Plumbing, Business Tips, Pro Features, Guides

Improving Plumbing Business Profitability: A 3-Tiered Process

September 8th, 2023
9 Min Read

Over the years, and particularly at the time of this writing (September 2023), the topic of plumbing business profitability and how to improve profit margins has been a consistent area of interest and concern for our customers and the plumbing contractors within our network. 

Specifically, contractors often find themselves in the challenging circumstances of:

  • Working tirelessly, but getting to the end of the year only to realize they made a fractional 2% or 3% net profit, or worse (and not uncommon) — ending the year at a significant loss. 

  • Spending the majority of their time completely blind as to how their gross profit margins are performing and how they’re pacing toward profit goals. 

  • Wanting to take control of and improve their profit margins, but lacking the right process or tools to do so.

In this post, we provide a clear, three-tiered process for solving these challenges in a plumbing business — based on a recent interview with one of ServiceTitan’s HVAC and plumbing industry experts, Chris Hunter. The most successful plumbing businesses in the industry are using processes like the one laid out below to maintain healthy, profitable companies. 

Before we get into the tiered process, however, let's begin with answering some common questions about plumbing profit margins.

Table of Contents

Want to see how ServiceTitan can help you protect your margins and grow the bottom line for your plumbing business? Schedule a call today. 

What Is a Good Net Profit Margin for a Plumbing Business?

Plumbing business owners deserve and should be shooting for 20% net profit in their business. But anywhere between 10% and 20% would be considered a healthy, reasonable net profit margin. 

However, this is by no means the average plumbing business profit margin. Businesses often operate at under 10%, and in many cases net profit margins are as low as 2% to 3%. This is a vulnerable place to be, considering all of the costs and risks associated with running their plumbing company, employing their team, and serving their customer base. 

This is why, from our perspective, plumbing businesses should strive to have a 20% profit margin left over after subtracting both the direct job costs (labor costs, equipment costs, materials costs) and operating expenses (overhead expenses, business insurance, taxes, etc.) from their revenue.

Whatever your current net profit margin is, the following process to improve your margins will be a crucial step in the right direction.

Note: One exception to the 10% to 20% rule above is for plumbing businesses that are in a start-up phase, focused on acquiring new customers. In these cases, they may intentionally choose to invest in marketing and customer acquisition instead of being profitable. 

What Gross Profit Margin Should a Plumbing Company Shoot For?

According to our industry expert Bill Powers, plumbing businesses should be shooting for an average gross profit margin of 60% to 62% across their services. Doing so will generally allow them to hit a desirable 17% to 20% net profit margin.

Importantly, gross profit margins are how businesses should measure performance in each of their different departments (plumbing installation, service and repair, maintenance, new construction, etc.), whereas net profit margins are how they should look at performance across their entire business.

A 3-Tiered Process for Improving Plumbing Profit Margins

Tier 1: Assessing Your Annual Revenue and Profit Margins and Setting Goals to Improve Them

The most successful plumbing contractors that we work with at ServiceTitan — both within our organization as well as the plumbing businesses we serve — have a process in place to assess the current state of their operational and financial KPIs, and set goals to improve them.

Typically, this takes the form of annual planning that involves:

  • Reviewing how their business performed during the year prior.

  • Setting operational and financial goals for the upcoming year.

Regardless of whether you’re a small business or you’re at the enterprise level — this essential step establishes the foundation with which you can begin improving your profit margins. You need to know where your numbers are and set some goals for where you want them to go.

Annual planning takes different shapes and forms, however, when it comes to setting financial goals, it often involves:

  1. Looking at high-level KPIs for the previous year, broken out by each department. For example: sales, gross margin, total completed service calls, sales per job, total crews/plumbing technicians, total calendar days worked, sales per crew/tech, completed jobs per crew/plumber per day. 

  2. Looking at total revenue per month for each department, and setting a percentage increase goal for the upcoming year. This gives you specific revenue and gross profit targets for each department that you can use to see how you’re pacing toward your goals. 

  3. Determining lead requirements to hit your revenue and profit goals. This involves reviewing lead KPIs from the previous year (e.g. average ticket amount, number of sales, close rate, etc.), and reverse engineering how many leads you’ll need to hit your goals.

Once you’ve reviewed your numbers, set your revenue and profit goals, and determined the specific targets you need to hit, you simply track your progress for each department to see how you’re performing and pacing toward your sales, gross profit, and net profit goals.

Key Consideration: Where Do You Get This Data?

Doing this sort of detailed annual review requires capturing and recording this data throughout the year. Depending on what tools you use in your business, this can be more or less demanding and time intensive. 

If you’re primarily using spreadsheets and/or disparate software solutions for different aspects of your business (e.g. a platform for call booking, a platform for estimating and invoicing, a platform for inventory and accounting, etc.), doing the above type of analysis can be a challenging and difficult process of consolidating data, doing manual data entry, double checking your data inputs, etc. 

In contrast, for plumbing service businesses using field service software such as ServiceTitan, this process is streamlined. For example, in ServiceTitan, if you want to view high level KPIs such as total revenue or total sales for the past year, you can pull these metrics up almost instantly by adjusting the date range to the previous 365 days on your main dashboard:

This is one of many reasons why leading plumbing contractors are adopting plumbing software like ServiceTitan, which centralizes all of your operational data into one place and offers robust dashboard and reporting tools to make annual reviews and ongoing tracking of KPIs (discussed next) a streamlined experience.

Tier 2: Ongoing Tracking of KPIs and Pacing Toward Your Profit Targets

When it comes to the ongoing tracking of KPIs and pacing toward revenue goals, it’s useful to have daily as well as monthly routines. 

For example, if you’re the business owner, you can benefit from a simple daily report to see how many calls you had for the day, how much revenue came in, and how you’re pacing toward the end of the month. Then, at the end of each month, you should also do a full financial review with your bookkeeper or accountant (and subsequently your leadership team) to get full clarity on how you performed in relation to your goals. This is crucial for making any necessary adjustments throughout the year to hit those year-end goals.

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Meanwhile, if you’re a CSR manager, you should be looking at more detailed daily numbers such as call booking rates, number of outbound calls, number of inbound calls, etc. 

Again, the ease of collecting and accessing this data depends on what tools and apps you use. Facilitating the ongoing tracking of KPIs makes field service reporting software absolutely transformative for plumbing businesses. 

With ServiceTitan, owners and managers can customize their own dashboards and reports to monitor all of this data with ease. 

For example, Revenue Trends by month or week can be viewed as bar or line graphs. By hovering over a given month or week, users can instantly see year-over-year revenue comparisons. 

The Company Metrics portion of the dashboard shows sales, revenue, booking, conversion numbers, and more:

  • Total sales

  • Closed average ticket price

  • Completed revenue

  • Average revenue per job opportunity

  • Revenue from counter sales, and membership and progress billing

  • Revenue from adjustment invoices added to jobs

Metrics on the main dashboard also include call-booking rate and total conversion rate, plus:

  • Customer satisfaction

  • Total cancellations 

  • Membership opportunities converted

In addition to these high-level KPIs, the ServiceTitan dashboard provides plumbing business owners and administrators with valuable insights on employee and operational performance.

For example, the Call Metrics section of the dashboard features a chart, arranged as a function of call date, documenting inbound call booking rates. Below the chart, users will find call lead totals and the jobs booked from those leads.

Information about calls that were abandoned or did not result in a booking is no less valuable. And the Call Metrics section also offers a wealth of intelligence on these calls:

  • Length

  • Timestamp

  • Caller phone number

  • Number dialed

  • Employee who took the call

For further information about past calls — whether they resulted in a booking or not — ServiceTitan offers a Call Playback feature. Here, users can listen to recordings of calls. 

This functionality is useful for field service technicians who want to verify job details or customer information via the ServiceTitan mobile app, as well as for supervisors, who can use it to confirm that CSRs are providing good customer support and following best practices in interactions with clients.  

In contrast to tracking these metrics in spreadsheets and different apps, ServiceTitan makes it simple to access this data, and therefore empowers business owners, managers, and employees to actually use these tools and follow these best practices of ongoing KPI tracking which can be absolutely invaluable for improving profit margins. 

Now, once you have completed tiers 1 and 2 — you’ve reviewed your current performance, set goals, and set forth tracking progress toward your goals — the final tier is to optimize for maximum efficiency and implement best practices throughout the rest of your business.

Tier 3: Optimizing for Efficiency, Implementing Best Practices, and Empowering Your Team to Achieve Maximum Performance

Goal setting and tracking sets the foundation that plumbing businesses need to begin improving their profit margins. However, optimizing for efficiency and implementing best practices in your business is how you begin to actually hit and exceed those profit goals. 

We’ve written at length about the key actions that plumbing businesses can take to improve their operations and their bottom line, and how ServiceTitan can help facilitate efficiency and best practice implementation throughout organizations. 

Here are some articles discussing how to become a profitable plumbing business:

  • Plumbing Pricing Guide: Avoid Mistakes, Maximize Your Profits — Incorrect pricing is probably the biggest reason why plumbing businesses often have low profit margins. This guide will help you understand how to price your plumbing services for profitability. It discusses how flat-rate pricing solves challenges such as the need to justify hourly rates, how to base your pricing on process instead of competitors, and what plumbers need to consider when calculating their pricing (labor rate and billable hours, overhead costs, etc.). 

  • A Plumbing Sales Training System That Increases Your Average Ticket Prices — Plumbing professionals tend to pride themselves on their technical skills, but often aren’t particularly interested in the sales process. This post shares a plumbing sales framework that’s designed to resonate with technicians and master plumbers and help them engage in the process of increasing the average ticket price of plumbing jobs — from selling more memberships to closing more water heater replacement opportunities.

  • Leverage Your Plumbing Business Plan Every Year to Expand and Grow — This post provides an in-depth walk-through of creating a plumbing business plan section by section. 

  • Plumbing Marketing Guide: 16 Tips to Build Your Plumbing Business — The ability to generate new customers through marketing is a key skill for plumbing companies that want to grow their business. This post shares best-practice marketing strategies to reach more potential customers — from homeowners to local businesses to larger commercial accounts. It covers a diverse set of channels from SEO, to direct mail marketing, to Google Local Services Ads, and more.

Get a ServiceTitan Demo to See How We Can Help You Optimize and Grow Your Plumbing Business 

Using a best-in-class plumbing software like ServiceTitan gives contractors full visibility into their business and empowers their teams with the tools they need to grow. 

In addition to the dashboard and reporting features discussed above, our software offers tools to facilitate the entire plumbing business workflow, including:

Want to see how ServiceTitan’s plumbing software can streamline operations and grow your business? Schedule a call for a free product tour.

ServiceTitan Plumbing Software

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive plumbing business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

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