and find will have to remain t&m the way I see it. Then to hit them with a flat rate for a 1/2" coupling just seems silly. "We offer upfront pricing" and then 3 hours later, you give them the "upfront" price to do a 15 minute repair. I know I'm quibbling a little here. I'm still trying to understand HOW this works in practice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Sounds to me like you have a problem finding competent employees. You can either change your employees to fit you business model, or change your business model to fit the employees.

Maybe after they have looked at a job they step outside and call a manager who helps them figure out their bids to offer the customer.

If your guys can't ballpark how long it might take them, then they need more experience under a competent journeyman. If that fails, well, not everyone is cut out to work on their own. Some people are just born followers. In fact, most people are born followers. It's a good thing they are too, contrary to the popular rhetoric, we need sheeple. We can't all be leaders.
Finding competent technicians who are also good to work with is the problem. I have a few. And I have a few guys who are great team members but have a lot of ground to make up technically. In the end, I think this comes down to my ability to motivate and train.
 

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There should be a minimum hourly rate to calculate misc jobs. How much does a licensed plumber in a fully stocked van cost you an hour? Don't forget labor burden.
 

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I'm not so much talking about water heaters, sump pumps, garbage disposals, etc. This is more about "leak behind the wall" type jobs. It could be a 1/2" propress coupling but it could take hours to locate it. There can't be a flat "seek and find" rate. The seek and find will have to remain t&m the way I see it. Then to hit them with a flat rate for a 1/2" coupling just seems silly. "We offer upfront pricing" and then 3 hours later, you give them the "upfront" price to do a 15 minute repair. I know I'm quibbling a little here. I'm still trying to understand HOW this works in practice.
Welcome to my world. You can't really do flat rate on service, well for me at least. T&M I don't go wrong. Only 3 things I flat rate, water heaters, shower faucet replacement and roman tub faucet replacement because it's tough work and doing it T&M I feel I'm losing money.
 

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Frankly, it shouldn't matter how you bill, you should be getting X amount of profit on top of costs when you average out your man hours/income etc. If you have customers that respond better to T&M, or your guys can't handle flat rate, then just bill T&M. Like Dhal says, you should have a base figure you go off of.

We do service at T&M, some other shops around here do a version of flat rate. It really doesn't matter which one you choose as long as it makes you money. This whole flat rate vs T&M argument is a fallacy. It's like saying salt water is better to live in than fresh water, depends on what kind of fish you are.
 
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The age old questions that will never be solved: blond or brunette, Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, flat rate or T&M.
I've done both, and even though with practice you can get fairly good at ballparking how long things will take you, there are still often complications that pop up that take longer or require more or different materials. IMO, it is a great beatching point for customers to say, "but you quoted me .... now you are playing bait and switch and telling me more." They don't understand, and they don't want to understand. They end up being disappointed, being pains in the a$$, etc. Much of that goes away with T&M. We all know the pros and cons of each, and we choose what we are comfortable with. I don't need to rehash them, but even as an employee it bothers me when I show up for a flat rate and there are unforseen complications that make us lose money. Ultimately that trickles down to my paycheck. Yeah, maybe it evens out with the easy installs you say. To each his own. I don't like losing on any job. With T&M you win on both. If something goes so quick and easy that you are in and out before you know it and feel as though you didn't make any money, there are ways to up it to some degree, increase mark up, disposal fee, etc.

Teaming up guys with skills who offset each others and tailoring the jobs you give to certain guys all sound great as business management talking points, but how well do they work in the real world? Maybe for some shops, but in my experience things like that last a few weeks tops before they are forgotten about. The phone is ringing off the hook because one dispatcher is out sick, the others need to just get the calls booked, and don't have the time or just don't care to figure out who is the best man for the job, or who needs training for what. Even the most experienced dispatcher is sitting there in a nice temperature controlled office (and runs out the door precisely at 3:00), not always appreciating all of the variables involved in doing a job, and best of all argues with you when you try to bring it up. The apprentice you had scheduled for a job which he needs experience on, with a guy who is best suited for it, and one calls in sick, messing up the whole dynamic, on and on..

Training and motivation are great, but EVERYONE has trouble finding good employees. We've lost some good guys who I liked and respected, who just can't follow the rules or learn how to pick their battles, but we've also lost some because management just won't pick their battles either, and realize that not everyone does things exactly the way they would, without some training, some understanding. Some people on both sides feel as though they are always right and refuse to see anything from someone else's point of view, or realize that no matter what, in any job you are going to have annoyances from management, and management is going to have them from employees.
 

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And let's not forget the dispatcher who quotes a flat rate from sitting there in that cushy office without ever having laid eyes on the job, and more importantly didn't ask the right questions because that phone is still ringing off the hook, or she just doesn't care. I love it when they call me for advice about such jobs, for several reasons, mostly so I can throw in some "what ifs", but that seems to happen infrequently.
 

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We have a great dispatcher. In our case it's not their job to quote prices, that's for the service managers to do. Our dispatcher is our advocate. When the office staff talk schit, the dispatcher speaks up on our behalf.

Not all dispatchers are schitty like the one you have.
 
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