SmartServ in discussion with Kye Bowman, the Owner, Fine Pipes Plumbing
With two generations worth of experience in the field service business, FinePipes was built in 2018 to innovate the plumbing industry in Lethbridge. Kye Bowman, the owner of Fine Pipes Plumbing, shares his journey with SmartServ, from day one to date.
How did you start your plumbing business, and what was your motivation?
From a very early age, Kye knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He grew up around trades with the heavy influence of his father, who was a plumber. It was around his later teens and early twenties when he got keen on doing something on his own. He did like the trades but never thought of being in this business.
Lately, he eventually came around plumbing as he wanted to honor his dad and felt the field service industry is the way to go. Kye also mentioned that the field service management industry is a forgiving form of business, and good work ethics would take you a long way. Thus, he was motivated to start his journey here as an entrepreneur.
One thing which was clear for Kye was his will to innovate. He wanted to operate an innovative service business and not just end up as a mom-and-pop shop. Therefore, the spark was to build a proper company and carry on with the family legacy.
What were the challenges you faced over the course?
As per Kye, organization proves to be tricky. He had to work on systemizing as many things as possible so that his plumbing business could stay on top of providing high-level client service.
Was there a point where you felt like giving up on the business?
Kye said he definitely had moments of giving up, where he would shake his head and wonder. He shares that he never worked for a company as a journeyman because he started his plumbing business when he got the license right after getting out of school. Kye felt that the amount of work one does in the beginning matters a lot.
He added that, eventually, he learned a lot from the ups and downs and enjoyed the process of growing. The bigger problems you solve, the more you can make at the end of the day. Kye suggests one to be a good problem solver first.
“One thing that has stuck with me is you get paid in proportion to the problems you can solve.”– Kye Bowman, Owner, Fine Pipes Plumbing
If you get a chance to meet your younger self, what one piece of advice would you give?
Kye suggests incorporating right away. He waited almost two years after starting with his plumbing business. Now he is corporated, but in the eyes of law, he runs a brand new company. It makes certain things harder for him, like getting loans, line of credit, etc. Also, when you incorporate, you are personally protected from liabilities.
Another thing that Kye feels he would have done differently would be, for the first year, sitting down with the accountant and bookkeeper. He would have found one or both from the same company, which focuses on small businesses. Apart from having them do the accounting or bookkeeping, he would have done much himself to learn the process.
If he had to go back, Kye feels he would have got a platform like SmartServ sooner. He knows when you analog, it is easy to lose information. A field service management software adds value to the business.
Do you feel starting a plumbing business today is any different than it was before?
While comparing, Kye Bowman realizes a big difference in business today and what it was during his father’s time. Today, for every service company, the brand is a huge part of the business. The brand is everything unless one wants to just work on 1-2 jobs per day and call it a day. If one aspires to build a successful company, he needs to make his brand stand out. He feels the same was not the case before. If someone was to show up in a nice pristine van with the logo on the side, people would get suspicious. But today, even if one shows up with a stained T-shirt, they might have a hard time getting a job. For Kye, focussing on the brand, with a nice van and logo everywhere, his closing ratio was 80-90% in the first year, and he didn’t get push-backs on the pricing. Thus, it is a crucial action.
As per Kye, his dad was not much of a businessman, and his dad feels the same. He was good at his trade but didn’t know much about the business, plus he didn’t enjoy that part.
Having a business sense is important, Kye mentioned. Fine Pipes is not a family-owned field service business; he has built it from scratch. Consequently, everything Kye does, he has taught the same to himself.
Did you ever feel the need to have a backup plan?
When asked about a backup plan, Kye said he does better when he is under pressure to succeed when he has to either sink or swim. He feels he has learned a lot and has a lot to learn, but does the best when he has no contingency plans.
He does, sometimes, have some supplement income here and there, which he wishes to reinvest back into growing the field service business, and take as little as he can as a salary.
Did you ever feel the need to expand your business?
Within the next couple of years, Kye would like to expand into HVAC (service furnacing, indoor air quality, and so on). He might have to rebrand Fine Pipes into something broad in meaning.
He also foresees expanding within the plumbing industry into water purification, which will be a big one for him. Kye aims to offer specialized services in not only installation but maintenance and is focusing on improving the client service experience.
How do you envision your company’s work environment?
As the owner, Kye emphasizes the value of being positive, proactive, honest, and accountable; and encourages care for one another.
He wishes to maintain a structure where people are compensated for hard work, i.e., good pay + extra for hourly wage success.
Most importantly, Fine Pipes Plumbing believes in creating a company that not only looks after the people but provides room to grow individually and at work.
Any suggestions for the budding entrepreneurs of today?
Kye Bowman’s advice to new entrepreneurs in the field service business is you can not do it on your own. You might be really good at the work, but it is not all that there is. The business itself is the most important thing to focus on, and the work comes second. The client needs to be the focus of the field service business, even over the work. One way to be prepared is by making a written step-by-step list of actions that need to be there when providing service to a client. Consider the key things you want, and do it every time. It will naturally help you in providing better customer service.
Keep the consistent focus on growing business knowledge, and determine how you can provide a constant good experience for your customers. It will eventually lead to callbacks, referrals, and growth.
Lastly, Kye suggests the aspiring field service business owners surround themselves with people who know more, not necessarily trade people. He asks to look for advice from other companies, people who might have experience in different areas like marketing, finance.
He believes there are so many opportunities for young people in the trade – one needs to keep a simple mind, do good work, and care for people.
SmartServ presents you with the blog series: How to start your own field service business 101. We aim to dedicate the series to budding or new business owners who wish to start their business from scratch. We will be sharing our one-on-one interviews and discussions with numerous successful service business owners from the field service industry. If you wish to ask any questions or want us to cover anything that would help you build your service business, let us know in the comment section!