My grandparents had outhouses on their farms until the early ‘60s. Their outhouses were frightening places. There were always spider webs, disgusting flies, and snakes that hung around to eat the mice. During the dark nights, it was easy to visualize many bad things lurking below in that smelly pit.
Those outhouses were never fresh-smelling. A good way to avoid scary night trips down the long path to the outhouse was with the “chamber pot.” Grandma dumped the chamber pot the next morning.
Unsanitary outhouses were a major cause for the development of indoor plumbing. In the early 1900s outhouses became recognized as a breeding ground for diseases like typhoid and cholera.
Outhouses helped drive the need for the development of plumbing in the 1900s; especially in cities. Indoor plumbing caught on quickly. The 1920s had some beautiful plumbing fixtures that are still around today in the more historic homes.
Plumbers that installed plumbing from the 1920s until the 1970s had the most challenges. The earliest years of that era were the toughest on plumbers. They melted lead and used it in various ways. The lead pots were hot, dangerous, noisy, and unhealthy. Galvanized water piping had to be hand-threaded. So did the galvanized sewer piping. Plumbing was a tough and challenging profession.
The plumbing trade was also a challenge because of the protectionism that went on during that era. Unions were popular. It was difficult to get into the plumbing trade unless a relative sponsored you. Only licensed plumbers could purchase plumbing products.
The plumbing trade has steadily improved through the years. Products are easier to install. Tools are better. Safety has improved. There have been substantial changes; the biggest changes appear to be just around the corner.
Computer technology and consumer needs will drive major changes. Consumers are setting new trends today. Amazon is a great example of how consumers choose to spend their money today. That “money trail” explains the direction consumers want to go to purchase products.
Uber is an example consumers are using to purchase a service. Uber is quickly replacing organized taxi services for various reasons. Consumers have helped drive that change too because it’s easy and rewarding. Consumers enjoy using their phones to locate an Uber driver, check the price to a destination, and then watch that driver approach on a map.
Consumer trends will drive changes in the plumbing trade. Consumers want quality products and services at a reasonable cost. They want quality technicians that are drug-tested and free of criminal history.
The progressive and adaptable plumbing companies will flourish. A concern will be if the trend is only driven by cost, the end result may put the health of consumers at risk if they hire unqualified plumbing companies.
The survival of any business depends on the quality and attitudes of their employees. That’s especially true today as consumers have the ability to strike back or support companies through social media. It’s important to hire for attitude and train for skill. The willing with a good attitude are easier to train and more loyal.
Survival will also depend on developing a career path for quality employees that will lead to a long-term relationship. Employees are more dedicated when they understand their company cares about them and has a good reputation of taking great care of their customers.
Computer training is essential to have technologically sound employees. All technicians need laptops for dispatching directions, customer history, equipment manuals, equipment warranties, and collection on site.
Computer technology takes the guesswork out of repairing equipment. Technicians can look up service bulletins that indicate specific defects on equipment like water heaters. Without laptops, technicians tend to be “parts changers” until the equipment is fixed. Does your plumber have a laptop?
With the help of bar-coding, the technician’s truck inventory can be more accurate so the majority of service calls can be completed without trips to a supply house. This is more cost-effective for the consumer. Plumbing companies that do all the right things for the right reasons will remain the best choice for consumers.
The plumbing trade today has gained a new level of respect. Quality technicians are paid well and have an impressive career path that leads to a long-term relationship with quality employers. Growing companies need new employees and John Henry's is looking for quality apprentice plumbers to train “the John Henry’s way”.
Our promise to consumers is we are listening.